More Of Myanmar – Day Out In Yangon 1

nyonya, recipe, easy, Chinese, Straits bornUpon reaching the home, we need to climb up a few flights of stairs to reach the apartment. During the night, there was prayers. At first I thought it was the Azan, or the Muslim prayer, but I am not  in Malaysia. I am in Myanmar, a Buddhist country. Anyway, it went on the whole night and until the morning and on, and on.

In the morning, we have a simple breakfast – char kueh (Malay), or ewe cha kueh (Hokkien), or Chinese crullers, or youtiao (Mandarin). This is similar the ones in Malaysia. All bought from the local hawker store downstairs.

My host explains to me that there is currently a Buddhist special occasion going on and part of the celebration is the recitation of the complete sets of the sacred books. It will go on until all the books are read or chanted. This has been going on for several days now. Further more, the Burmese Union Day was celebrated 2 days earlier.

First thing, first. We proceed to the town to purchase the ticket to Bagan. Bagan is another city that one needs to visit. We also plan to go the Inle Lake area after Bagan. It will take 2 to 3 days to get a proper feel and tour of each city / area. The places are quite far apart. One can take a plane which normally leaves in the day time. Or, one can take the bus.  We decide to take the bus, as we can sleep in the bus and reach our destination in the morning. This way, we save time and a  night’s accommodation, and can do our touring early in the morning.  If we take the plane,  we need to get up early, take a ride to the airport, take the plane and then take ride to the hotel. It will be around mid-day by the time we leave the airport to the hotel or the tour itself.

Having bought the ticket, 18,500Kyats, we went sight-seeing. The first stop is the famous Shwedagon Temple. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. These relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama.

Yangon,Burma, Myanmar, Buddha,

In Shwedagon temple complext. The pagoda is in the background

I have to pay an entrance fee of 8,000 kyats!. It is free for locals. Entrance fee for your camera is 55 Kyats and video is 57 Kyats.  You need to remove your shoes upon entering the temple.

The base of the Shwedagon Pagoda is covered with gold. In fact the whole pagoda is covered with gold. On top of the base are the terraces and then the design consists of a bell, an alms bowl, the lotus flower, banana bud and the umbrella crown. At the tip of the crown are diamonds and rubies, with the very top is a 76 carat diamond. Only males are allowed up to the terrace and above levels. Sorry, ladies

Since this is a Sunday, and the city is still in a celebratory mode, there are many people, both locals and tourists, mainly locals. Around the temple, or rather, the base of the pagodas there are bases with a sign on top. These are the ‘corners’ for each day of the week. In the Burmese tradition, your day of birth is very important. Devotees would pray at their respective ‘corners’.  So if you are born on a Monday, you would go to the Monday corner to pray.  So there should be 7 corners, for the 7 days of the week. However, there are 8 days a week in the Burmese calendar. Hmmm…., the Beatles must have got their inspiration here. Wednesday is divided into 2 days, from morning to 6pm is considered as Wednesday  and from 6pm onwards is another day, or Rahu day. Rahu is one of the planets in the Hindu/ Burmese astrology. Now I know what this Rahu is. As years ago, I went to an Indian astrologer in Singapore and I have this planet in my ‘house’. I asked the astrologer what Rahu was, and I was told that it is a  planet in Hindu astrology. So after 6pm, it is Rahu day.

Buddhist temple, Swedagon, Yangon, Pagoda, temple,

Devotees ‘bathing’ the Buddha.

You would go to your respective corner to make offerings of flowers, and incense, etc. The devotees also bathe the Buddha statue in the corner. If  you are 50 years old, you will bathe the Buddha 50 times.  I think I will take a long time to bathe the Buddha!

The Shewdagon temple complex is very big and there are other smaller temples or shrines to visit in the complex. There is another Buddha that has a bit of a modern story behind it.

Burma. Shwedagon, Yangdn

The jade Buddha in Shwedagon Temple.

It seems that the Jade Buddha is made after the image of a certain military general.  The jade a solid piece, is cold. So visitors would touch the jade to feel it. Visitors and devotees are encouraged to touch the feet for that reason. Foreign VIPs who visited the place would pay homage to the Buddha and touch the feet. When one is touching the feet, one has to sort of bend down or ‘kow-tow’ to the Jade Buddha. In other words, the VIPs are bowing to the general.

After Shwedagon, we then proceed to Botataung Pagoda where the Buddhas Sacred Hair is kept. This temple has a maze-like base where one can  pass through and view the various exhibits/relics. The ceiling and walls are covered with gold mosaic and various glass/ crystal mosaics.

Myanmar, Yangon, Rangoon,

Inside Botataung Temple. the beautiful mosaic. Monk with modern tech.

We then proceed to lunch.  Since it is my host’s birthday, I decide to treat them to lunch.  The restaurant, Monsoon, is highly recommended by their daughter and is a few doors away from the young lady’s favourite charity shop, Pomelo.

Monsoon serves Authentic Burmese food in a pleasant air-conditioned environment and is popular with foreigners.  The meal was delicious and the ambient relaxing. It is the first time I try  Burmese tofu. It tastes a bit different from the normal Chinese soy tofu, and I think is it a bit ‘interesting’. It is firmer and not as watery.

Monsoon Restaurant, Yangon

After that we proceed to the charity shop to have a look.

In the evening we have dinner in a restaurant in a park. We have Burmese food. There is raw prawn salad, a Burmese specialty, cabbage salad, crackers, fried kangkung, fried minced pork, among the dishes.

Dinner, Yangon,

Burmese Banquet Fare. Pork belly, stir fried gingko and lotus seeds, cabbage salad, crackers.

Raw Prawns, Burmese Salad,

Burmese Specialty: Raw Prawn Salad. Something like the ‘Umai’ in Sarawak.

We enjoy the evening.

Tomorrow we will be seeing more of Yangon.

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Penang Lassie.

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