The last stop on the trip was Yangon, which as I mentioned in an earlier post used to be the capital of Myanmar until the junta built a brand new city for their military government and moved all the government departments there. Combined with the economic sanctions in force at the time this caused Yangon to decline, with a lot of the beautiful old colonial buildings previously used by officialdom being left to decay.
But with the sanctions mostly lifted and tourism booming, Yangon is coming back to life. There are new buildings going up and lots of new cars on the road, but at least the drivers there only use their horns when actually needed, unlike Mandalay or even Bagan …it’s a lot quieter on the streets of Yangon. (for those familiar with SEA have a look at the street scenes of Yangon and spot what is missing from them)
The crowning jewel of Yangon and Myanmar is the Shwedagon temple, one of the most sacred of all Buddhist temples, and probably it’s most dazzling …or it would have been if the main chedi and it’s 27,000 kgs of gold was not covered up by scaffolding and bamboo matting
But there was still plenty else to see anyway.
While walking around town I happened upon this young lad waiting for some sort of ceremony to start. Exactly what sort of ceremony I don’t know, but with a band playing and food being cooked the guests were enjoying themselves more than this fellow seemed to be !
So what is missing from the streets of Yangon that is ubiquitous elsewhere in south east Asia ? Motorcycles, and anything resembling or that once was a motorcycle, are banned from the roads of Yangon. No tuktuks, no motorcycle delivery carts. Apparently one of the senior generals had his car sideswiped by a motorcycle in Yangon, so they just banned all motorcycles and their derivatives ! I guess you can do that when you are running a military dictatorship.
Another Myanmar oddity … In Myanmar they drive on the right of the road, but nearly all the vehicles are right-hand drive, with the steering wheel on the right. I saw some buses that were lefthand drive, with access doors on the right (kerb side) but most were right hand drive, and they had just cut a rough door with an oxy-torch on the right as well as the original doors on the left !