The End of Strife

Rangoon, Burma/Yangon, Myanmar

That’s the meaning of Rangoon/Yangon. Kind of ironic, given recent history.

I have to admit a bias for Burma over Myanmar. Burma has fewer syllables, and Myanmar sounds like a disease of the jaw.

Arrived here by air from Chiang Mai and noticed a change from Thailand – more packs of stray dogs, no street signs, and a general urban shabbiness and lack of trash collection that comes with decades of living in a socialist paradise hermit republic.

Then this morning we went to the Shwedagon pagoda. The centrepiece is a 99-metre gold foil-covered wonder of the world. After weeks of seeing dozens of temples, they pale in comparison to this place.

Shwedagon pagoda

It’s approached up this grand staircase.

Which is guarded by these marvelous crocodiles.

¬†Once there, it’s like being in New York City for the first time: the most jaded cosmopolitan is transformed into a slack-jawed gaping yokel.

Dreaming spires

We spent hours walking around.

An innocent abroad? The pilgrim’s progress? Or just another pasty gringo?

By the way, that’s an improvised longyi I’m wearing, made out of a travel towel, because shorts are not permitted while visiting the pagoda. A longyi (sounds like loan-gee) is a piece of material worn by both men and women here.

Burmese nurses in distinctive red longyis

Some more shots of Shwedagon.

And another.

You are here.

Strange fact: In Thailand, they drive on the left, like the British, even though they have never been a British colony. Yet here, which was a colony, they drive on the right, like in North America, but the steering wheel is on the right side, like left-driving countries. Just one of the mysteries of the orient.

In a Rangoon cab.

On the way to Shwedagon, we came across a charming custom. This woman has a cage full of birds. For a thousand Kyat – less than a Canadian dollar – you can set one free.

The bird lady

So I liberated this little guy, thereby gaining great merit.

Fly free, little one.

I should’ve ransomed the whole cage.