Republic of the Union of Myanmar aka
Konzaydan Street 69
White House Hotel +951240780 firstname.lastname@example.org
Spacious and clean double room (no. 702), with private bathroom, for US$ 22.- per night, including a bottomless, vegetarian buffet brunch for two.
Exploring Yangon’s decaying downtown (an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences) on foot thus starting our tour at the 2,200-year old Sule Paya, the geographic and commercial heart of the city where the British-designed grid street pattern is centred, and wandering around this architectural hodge podge where golden, ancient pagodas share the crowded streets with colonial, dishevelled Rangoon, having delightful encounters with friendly and welcoming local men (who still wore their traditional skirtlike longyis) and women (whose faces were still dolloped with tan-coloured thanakha, a make-up/sunblock made from powdered wood) and resuscitating our tattered feet with the help of a professional foot reflexology treatment at the Central Hotel’s 6th-floor massage parlour +951241007 for only MMK 6,000.- or US$ 7.50 per hour, conscious that a systematic review of 18 studies concluded that “…the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition…”; but one reason that foot massage is so pleasurable and associated with significant improvement in mood is that the area of the brain that connects to the foot is adjacent to the area that connects to the genitals, at least according to the good doctors Ramachandran and Blakeslee in their marvelous book Phantoms in the Brain (…most notably if the treatment is performed by a sexy therapist).
Jumping into Yangon’s spiritual and religious diversity, temple-hopping (i) the auspicious and famous Thayettaw Kyaung Taik, a rotting 19th-century compound of 66 active Buddhist monasteries, (ii) the atmospheric Moseah Yeshua Synagogue with its dilapidated, well-camouflaged exterior but beautifully maintained interior, founded 100 years ago by Sephardic Jews, (iii) the red-and-golden Kheng Hock Keong, Yangon’s largest Chinese (Hokkien) temple, humming with preparations for the upcoming Chinese New Year of the Dragon, (iv) the colourful, kitschy Sri Kali Hindu temple near our hotel and (v) the classy Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral built by the British, and noticing the mushrooming palmistry and astrology industry all over the city, infallible signs for an approaching and overdue Burmese version of glasnost and perestroika: “Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi/Reine?”
Worshipping the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Moon (Konni) and Saturn (Matt) at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda’s day shrines, gawking in awe at the top of the 98-m high, gold-plated stupa, the seven-tiered hti (which is hung with gold bells, silver bells and various items of donated jewellery) and trying to identify the lofty diamond orb (a hollow golden sphere which is studded with 4,351 diamonds totalling 1,800 carats) at the very top of the wind vane tipped with a single 76-carat diamond.
Making friends with the superhuman nat (spirits) at (i) the many scruffy “beer stations” in Yangon (Myanmar draft beer: MMK 600.- per pint), (ii) the many efficient, Chinese run supermarkets (640-ml bottles of ice-cold Myanmar Beer for MMK 1,300.- or US$ 1.60, Dagon Lager Green Label for MMK 1,000.- or US$ 1.20 and Mandalay Lager also for 1,000.- or US$ 1.20) and at (iii) the many rugged streetside food stalls where we indulged in the most delicious mohinga (rice noodles with fish soup) for only MMK 300.- or US$ 0.35 per generous helping.
Embarking on the cross-river rust bucket to Dalah (MMK 1,000.- or US$ 1.20 per foreigner) and crossing the murky waters of the Yangon River, thereafter buying two of the 30 (!) crowded “seats” in a crammed pick-up truck from Dalah to Twante (25 km, 1 hour, MMK 500.- or US$ 0.60 per foreigner) and exploring this cluster of dusty roads which is lined with make-shift bamboo huts and ramshackle wooden shops by means of Kyaw Soe’s worn bicycle trishaw (2 hours for MMK 6,000.- or US$ 7.30), which he has to rent from its owner for MMK 1,000.- US$ 1.20 per day: (i) watching a local master potter making water containers of varying shapes and sizes from river clay, (ii) visiting cotton weavers and (iii) exploring the 76-m tall Shwe San Daw Paya, a Mon-made stupa which was built just a few years after the one at Yangon’s Shwe Dagon Paya.