Nov. 21, 2015
We left Los Angeles on Nov. 19 at midnight and arrived in Yangon,
Myanmar (formerly called Rangoon, Burma) on Nov. 21st after a 13
hour flight to Taipei, and a 4 hour flight from Taipei to Burma.
It was with relief when we saw our luggage come around the carousel.
After going through customs we were met by our tour director, Bunny.
There are nine of us on this optional pre-trip tour. From the airport
we were driven to the hotel. The
Park Royal Hotel is beautiful and the rooms were large and comfortable.
We walked around the corner from the hotel with our guide to a local
restaurant for lunch. Bunny helped us with the menu. We ended up
ordering chicken fried rice which came with soup. The total bill
for both of us was less than five dollars!
After unpacking and a quick nap we decided to take a walk. Although
the temperature was in the high 70's, the humidity was over 90%.
After 20 minutes we had had enough. We decided to stay in the hotel
for dinner and ended up in the lobby bar with another couple for
drinks and a light appetizer meal. By 8:30 we could not stay awake
so called it a night.
Nov. 22, 2015
We had a great night's sleep and were feeling good. The breakfast
buffet at the hotel was one of the largest selections of food we
had ever seen. There was something for every nationality and taste.
first stop on today's agenda was to a Buddhist monastery and nunnery.
More than 1000 novice monks and nuns live in this monastery, most
very young (as young as 5 years old). They are often sent by their
parents to receive an education. Surprisingly, this is not a lifelong
commitment. Rather you can leave at any time. And you can decide
to rejoin later! We lucked out as when we got to the monastery there
was a special happening. The monastery was being offered food by
a group from the university. The monks and nuns walked silently
in a line with bowls in hand as people, including us, placed rice,
beans and fruit into them. Then they went back to the dining area
to eat, also in silence. It was quite a sight to see all these very
young monks and nuns. To view a short video of the event, click
Our next stop was a visit to the historic Scott Market. Built in
1926, this was like a huge indoor swap meet with vendors selling
everything from fabric to clothes to jewelry. Myanmar has ruby and
jade mines so there were many of these gems for sale. It was very
crowded and hot in the market and the aisles were narrow so we didn't
lunch at the Green Elephant restaurant, we toured the Shwedagon
Pagoda, also called the Golden Pagoda. It was initially built about
600 BC as a small monument but has been added onto over the years
by various kings and queens. It is the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar
because it houses relics of the past four Buddhas. Buddhists from
around the world come to pay homage to Buddha here. The pagoda is
covered with real gold bricks, not just gold foil. It is said that
most of the gold in Myanmar is on this pagoda - more than 30 tons!
It stands 326 feet tall and dominates the city's skyline. The very
top of the pagoda has 1800 carats of diamonds, including one that
is 76 carats, as well as more than 83000 other jewels.
entering the area surrounding the pagoda, we had to take off our
shoes and socks. In addition to the actual main pagoda, there were
many other smaller pagodas, temples, shrines called stupas, and
prayer halls in this huge complex. It took us over an hour to walk
around the Golden Pagoda and it was an overwhelming sight. As this
is a most sacred place, there were many people sitting on the ground
praying, lighting candles and incense, and leaving flowers by one
of the many Buddha images in the stupas.
Nov. 23, 2015
After another great breakfast, we headed to the city center for
a walking tour of the area. Since this was formerly a British colony,
there are remnants of old colonial era buildings mixed with new
more modern architectures. Yangon is home to over 7 million people.
Motorbikes are not allowed on city streets so everyone that can
drives a car. Busses are crowded and traffic jams are monumental.
There are few traffic signals and the sound of honking horns is
next stop was to the Chaukhtatgyl Pagoda. This is home to one of
Myanmar's most revered reclining Buddhas. Begun in 1899, the massive
image of the elegant Buddha resting on its side in the six story
pagoda is more than 200 feet long. Each of the images on the bottom
of the feet represents a previous life or incarnation of Buddha.
were also fascinated with the head, particularly the eyes and eyelashes.
There was nail polish on the fingers and lipstick on the lips. This
doesn't mean that Buddha is a female! Rather it was to make the
image the most beautiful.
lunch at a local noodle shop, we were driven to the waterfront and
boarded a ferry for a quick trip across the Yangon River to the
small, rural village of Dala. This was an optional tour and turned
out to be an amazing experience. We climbed onto trishaws for an
hour ride through the village. It was a little scary at times with
the bumps in the road and the motor bikes sharing the same narrow
space. But it was also fun to see how people live - very different
from the city. Cows wandered the streets. Families live in bamboo
huts. People were very friendly, calling out hello's and children
holding out hands to slap as we passed by.
made a few stops at some family run businesses. The first was a
candle making "factory" where we watched them pour hot
wax into presses with spools of cotton wicks, then form the candles
and bundle them for shipping. All in a shack with dirt floors.
next stop was another shack where they made the wraps for spring
rolls. The man dipped his hand into a vat of dough and dropped a
light coating on very hot grills. Then quickly another person scraped
each one off and stacked them for packaging. Packaging was done
by two old people who wrapped a stack of 100 in newspaper and put
them in a plastic bag! They make 7000-8000 sheets per day and sell
a package of 100 sheets for less than $1. To see a short video of
the process, click here.
last stop was by a fresh water lake where we watched people carrying
2 five gallon buckets on wooden poles, rushing down to fill them
and carry them back to their huts. They can only do this between
4 and 5 o'clock every day in order to make the water last. The lake
is replenished during the rainy season. To see a short video of
this, click here.
Seeing the way people live that is so different from us was eye
opening. Yet they seem happy and very welcoming. As we passed by
on our trishaws, people called out hellos and children raised their
hands to high five ours. Barb's peddler said he could not read or
write but he spoke pretty good English which he learned from tourists.
We had an interesting conversation about his life and it sure makes
you appreciate all that we have.
we got back to Yangon, we visited the Chinese Night Market. It was
interesting to see all the different kinds of fruits and vegetables
grown here. We stopped by a platter of barbequed crickets. Bunny
asked if anyone wanted to try and Barbara volunteered. After breaking
off the head and legs, she gave it a try. It was actually pretty
tasty - crispy like a chip.
To view more photos from our trip to Yangon, please go to Yangon
Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to
Locations Visited Photos Map