In 2011, while travelling in Southeast Asia, I had the lucky opportunity to visit Burma on my travels. Unsure of what to expect, I was impressed and surprised by the kindness and overall warmth of the Burmese people towards travellers. It's hard to express just how wonderful it was, so I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
Your cheeks will ache from returning so many smiles. Burmese people are some of the sweetest and most smiley people I’ve ever encountered. They smile at a glance, and show warm interest in visitors to their country. These two kiddies sat down and smiled at Inya Lake. This is the biggest lake in Yangon, and it is a hangout for middle schoolers with guitars and couples alike. For tourists, it’s a nice stop as it’s free (compared to the slightly more jazzed up Kandawgyi Lake). Rent a bicycle for $3 a day and ride up Inya Road to have your own lake adventure.
Let Shwedagon Paya steal your heart and dance in your memories for years to come after you visit. It is the most sacred place in all of Myanmar, and it is visible from almost any vantage point in the former capital of Yangon, as it stands tall and above the rest of the city.
When entering the temple, you pay a 6,000 kyat entrance fee (roughly $6), all of which goes to the government. It’s the unfortunate price for seeing such an incredible wonder. You should mostly steer clear of government-run guesthouses and transportation during your stay in Myanmar, but this site remains an absolute must-see.
Ask if your guesthouse offers traditional Myanmar breakfasts. Pictured above is “pe nam bya”, which is Indian flat bread served with boiled garden peas with a bit of groundnut oil. This breakfast was offered free with a night’s stay at the Motherland Inn 2 in Yangon (who also conveniently offer free airport pickup too).
Hunt for lucky snakes on the street, and strike up a conversation with the vendor. Often the greatest conversations and connections you’ll develop in Yangon will be with street vendors.
The Than Zay Market will give your sinuses a kick. Get yourself to the New Bogyoke Market on Shwedagon Paya Road, and walk south to the Indian quarter. You’ll soon hear and smell the street market located where Shwedagon Paya Road meets Anawaratha Road. Enjoy free smiles and fish flopping out of their containers.
Get in the personal space of locals while riding the circle train for a dollar. The ride lasts three hours, and it is an up-close way to see how goods circulate around the city, as well as sharing smiles and tasting fresh fruits and making new friends. You can catch the train on Platform 6/7 at the central train station, and you’ll be happy to know that if you hop off the train, they’ll actually stop it and wait for you to run and jump back on.
Give yourself time in Yangon, as the pace of the city is a lot slower than you might be accustomed to. Enjoy the near lack of internet, revel in the true darkness of the night, and be astounded by the overwhelming kindness of the Burmese people.
This photo essay was originally published in the May 2011 issue of Gwangju News