Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A walking tour of Yangon

We had a lot of sightseeing to fit into our day in Yangon, and the heat makes it best to avoid being too busy around midday, so it was an early start for our morning walking tour.

It isn't the most exciting or picturesque of cities, but it is interesting for being a busy and diverse place, with a lot of hustle and bustle. We hadn't expected to see a cow standing - or rather leaning - outside one of the Indian temples though.

We walked through the food market, with its vast array of fresh vegetables and brightly coloured spices, as well as a few things that we had no idea what they were.

One of the little things that I rather like about Myanmar, is their use of small garlands of fresh flowers as offerings both to Buddha and at cemeteries in remembrance.

They also hang them in their vehicles, presumably to make them smell better. They use simple, fragrant flowers like jasmine and honeysuckle, and they look and smell beautiful.

After a quick refreshment in the form of a very sweet cup of tea in a little cafe, we were back out into the heat.

We have got used to seeing temples in all sorts of nooks and crannies in Myanmar, but still, we were quite surprised to see the Sule Pagoda sitting in the middle of a busy roundabout. I guess the traffic wasn't so heavy back in the early days of the British occupation, when Lt Fraser made it the centre of his newly designed city layout.

It is an important temple, with the main pagoda apparently dating back around 2500 years. According to legend, a very old Nat, or spirit, lived in this temple and told them where to build the Shwedagon Pagoda. I read that Sule also means to meet, so it is appropriate that it was also the focal point for demonstrators in the 1988 and 2007 uprisings.

Nearby, the beautifully manicured Mahabandoola Gardens provide a great backdrop for the impressive old buildings, including City Hall, which combines British colonial and Asian styles.

The gardens house the independence memorial, but also have a reminder that all is not yet well with Myanmar, as there is a long-term protest by people who had their lands taken and have been camped out for a year demanding its return to them.

 Our final stop as a group was at The Strand Hotel, the grand colonial hotel built in 1901 by the Sarkies Brothers, who were also behind the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It is a simple but grand style on the outside, and the inside matches up. Some of us stopped for a drink in the bar, which wasn't quite as overpriced as you might expect. We also had a game of pool, and I am pleased to report that Nic and I beat Helen and Duncan.  In fairness, it was really Nic that beat them, as I only managed to pot one ball. But hey, at least it was one of ours!

After our moment of refinement in the bar, we succumbed to the heat and took a cab back up to the Bogyoke (General) Aung San Market - which, based on the dates on the plaque, 1926-2001, appears to be a little confused about how long constitutes a diamond jubilee.

It is however, a good market, albeit a bit touristy, especially around the numerous jewellery stalls. We found a great fabric shop that had some lovely woven materials from the different tribal areas, and I bought a piece that I am hoping to turn into a nice handbag at some point.

For lunch, we stopped in a nearby, well air conditioned, Dutch cafe, so I guess it was to be expected that one of our fellow passengers from the Netherlands also turned up there. That was a good way to spend the time we had before setting off on our afternoon sightseeing.

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