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Pagodas, tea houses and fried cashew nuts

In the morning, I woke up early to Skype the bank with little success. Then I tried the guesthouse computers and the software was too outdated to run the program. Ryan and I had the Myanmar breakfasts while I kept stressing. My breakfast was rice, beans, and onion cooked in groundnut oil. Mine was called Penan Bye. Ryan had a coconut based soup called Onnoth Khawk Hswe as his Myanmar breakfast. We enjoyed them both and would have ordered them again.

I ventured down to the internet cafe, getting a bit lost and taking the better part of a half hour to find it. On my route back, I spotted it. I tried the computer with no success before paying the 100 kyat (10 cents) a minute to sit on hold with TD over Skype. After talking to the guy, nothing was wrong with the card, in fact it didn't even register any attempts at withdrawals let alone the failed ones. At least the sort of peace of mind was only 2000 kyat, or a couple dollars. Though, I still wouldn't have access to my funds.

We set off walking to Botataung Pagoda near the river and the guesthouse. There was plenty of life on the streets: people selling machinery parts, drinks or snacks, vehicles ranging from old buses to trishaws just chugging along. We found the pagoda on Strand street, not really marked but a Buddhist archway told us we were going the right direction. The building instructing foreigners to come in that direction and an admission fee told us that we'd made it to the right one. It was 3000 kyat to get in.


The main hall had paintings depicting the voyage of two men who met Buddha and received eight of his hairs. The voyage took 1000 military leaders who accompanied the hairs from India to Myanmar over 2000 years ago. The hairs were enshrined here briefly as was the case with many of the other temples around the area. There were English subtitles to the story too. The large Buddha at the back was around during the reign of King Thibaw, the end of a long monarchy before the British annexation and colonization. It was sent to London for awhile and returned in 1951, around the time of independence.


We went inside the zedi itself, a rare occurrence but a bomb from an allied raid in 1943 had damaged the paya and when it was rebuilt they built a hollow zedi which was most unusual. The walls were gold from ceiling to floor and embossed. Given the round nature of the zedi, the interior felt very boxy with zigzag triangular sections and tight narrow corners. In the centre, people swarmed to a window to glimpse a statue and the spot where the hairs would have sat. We got our quick look too. I found the fact that there were large metal locks on all of the relics different than other
temples, but I could understand why.


Outside the temple was more relaxed. A painted archway led to a pond with 'Turtle Island', which was a miniature mountain structure where the terrapin turtles could climb up out of the pond and bask in the sun. As there were many turtles, it became a show of turtles climbing over each other just to warm up. A giant turtle swam around too. There was turtle and fish food for sale but the animals didn't seem too keen on it.
A few mentally ill people sat along the archway paths which left me wondering if they might have been subject to torture a few decades back during the military regime.


There were more shrines and small pagodas to visit around the site too, all pretty relaxed. They featured different Buddha statues with his followers surrounding him.

Next we took a quick look at the Yangon River, not as picturesque as some.


We kept walking down Strand Street, passing the fancy Strand Hotel and a collection of British-Burmese era colonial architecture. We passed a number of embassies too.


After cutting up a few streets, we made it to Mahabandoola Garden. The park was free, an exception among the rest of the attractions. Democracy monument ironically sat in a park surrounded by fences and guarded entrances. It seemed to fit the city. From 1988 to 1990, when tensions with democracy protestors was high, soldiers occupied the area. Today, people took refuge in the shade of bushes or around the tall white monument, far more relaxed. We checked it out quickly and ventured elsewhere. Ryan enjoyed got a laugh out of the well endowed statues.


We tried to visit LinkAge, a restaurant that supported street children and those from poor families by giving them cooking and catering skills, but the staff said they were closed and to come back at 4. We returned to the area near Sule Paya Thon and the park to Thone Pan Hla tea shop that I'd eaten at on my first trip here (another Lonely Planet recommendation). I ordered a dish that was almost identical to my breakfast, but the naan bread had been substituted for rice. The groundnut oil was still delicious. Ryan had Si Chet - chicken and garlic noodles that he also enjoyed along with the sweetest tea you'll find nowhere but Myanmar and table snacks. The whole meal hardly made a dent in the budget.


