Yangon was our last stop in Myanmar, marking the end of an eight-day trip that felt like it lasted so much longer. It was the former capital of the country from 1948, when Burma regained independence following over a century of British rule, until a decade ago when the title was given to Naypyidaw. Remnants of Britain’s historical influence are present in the form of colonial style architecture. Albeit a little rundown, the buildings hint at their former grandeur.
Strolling around town, it comes as no surprise that Yangon sustains a population of seven million, with its narrow streets and densely erected buildings. It was nothing like I had anticipated, once believing that Yangon would resemble Mandalay. I was instead surprised to see a true city in the making, complete with tall buildings, as opposed to the grungy, low structures of Mandalay.
The day we were there, the heat and humidity was incredible. We admittedly spent much of our time sitting in air conditioning, but also on a three-hour circular train. The ride provides an honest and intriguing glimpse into Burmese life. To my slight disappointment, it was not much of a photography opportunity, but a visit later in the day to Shwedagon Pagoda made our trip to Yangon truly worthwhile from that perspective. The pagoda stands in its entire splendor at almost 100 meters. Here, there is said to be relics of four previous Buddha in addition to eight strands of hair from Gautama. A 76-carat diamond bud sits atop the gold stupa that is adorned with rubies and, you guessed it, more diamonds.
With our time in Myanmar coming to a close, I still felt like I had only scratched the surface of what the country had to offer. With a return trip on my bucket list—it’ll be interesting to see how things have changed a decade or two in the future. I hope that as the country develops and as the Western world further encroaches beyond the first KFC that opened this year in Yangon, quality of life will improve. At the same time, I hope that western influence does not taint tradition, the kindness of the people, or the beauty of the land.
Onto the next country, Thailand.