Yangon

 

We arrived in Yangon on May 18 and flew out of Yangon on May 22.  We also had a two day trip to the Golden Rock during that period. In total we were in Yangon for three full days.  I thought that was sufficient time to be in Yangon.  I think if we were there during the cooler season, we would have had a much more enjoyable time in Yangon.  Since we had just flown in from the States (major jetlag!!) where the weather was dry and cool, our bodies had quite the adjustment to the Yangon heat and humidity.  Because of this, the kids only wanted to stay in the comfortable air conditioning of the hotel room or the hotel pool. . . and honestly, so did I!  But we did push the kids out to go do some things.

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I love this picture of Downtown Yangon. Bottom left is the Independence Monument in Maha Bandula Park with the Sule Pagoda and Yangon City Hall in the middle, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in the very back. Photo Credit: Aung Kyaw Khant.

Downtown Yangon

The Sule Pagoda was our destination point if we wanted to go downtown.  That is what we would tell the taxi driver.  There is a little parking lot next to the pagoda that you can easily get dropped off at, out of the traffic.  Just South of the parking lot is Maha Bandula Park where you can see most of the big, main buildings of downtown.  Independence Monument is in the middle of the park.

This red and cream building above is the Yangon Region Court.  The building is actually abandoned now.  I think that is such a travesty because this building is gorgeous!  Our tour guide said that someone had recently bought it and they are starting the remodeling of the interior.  He thinks that something like a museum will be put in there.  I think it would be a great place for a Myanmar History Museum.  You can definitely see the British influence in this building.

Just in front of the building, you will find a market–people selling prepared food, fruit, and sodas.

The picture on the left is the Yangon City Hall.  This is another beautiful building next to the Sule Pagoda.  This building has much more of a Myanmar influence than the British-looking Region Court Building.

The picture on the right was just down the street from the Yangon City Hall.  I took a picture of it because it has the British influence to it, but it is very run down.  Most of the buildings in Yangon look like this–worn down and blackened exteriors from pollution.  Yangon was much

At the small market in front of the Yangon Region Court Building, we passed by a lady selling huge crickets.  They looked like really big grasshoppers.  We dared any of the students to eat one, and Reed volunteered to our surprise.  The whole experience was quite funny.  The woman gave him a cricket, he inspects it, starts to put it in his mouth, then the lady stops him and takes the wings and front legs off.  Then Reed takes it back from her and pops it in his mouth.  I stood there dumbfounded.  It grossed me out when he was chewing it.  He said it tasted like potato chips.  Reed is so funny.  He didn’t say anything else about it after he did it; he treated it as a daily occurrence.

 

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Playground just South of the Independence Monument at Maha Bandula Park.

A great place for a break is at the playground in the center of downtown.  The playground has a lot of shade so it is playable even in the middle of the day.  There were a lot of people laying around under the trees; maybe everyone was on their lunch break!

These two pictures summed up our first day in Yangon.  Whenever the boys saw a fan, they would stand in front of it for a minute, then continue walking.  This was difficult when every store in a row had a fan at the front of their store!! We were moving very slowly, though the salespeople loved seeing this family of five little, white kids.  The second picture again showed how sluggish we were–evidence of jetlag! This was just after we ate lunch.

Junction City

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Junction City is a major mall in town.  It is actually across the street from the famous Bogyoke Market.  We like to go to malls in the cities we go to so there can be something familiar to the kids.  Junction City was like any mall in the US, and there was a movie theater.  They did have English-offered movies but nothing that the kids would enjoy.  We did buy some popcorn which Kate thoroughly enjoyed. The fourth level of the mall seemed to be catered for kids.  There were many child clothing, shoe, and toys stores, as well as a play area called KidZon.  There was much a child could do at KidZon; they had a play area and craft area. We thought KidZon was quite expensive (since we had to pay for 4 kids!) so we didn’t actually take the kids; we only watched from the windows. If we had a few hours to kill we may have taken them.

