Shwedagon Pagoda & Chinatown

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

We walked a good portion of Yangon today, but the highlights were the Shwedagon Pagoda complex and the street vendors in Chinatown.

This morning after a lovely breakfast at Ten Mile Hotel, we took a cab into the city from the area around the airport. It was a long drive and I was grateful that we had not tried to come all that way last night after our flights, and rather found a room near the airport. We only managed to get into our beds by 1:30 am local time as it was.

Anyhow, now we have two nights at the Pickled Tea Hostel. It is very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda, and that was our first stop after checking in and unloading our bags. Margaret brought along a lightweight sarong to wrap around when it was pagoda time and otherwise wore a sort of tennis skirt. I decided to wear one of the sarongs that I brought, since it is heavy fabric and would be bulky to carry. I am not used to wearing sarongs, and while it was comfortable enough, seriously restricted my stride – that long skirt. And it was much more fabric than I needed, so it wrapped around twice and kept me toasty warm on this 90 degree day.

The road to our hostel.
Entrance to the pagoda. There are a few shrines on the complex built of mosaic mirrors, like the one on the right.
The mirror tiles kept fascinating me.
Yeah. No, seriously. I could not get enough of the mirror buildings.
A view of the many pointy tops surrounding the pagoda.

Again, shoe problems like last year. It’s hot so I’m not in my boots, and boots are practically all I wear at home. So I went with flip flops instead, but soon my feet were rubbed raw. Flip flops are not good for miles and miles of walking. So I stopped at a vendor’s shop and bought different sandals, that didn’t rub between my toes like the flip flops. But by the end of the day (we guessed we walked six miles or so), my feet have blisters from those too. So, despite the heat and the wardrobe of skirts, I am going to stick to hiking shoes. They won’t match my clothes but I’ll be able to walk. Wish me luck on the blisters healing somewhat before our three-day hike to Inle Lake coming up.

Burmese people are so excited to see us! They ask for photos with us.
Once we agree to have our photos taken with someone, others notice and come and get in line. Hilarious.

Ok! So what did we walk to, if we did so much walking?

First of all, the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s a huge complex with multiple pagodas and tons of little shrines and some big shrines and statues and holy places and bells. Enormous place. We could have spent the entire day there if we had wanted to see every single Buddha statue and every piece of fascinating architecture. The main pagoda houses eight hairs from Siddhartha Buddha, along with relics from the previous three buddhas as well. Presently it is 326 feet high, and apparently grows a little bit more each time someone restores and re-guilds it.

We had to cover up our legs and remove shoes (and socks!) to enter the pagoda. Under the beating sun, we were quick learners, and I can now tell at a glance which tiles will scald bare feet, and which are better to walk on.

Lots of very hot tiles and no shade.
A look down at the entrance while we were up on top.
Brand new monks
Bang a gong
The architecture of the temples and shrines and pagodas is remarkable.
Love that deep red against the gold.
Here there be dragons. Omigosh, the detail. Click the image and look. I mean, for real, look at this artistry.

Then we walked into the center part of the city of Yangon. We stopped at several markets. The BoGyoke Market is a main attraction, so we visited there and were less than impressed after the fun markets in Santiago we visited last winter. Next to it was the “new market,” so we visited that one as well. Both were well-organized, serious places to shop. You could purchase calendars, rolls of fabric, eyeglasses, batteries, prescription drugs, bras, shoes. Sure, you could get anything there, and it was all under one roof, but …eh, we were bored. There was also a classy modern mall, that we went into, and it was no different from a mall in the states. We mostly went into that one for the air conditioning.

By this time we were suffering from heat and fatigue, so we went into the Shangri La, a high-end hotel and dropped into the bar for some cocktails and more air conditioning. To our surprise, other visitors at our same hostel came in a few minutes after we were settled. They had just come from chinatown and recommended it. So after our rest, we headed that direction.

Lanterns strung in the sky in Chinatown for New Year’s celebrations.
Crowded is maybe an understatement. Yes, that is a vehicle driving through.
Your choice of tasties. (Look at the little kid behind the vendor. Can you believe I missed that shot?!)
Not much capital investment required to get this small business up and running.

It was an excellent choice. The decorations are going up for Chinese New Year’s celebrations. The place was swarming, but I get the impression that it’s business as usual. Margaret and I wandered up and down narrow, canyon-like streets crammed with vendors until dusk. The food vendors were the most interesting.

Finally we walked our long walk home. We passed the Shwedagon pagoda again, this time lit up at night, but we photographed it from a distance since we were not going to pay the entrance fee again.

Fountain lit up at night.

12 thoughts on “Shwedagon Pagoda & Chinatown

  1. Entrance fee? Mall??? No temple walkways covered with betel nut expectorant? Oh my, things have changed in 40 years. Only 34 since I was there last. Is the Strand Hotel still there? Its dining room, huge high ceilings with 14 huge fans all run by a continuous belt, was a special place.

    1. Yes, entrance fee! It was somewhat steep: 20$ US if I recall. But thankfully, no betel nut juice to walk on in our bare feet. Yes, the Strand Hotel is still there, but we did not get a chance to visit it. After your description, I wanted to.

    1. Thanks for coming along. 🙂 My blisters slowly healed and I wore my hiking shoes every day for the next several days, to protect them from rubbing on the blisters. I was in pretty good shape by the time I started the three-day trek.

  2. There is no mistaking the beauty and the contrast in that country and others like it. Eating off the local market can be a challenge. We hired help when we lived in Taiwan. The mother of 3 lived right around the corner and came everyday to help with several things like shopping the markets for me. She knew what the American stomach could handle and what would make us ill. She would trade my son whatever treat a neighbor child gave him for one he could eat if she thought it would make him sick. A godsend in so many ways. You almost need someone to travel with that knows the food. I could never walk in flip flops or unsubstantial shoes at least not all day.

    1. Yes, the local woman in Taiwan must have been a godsend. Margaret and I did a pretty good job of evaluating each thing we considered eating. For example, if it was something perishable, we considered how long it had been sitting out in the street with the sun and the flies. Morning: better. Evening: no way. Fresh fruits and veggies we ate without much hesitation. Restaurants we watched to see how fast food moved through. If the customer demand forced the staff to continuously prepare new food, then we ate it. If it looked as though it had been sitting in that warming tray for hours… nope.

      The flip flops were good if there had not been much walking. I didn’t anticipate six miles of walking, and thus chose the wrong shoes. Then the ones I bought looked like they fit me, but once out walking, they turned out to be too short. So the flip flops rubbed blisters between my toes and the new sandals rubbed blisters on my heels. Ug. I had good Birkenstocks, but they were back at the hostel.

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