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Synagogues and art

Another day in Yangon

sunny 30 °C

We had seen most of our big sights the previous day. There was still a synagogue, art gallery, food and some book stores to enjoy. Being too tuckered out to order a Myanmar breakfast last night, we were stuck with the standard western breakfast which was good but bland in comparison.

We set off walking down Anawratha to 26th Street. More businesses were open down here during the day. We glimpsed an abandoned military building where once imposing fences topped with barbed wire were being torn down and the sidewalks widened. It appeared they no longer wanted to appear so uninviting. The sidewalks had improved substantially since my previous visit. Less broken concrete and less walking on the road for us.

We passed through a market, ripe with the scent of fresh and too often in this heat, not so fresh, meat and fish. The trucks and vendors made the streets virtually impassible without stepping on tomatoes, leafy vegetables or roasted nuts. Eventually after waiting in a few alternating cues of two-way foot traffic confined to a narrow stretch, we passed the potent market and found the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue down 26th street.

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When Burma was more open under British rule, many Jewish people lived and worked in Rangoon (known today as Yangon). They were very involved in the community through projects, business and helpful initiatives. As Myanmar closed up and with the invasion of the Japanese during the Second World War, business became more nationalized and much harder for the Jewish community to earn a living. The synagogue crowd lessened more and more.

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Today, they run occasional services for just under a dozen people and visitors. The owner, Moses Samuels (who since our visit has passed away and is now under the care of his son), came around to speak with us through a voice box. His son had written a lot of the information on the Jews of Burma featured on the notice board for us to enjoy. The structure of the building, built in 1893 was still in use. It had two stories with many benches and white and red curtains with gold menorahs and writing embroidered on them.

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We continued to 37th street (after checking the charitable restaurant one more time that seemed determined never to open, pity) to find the book stores and art gallery. We browsed through Bagan Book House which had an English section on Myanmar and Burmese culture along with their regular Burmese language selections. After some time and contemplation, I bought Myanmar Short Stories, translated by Ma Thanegi for about 7000 kyat ($7).

The Lokanat Art Gallery was housed in an early 20th century building at the end of the street. To get to the second floor, we took some questionable wooden stairs, hopefully a little less ancient than the building.

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It was quite large and the gallery took up a small portion of it. It held painted scenes of famous places in Myanmar, portraits and more abstract paintings in warm or cool colours. An artist was in house painting hats hung from the walk and explaining it to another Burmese man.

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We passed a few book markets on the street with mainly Burmese books and a few very rough looking English books that I suspected might have been passed around secretly for a few decades before the country opened back up to outside influences. It made me want to load up a bag full of books from Canada and bring them over for people to read.

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After buying a pomelo from a street vendor, we walked back to Lucky 7 for lunch. Bit heavy to carry around the fruit, but we missed them from China. To create the Lucky 7 teahouse, the sidewalk turned into a covered courtyard complete with a fountain. We both ordered puri dishes. Ryan's dish came with chicken curry and mine with potato. The puri was a thin, fried balloon-like Indian bread meant for dipping in the curry. It was tasty and filling, though Ryan found the potato to be the winner curry. The waiters all had t-shirts and shorts with 'lucky' followed by different numbers.

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The afternoon was relaxing and we only ventured out to find closed restaurants, so we ate at Motherland 2 again. Ryan had a tasty lemon chicken and I had less tasty veggie noodles. Not much food luck in Yangon so far for vegetarians. We packed up our bags so we could bus to Golden Rock early the following day. Sadly, no Myanmar breakfast available at those hours, but they'd give us the regular one.

So long Yangon.

Posted by Sarah.M 20:21 Archived in Myanmar Tagged art gallery yangon myanmar synagogue musmeah yeshua lokanat lucky7 Comments (0)

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