Hey fellow cadets! Nice to find you again. After a quite a few months and missions to keep me occupied, I have returned. This entry will look at another yet another peculiar city I visited, Yangoon.
Last February, I was once again fed up with the winter Prague has to offer. This time I decided to skip frozen conflict zones in Europe and go somewhere warmer. I took the spaceship down with my long-term partner in crime Mike to Southeast Asia and spent a few weeks in Thailand and Myanmar. We choose Myanmar mainly because it is still somewhat new to tourists. While Thailand was great, we wanted to see a place that wasn’t as full of tourists in Southeast Asia. Up until a few years ago, it was virtually impossible for just anyone to go to Myanmar. Now, most passport holders can obtain a 30-day e visa for 50 USD.
Myanmar has a similar thing going to Kazakhstan when it comes to their capital city. The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw. Like Astana, it is another artificially constructed capital built in the early-mid 2000s. The rationale for switching the capital is that Naypyidaw is that the central location helps provide stability to the more turbulent states of Myanmar. There are others that argue that this move was just an excuse for ex-dictator Than Shwe to create his city in his image. Yangoon has over 7 million people and is the commercial center of Myanmar and a leading cultural center. The city is formally known as Rangoon.
Before any US American asks me, No it has nothing to do with the Americanized Chinese dish” crab rangoons.” Although someone working at the Rangoon House got this memo, and I did find some crab rangoons.Yangoon will awaken all of your senses both of the better and worse. The city has a mix of architecture from the colonial era, mass slabs of concrete, and golden pagodas including one of the Shwedagon Pagoda which is one of the most sacred pagodas in all of Myanmar.
Yangon is also the most multi-ethnic city in Myanmar. There are sizable Chinese and Indian minorities in Yangoon. You can also find mosques, churches, and synagogues. Myanmar has many ongoing problems with Buddhist populism and nationalism. It is a problem in Yangon, but not to the extent as other parts of the country such as Mandalay and the western regions where the Royinga massacre happened.
There are quite a few markets and food stalls all over Yangon. You can also find many books sold on the streets, most of them probably propaganda. You do see quite a few copies of Orwell’s ” Burmese days” for sale as well. One thing about Yangoon that immediately stuck out from other large cities in Southeast Asia is the absence of motorbikes. Mike and I found that to be rather odd. We found out later on the reasoning for this. Myanmar’s consul general was killed in an accident involving one. They are banned from Yangoon and much of the rest of the country.
Mike and I met up with our friends Floh and Inga at one of these markets and went to a lovely park a little outside the center that had a human-made lake. While you can’t swim in it, it provides a change of scenery from the regular hustle and bustle of Yangon.
Yangon also has a decent nightlife compared to much of Myanmar. There was recently a nationwide curfew before we went, but it was lifted. There are various beer stations around the city. One of the most notable places for going out is the 19th street area offers quite a few other watering holes and tasty street food to go along with them. We had a relaxed evening there with our friends and made some new ones as well.
Another place worth checking out in Yangon for nightlife is the ” Blind Tiger”. Mike and I stayed in a hostel on Merchant street that was near it. It had excellent crab cake sliders, cocktails, and a fantastic staff. I highly recommend it.
I am sure that I have left out quite a bit more of Yangon we were only collectively there for three days or so. We merely just scraped the surface. It will be interesting to see how Yangon develops into the future. The city has a lot of potentials, but on the infrastructure is weak and ongoing social problems are not going to help this potential.
Curious to read more about the rest Burmese adventure? Pissed off that I decided to visit Myanmar despite the Royinga Crisis last year? Stay tuned for more stories about my Burmese trip and hear more about why I went!