February 12, 2014

Old Buildings, Old Books and the Antique Pocket Watch in the Streets of Yangon

Touch Down Yangon.


Buzzling traffic of century old buses and busy side streets dominated by vendors of many kinds; men chewing betel nut and women wearing thanaka on their faces will hit you with genuine smile and warm greetings - that was my kind of Yangon. It has became Yangon because of the people impressing you with kindness, warmth and hospitality. More than the thousand stupas and golden temples, the Burma Experience is because of the people - the local. Ill rather spent talking to the Burmese than spend my whole day in Universal Studios Singapore.



In the airport I was welcomed by the cold weather and a Wi-Fi connection to check in to my foursquare and Facebook accounts. I searched for the money changer to charge my wallet with Burmese Kyat. I found 4 or 5 money changers in the land-side of the airport all having the same rates.



I wanted to go to the downtown by bus because the standard taxi charges K7000 ($7). So I asked around and they all pointed me to one direction. From the airport turn right and walk towards 10Miles - a restaurant along Pyay Road. I walked like 1.5 kilometers if Google map is accurate. Another challenge was what bus to ride. Although buses are numbered, the numbers are in Burmese character. I asked around but most people did not understand me. Luckily there was one girl who pointed me the bus bound to downtown Yangon.


I paid K200 ($0.2) for a roller coaster ride - I mean bus ride. The ancient buses of Yangon from Japan with wooden floors brought me to downtown in 2 hours. Too long but the scenery and experience was worth it.




Yangon City Hall

Finding My Hostel

My destination was Sule Pagoda. There I checked all the backpackers’ hostel I listed on my itinerary. I settled with Mahabandoola Hostel’s room with one queen bed for $12. I was asking for a twin bed because a fellow travel blogger will later join me. The hostel was full of adventurers like me of mostly westerners. Mahabandoola Hostel is not the place to be if you are a luxurious traveler. Although it has all the basic amenities, don't expect all the best in the world.


High Court
Walking Down the Streets

My feet were excited for a walk in the old district of Yangon. After fixing my things and checking all the stuff in Facebook and Instagram I hit the road with excitement, camera and headwear.



It was a delight to me to see the old buildings built during the English occupation. Though not all buildings are in good shape some of it are still in use as government offices as well as of private entities.


37th Street




What really amused me were the used books being sold on side streets. There are a lot of them in the downtown and around Scott Market area. These books are dusty rebind-ed a hundred times and in brown color but still the Burmese are buying it. My analysis is that Burma has just opened its doors to foreign culture thus its people then had limited connectivity or access to the world. I mean maybe before there was no internet and importation of books were limited as well. I don't know the extent of their seclusion before but these books - novels, academic even religious to general information - would probably tell that this city or country is just evolving or developing. The people are hungry for learning. If I have an extra baggage allowance I would have probably bought some titles.





Aside from books I saw a lot of antique-like items that are really worth my kyat. I really wanted to buy those keys for presents for K1000 but instinct told me that it’s too early to buy.


I found this antique (they say) pocket clock on side streets being sold by the Indian looking men costing K25,000 or $25. I really want it to the point that I can skip Bagan just to have it...joke! I asked for a discount and they gave in to K20,000. I said I will come back. Walking on I've notice that many sidewalk vendors also sell it! If it’s really an antique it should be rare. Right? But still I want it.


I posted a picture of the pocket clock on Facebook with a status that goes like - 'should I skip the train to Bagan just to have this antique?'  One says I can buy it next time and proceed to Bagan. The one that really struck me was a comment from our pastor, yes our church pastor. He said I should be aware of counterfeit items of that kind. He added that people in the region are notorious in making these fake items and there should be a document to prove its authenticity. There I got the light.


 I didn't buy the allegedly antique pocket clock instead I bought a Long Yi in the Scott Market for K5000. It was expensive I've seen some later on costing only K3000 of the same quality. I wore the Long Yi while walking on the streets of Yangon and it felt like communing with the culture of the happy people of Burma.

Isnt nice to have this?


Meeting My Travel Buddy

I went back to the hostel at around 6pm hoping to meet Ian at around 7pm. Ian is the man behind the travel blog www.limbonis.com. He was supposed to arrive with another blogger - Alvin of www.thewoldbehindmywalls.com - but Alvin had an emergency. It was just a coincidence that we had the same flight to Yangon. Ian, Alvin and I are members of Pinoy Travel Bloggers - a Filipino Community of travel bloggers in Facebook.

Ian arrived at about 9pm. I was actually sleeping when he message me in Facebook using the hostels free Wi-Fi. After some obligatory hello's and hi’s - it’s our first time to meet - we immediately hit the road for dinner. We had a nice talk with fried rice, a beef and a Burmese Noodle Soup.

I thank God I have a travel buddy at least for my first stop. I like traveling solo but I would be happy to have somebody to take my pictures. All the more i had somebody to cherish how nice it was to experience the generosity of the Burmese. I mean not the material aspect but the spirit of their person. I felt like I was given so much the way they talk to me. They are one of the best people I have met. 

Burma Series

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This is the travel blog of Jherson Jaya - banker by profession, adventurer by passion. Everything written here were based on his experiences. The lust of seeing new places thrilled him to explore both the explored and unexplored world. Old and new architecture fanatic; lover of food, both exotic and indulgence; and founds peace in long bus and train rides - that's how he describe his way of traveling.    

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