One place that I wish we had gotten to was U Ottama Gardens which is just South of the Shwedagon Pagoda.  I had only seen if by taxi on our way to the pagoda, but it looked like a lovely place to stroll in the evening.  There is a lake in the garden where they have boats in the shapes of swans.  My kids LOVE riding in those boats so that would have been super fun.  When I looked up the garden on Google maps, I also noticed the Happy World Amusement Park is next to the garden.  I recall seeing the roller coaster from the taxi ride.  If anyone goes to the Amusement Park, please comment and let me know how it is.  From what I read online, the park seems like it would be similar to a ‘fair’ in the US–bumper cars,  fun and haunted houses, etc.

Food in Myanmar

Both Jacob and I loved the food in Myanmar.  We were careful with what we ate.  We did not eat anything from street vendors.  This was so strange to us because we LOVE street vendor food in Thailand.  The reason we didn’t eat the vendor food in Myanmar was because I was reading up on vendor food on the internet, and all the sites I read said to avoid it.  I also was watching some of the street vendors while they were preparing food, and it didn’t look as carefully made as I would see vendors in Thailand.  (A lot of money and food handling at the same time really grossed me out!) I’m sure if you ate at the vendors that regularly had customers, you would be fine, but I wasn’t as knowledgable as to where those places were in Yangon so I thought it safest to simply avoid the street vendors.  We ate at restaurants that looked more established and did have English menus.  If I didn’t have the kids with me, I would have preferred to be more adventurous, but I really wanted to avoid any stomach bugs in the kids.

Food is cheap in Myanmar, if you go to the small, establish restaurants.  You can definitely find restaurants that cater to tourists with larger priced menus, but they had the same good quality as the smaller, cheaper restaurants.

Shan Yoe Yar Restaurant was recommended by our tour guide and had room enough for our large group.  This restaurant is known for their Shan region food.  It is a bit out of the downtown area, but probably only 3,000 kyats to get to from downtown. The restaurant had a large menu that could appeal to anyone; even many vegetarian options.  Our food came out quite quickly considering the large amount of people who were already seated downstairs for lunch.  The service was very good; people were even on top of keeping our water cups filled.

My favorite dishes in Myanmar are their tomato and tamarind leaf salads.  You need to try salads here!!  They are not like the green leaf salads in the US.  I always eat my Myanmar salad with rice; oh, it is soooo good!  Myanmar also have a lot of curry dishes.  I really like their curried meat dishes, especially pork.  We tried a lot of vegetarian options because we have vegetarian students.  The tofu dish (above right) was tasty; it was a soft tofu which I don’t love, but it had a good flavor.

Betel Quids

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A woman selling betel quids on the street

I took this picture of a woman not knowing what she was doing, but now I know.  This woman is making betel quids.  Betel quids are highly addictive and you can tell if someone takes them by their smile; after using betel quids for a long time, a person’s teeth become reddish-black.  This is a huge trend in Myanmar.  You will see many people using it throughout Myanmar.  Usually people are seen chewing a huge wad in their mouth. They also spit this red spit on the ground.  Personally, I think this is very disgusting, especially when you have to take off your shoes at all the temples and there is betel quid spit on the ground!!  I made the kids wash their feet every night when we returned to the hotel.  I appreciated the Mandalay Airport because there were actual signs saying that someone would get a fine if they were caught spitting betel on the floor or in the garbage.

The reason I took the picture of her was because I thought the methodical way she was preparing this stuff was really unique.  The betel quids do look pretty cool with all their components laid out, before it is rolled up.  This is how betel quids are made (in my picture above, the woman is adding the Areca nuts):

  1. Start with a Betel Leaf
  2. Add a Slick of lime (white spread on the leaf)
  3. Sprinkle of tobacco
  4. Add some Areca nuts
  5. Then wrap it up

About three of them are worth 10 cents US.

Check out two other sites in Yangon we went to:  Shwedagon Pagoda and Botataung Pagoda.

Overall, I found Yangon interesting.  Shwedagon Pagoda was beyond amazing and I definitely recommend everyone to go there.  It is probably the best pagoda complex I have ever seen.

I was surprised at the huge Indian influence I felt in Yangon; I guess it isn’t that surprising considering the proximity of India.  I thought that Myanmar would be exactly like Thailand, but 30 years behind.  I think that may be the case in Northern Myanmar, but Yangon definitely has an Indian influence.

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