Final Days in Rangoon and Burma
Trip Start Nov 07, 2006
9Trip End Nov 18, 2006
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On Thursday afternoon / early evening, I finally did the main thing that I came to Burma to do: Take pictures of the Schwedagon Paya at sunset. The main stupa of the Schwedagon Paya is like the Eiffel Tower of Burma. It dominates the skyline of Rangoon. It is also the most sacred Buddhist site in the country. It is of a complex of shrines, pavilions, images, bells and stupas. But let's let the pictures tell the rest of this story.
Now for some practicalities: The entrance fee for foreigners is 5 US dollars. There is an optional brochure than can be purchased for another dollar. I've been to Schwedagon a total of three times now and on the third visit, the staff there tried to make it look like the entrance fee was 6 dollars and included a "free" brochure
It is also necessary to remove your shoes before entering the complex. I always bring an empty plastic bag with me so that I can put my shoes in the bag and the bag into my backpack. Having your shoes with you allows you to leave from a different entrance from the one at which you arrived. It also eliminates the possibility of having your shoes stolen (by accident or otherwise). And it prevents you from having to make yet another donation for someone to "watch" your shoes. (Or rather, to watch that you don't get your shoes back without making a "donation".) Additionally, I always bring some "Wet Ones" wet wipes with me to clean my feet after walking around the relatively dirty complex. And finally, if you are planning to take pictures at sunset, don't forget to bring your mini-tripod. And perhaps an extra set of batteries and some spare memory cards. Trust me. This might save you from having to make another trip to Burma.
A taxi to the complex from the center of town should cost no more than 1,500 kyat, or just over a dollar
The rest of my time in Rangoon I spent buying souvenirs at the main market near my hotel and just wandering around town soaking up the atmosphere. I also bought some milk, bananas and pastries for breakfast on the morning of my departure as I would have to leave my hotel and 6 a.m
On my flight back to Bangkok from Rangoon, the chap sitting next to me told me that he was a Burmese government negotiator. He asked me if I was working for the CIA. Ha! How to answer such a question? If I say no, then he might think I am because I would have to deny it, right? And if I say yes, then maybe I am anyway - but I'm just trying to confuse him. It's really a question that is impossible to answer "correctly". But logically, would the CIA hire somebody who couldn't even remember to bring a spare set of batteries to the Schwedagon Paya for his camera? On the other hand, maybe "forgetting" the batteries was just a clever trick to give me an excuse for having to go back
An observation about Burmese culture from my "Lonely Planet" travel guide:
As most Burmese are slim (due to a lack of food), plumpness is considered a sign of health and beauty. The expression "Wa-laiq-ta!" ("How fat you're looking!") is considered a compliment. That would explain why none of the "beauties" in the night clubs appealed to me.
All in all my trip to Burma was rather enjoyable. The highlight were the temples of Bagan. The lowlight was my difficulty finding food. However, given that I just had a stuffer of a meal a few minutes ago, the hunger from the trip is already forgotten and only the good memories remain. (Well, I do still remember my sore butt from the day I spent on the bicycle touring the temples.) But other than that, I have only good memories. Thanks for joining me on this trip and I hope to have you along for the next one as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.