Yangon, First Impressions

Yangon, Myanmar, 2013

In late 2013, on an occasional visit to Singapore, a friend offered to explore Yangon together as the country opened its doors to foreign visitors.

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My first impression of the city was its darkness. We often take granted the presence of light and other resources in everyday life; here, however, the limited sources of artificial lights formed a palette unique to Yangon. As we sat on the street side to taste some local cuisine, the lights showed their true colors — a mixture between the cold stillness of the street stall florescent, and the warm dynamic of the moving cars.

(I will make another post just to show more nightscapes of Yangon)

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Waiting for our food. You can see the contrast between different light sources.
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On one side, car lights in yellow/red; on the other, fluorescent in blue.
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The main dish was fried rice with assorted spices.
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We wandered around after dinner aimlessly. Despite still being under development, Yangon contained surprising amount of detail — details that often symbolized the locals’ spiritual devotion.

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An otherwise plain underpass decorated beautifully in gold.
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Tributes made with cash — each leaf and petal is folded with a Kyat bill.
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Only the cleanest, newest bills were used for decoration.

The next day, we toured the city to get a glimpse of its famous temples and traditional crafts. During our travels, we were often passed by parades of vehicles with loudspeakers with people cheering and dancing around.

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Street parade and dancing.
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Unedited footage of the same happening recorded on iPhone.

It was not clear whether the parading and dancing were simply reflections of the cheerful nature of the city, or there was some festival happening. Regardless, we kept moving.

Our journey through the city was mostly on foot; occasionally, we’d hop in a vehicle for further destinations. Like most of the world, Myanmar observes right-hand traffic, which requires cars to align onto the right side of the road. While cars in right-hand traffic countries have their steering wheels on the left side, a good number of vehicles in Yangon had their steering wheels on the right side. Turns out, many cars in Yangon are used imports from Japan.

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“Emergency Exit”
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“This bus will operate the left loop route” — Nagoya City Department of Traffic

We eventually arrived Botataung Paya — Pagoda of “1000 military officers”, one of the larger pagodas in the city that featured several halls of worship.

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We arrived around 10am and the pagoda was already filled with worshippers.
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What appeared to be a school group.
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A large bronze Buddha resided in the northern hall.
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The stupa that housed many ancient Buddhist artifacts.
The gold plated interior, what Botataung Paya is most famous for.
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My fellow travelers finding their own peace in the temple.

And that concludes our first 24 hours in Yangon. With just about another 24 hours left, we paid tribute to Shwedagon Pagoda, Myarmar’s main Buddhist temple.

To be continued.

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Food quality inspector @twitter. Occasionally writes code and shoots cosplay.

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