I made a snap decision about Yangon. I love it. We’ve only been here for a day, so perhaps it’s not the most informed opinion, but fuck it, it’s mine.
We arrived into Yangon at around 1am after a horrendous 26 hour trip from Bangkok- the city was comatose, 4.5 million people all tucked away in bed, leaving just the gorgeous lit-up golden stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda and Sule Paya to greet us. We checked into our somewhat dodgy-sounding (Daddy’s Home!), hideously overpriced guesthouse (USD$25 for a concrete box with no windows and a shared bathroom) and passed out instantly.
In the morning we got our first sense of the city- the crumbling grandeur of colonial buildings, untended since the British departed in 1948; the gossip-magnet tea-shops on street corners; men clad in traditional longyi; thanakha-besmeared girls tending snack stalls; the taqiyah headdress of Muslim men; sari-clad Indian women folding samosas; Burmese hipsters and an awesome, frenetic energy that became more intense as the afternoon shadows grow long.
The traffic is snarled and inches along the broad city boulevards but, unusual for a South-East Asian capital, there is not a moped/scooter/motorcycle to be found. There are a number of rumours on why motorbikes have been banned since 2003, the most popular seems to be that a top general’s son was killed while riding one. Either way, the lack of two-wheelers seems to make the traffic less chaotic and certainly makes crossing the road less of a death-dance.
|Notice anything weird about the traffic in Yangon? No scooters!!|
By sundown, the street vendors crowd the pavement; betel-nut sellers are doing fine business and the male population of the city (plus at least one aussie female tourist) is settling down for an icy cold Myanmar draft beer.
|Street vendor preparing betel nut packages|
And the food. Oh my god, the food. Today we sampled leq p’eq thouq, fermented tea leaf salad with fried garlic, peanuts, tomatoes and some kind of magic that elevates these simple ingredients to the fucking sensational realm. For dinner we had two different kinds of curry, accompanied by vegetables with some sort of pickled fish paste, raw cabbage and rice. For our entire days’ food consumption, including water, drinks and snacks…we spent AUD$7. So while accommodation is a joke, food is a joy.
Within a 1 kilometre radius of our guesthouse is a synagogue, two mosques and one of the most important Buddhist sites in Yangon. Between the muezzin and the chanting of Buddhist monks there are a million and one amazing cultural (read, culinary) experiences to be had.
In short, I love you Yangon.