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.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Yangon

Our afternoon sightseeing was done in one of the little open back truck style taxis. This was quite nice when driving along, as the breeze provided some relief from the heat, but unfortunately, being in Yangon, we spent a lot of time crawling through the traffic jams, so most of the time it was just stiflingly hot.

Once we finally got moving, our first stop was at the National Museum of Myanmar. We only had about an hour, which was a shame because it was actually quite interesting, with various exhibits about the traditions and culture of the country, including music and the clothing worn in the different regions. The star attractions here though are the thrones of King Thibaw Min, the last king of Myanmar, in particular the very impressive Lion Throne.

After another crawl through traffic, we visited the Chaukhtatgyi Paya and its rather large  reclining Buddha, standing - or rather lying - at 65m long and 16m high. The positioning of the feet, which are covered in 108 sacred Buddhist symbols, is slightly staggered, meaning that the Buddha is depicted just before his death; had the feet been fully together, that would show him having just passed away.

This pagoda also had a round shrine that had eight sections, each representing the day of the week that you were born on, and the animal sign that means you fall under. Why eight rather than seven - Wednesday is split into two parts, the morning and the afternoon. With Nic and I both having been born on a Thursday, we fall under the rat apparently.

The idea is that you give an offering to the sign relevant to you, which generally consists of people pouring a cup of water onto it. Given that they get the water from the shrine itself, it didn't seem like much of an offering to me, but perhaps it's the thought that counts.

After the Buddha, we stopped at Kandawgyi Lake to see the Karaweik. You may remember from an earlier post that the Karaweik is the golden barge that looks a bit like a duck. This one is not only a replica, but it isn't even really a barge as it is concreted in position. It is supposedly quite a nice restaurant, but to us, it just wasn't worth the visit, especially when you spend so much time in traffic to get there.

I was more interested in seeing a group of men busy with the preparation of htamane, a concoction of sticky rice, coconut, peanuts, sesame, oil and ginger, that was being made for the full moon of Tabodwe festival today. Sadly it wasn't ready yet, so we couldn't get a taste. It did however give us an explanation for the strange cylinders that we had seen being given out to children as we passed a school earlier in the day; apparently the bamboo tubes would have contained a gift of htamane.

Our last visit of the day was the famous Shwedagon Pagoda on Singuttara Hill. According to legend, it is over 2500 years old, though experts put it around the 6th to 10th century. Either way, it is certainly an impressive pagoda, and with multiple other structures around it, there is quite a lot to see. It is dedicated to the four Buddhas, Kakusandha, Konasamana, Kassapa, and the one we mostly know about, Gautama. It is said to contain relics from all four, making it the most scared of places of worship in Myanmar.

Of course the usual no shoes rule applies throughout the complex, and that can be a bit of a shock when you first set your bare feet onto the terrace as it can be scorchingly hot after absorbing the sun all day.

The pagoda structure is covered in gold, and the tip has around 5450 diamonds and over 1000 other gems, with the big diamond at the top weighing in at around 76 carats. Just as well it is a long climb up or some non Buddhists might be tempted to help themselves to a few.

It was quite interesting to watch the Buddhist visitors making their offerings at various shrines that are relevant to them in some way. At the shrine which represents children,  expecting couples could be seen making an offering to try to influence what gender their baby would be.

Our guide Myo is from Yangon, and as we were sitting in yet another traffic jam on the way out of the pagoda, he told us that he was going to see his mother to have dinner with her after he had seen us back to the hotel. It was already getting late, and we weren't going anywhere quickly, so we shooed him off to see his mum and leave us to get back to the hotel - once he had given instructions to our driver of course.

When we finally made it back ourselves, a few of us headed out to a bar and restaurant at the top of the Sakura building, which had a great view of Yangon and the Schwedagon Pagoda. However the prices were as high as the bar was, so we soon moved on to somewhere cheaper.

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