Visiting the Bogyoke Aung San museum required quite a bit of walking. Luckily the sidewalks weren't in the abysmal state I found them a few years ago so we didn't have to walk on the road, as much. Repairs were underway and the progress was visible. The route did require a fair amount of creative jaywalking and a few stops to photograph the buses out of the 60s roaring by. But the walk fueled us with constant entertainment. We tried to guess the ages of the cars and see the mix of left and right hand drive vehicles due to imports from all over and different time periods. There was a large housing development in the works near Shwedagon Pagoda that looked really swanky. A few people helped us find our way to the museum located on a conveniently named road.


The museum was the two story house where Aung San had lived with his wife and children, including his well known daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, for just over two years. Aung San was a man regarded as a national hero. He led a fight towards an independent Burma during British rule. He and other comrades went to the Japanese for training and assistance during the Second World War, but conditions became worse than they were under the British, so they rejoined the Allies to fight for their independence and against the Japanese, driving them out two months later in 1945. Aung San met with the British Prime Minister to agree upon a pact where Burma would be under self-rule within a year. He also signed the Panglong agreement which guaranteed ethnic minorities to choose their political destiny if dissatisfied after 10 years. In 1947, he and six aides were gunned down. Speculations point to dissatisfaction with his plan to demilitarize the government.


At the museum, they had us check all cameras and mobile devices in the lockers. In the first room, they had his table with name plates. There were excerpts from his speeches and write-ups on his education: an English student and graduate. He also wrote his own address to the public in English. The sitting room was set up with an old radio and furniture. Upstairs there were more photos of the families and his childhood home, as well as the beds. Aung San Suu Kyi's was a crib bed as she'd only been two when the assassination took place. Aung San also had an extensive English book collection. I picked up a quite cheap, much newer book on his assassination that I have yet to read. Outside they also had his old car on display.

We walked toward Shwedagon Pagoda after passing markets of sugar cane juice, flowers, incense and religious articles before the long, shoeless walk up the staircase. I remembered how surprising convenient the escalator had been on my first visit, but they weren't at every entrance. At the top, the entry price had inflated from $5 US to $8 each, just for foreigners. Ryan and I were indifferent. He didn't want to go in if I'd been already and I was content to go in or stay out. It was another temple to us in the grand scheme of things, even though it was one of Yangon's top attractions. Ryan preferred to see life on the streets as it was more representative of the culture. We turned around and decided to go for supper. It was a good thing as the whole zedi was covered with burlap-like material due to renovations. No sparkle or excitement to be seen, even if we'd paid to get close up.


We stopped at two other pagodas, Maha Wizaya Zedi and Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda. I'd visited the former on my previous trip to Myanmar. We followed a bridge across a turtle pond where a bright gold zedi gleamed as the sun set.


Hardly anyone was there so we walked around enjoying the scenic paintings of Buddha's life and near superhero like presence and the forest-like interior of the interior of the zedi.


Sein Yaung Chi pagoda caught my eye as it was silver and more rectangular. The mirrors lit up with the sunlight. It was virtually empty as well and didn't take long to go through.


We tried again to support a good cause with our supper selection, but the staff told us they were closed for a special event, reservations only. Out of luck, we walked back through busy and frustrating markets until I started to see English restaurant signs. Too bad Lucky 7 teahouse was closed in the evenings.


We did find Rubyland where I ordered fried cashews nuts. Cue my surprise when exactly that showed up on a plate. I'd been expecting a stir fry or meal of sorts since their menu had some interesting and entertaining translation difficulties. Ryan and I split the cashew nuts and I ordered a very oily fried rice to go with them. Ryan enjoyed his fried chicken.



We turned in for the night. I still had no luck with the ATMs I tried during the day.

Posted by Sarah.M 18:03 Archived in Myanmar Tagged tea pagoda shop pan shwedagon_pagoda democracy_monument sein_yaung_chi_pagoda maha_wizaya_zedi botataung bogyoke_aung_san_musuem thone hla

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