I had the good fortune to learn of a guide named "Eugene" (firstname.lastname@example.org) on the internet, who not only met me at the airport but also proved to be a great help in Yangon. After escorting me to the conveniently located Central Hotel (http://myanmartravelinformation.com/centralhotel/) I exchanged $US200 for 262,000kyat (pronounces "chat") in a large bundle of 1,000 kyat notes. I visited Scott's Market down the road from the hotel, where I wandered around the myriad of stalls and bought a few souvenirs and gifts. Back in my hotel room, I heard chanting through the window from which I could see monks parading along the street. Grabbing my camera, I rushed down to the foyer with the intention of taking photo. However, I was asked by the staff not to take photos "for security reasons". I never found out what that meant. This was my introduction to the troubles in Myanmar, which escalated dramatically during my time there.
The following day I visited several impressive pagodas, including Suli, Shwedagon, and "First Sacred Hair Relic Pagoda". Each of the pagodas was extravagantly decorated with gold and jewels, and a constant flow of devout buddhists praying at the altars added to the atmosphere. The exterior floors and paths were constructed of polished marble, which were extremely slippery due to the rain.
I took dozens of photos along the way, and the Burmese people who I asked readily agreed to having their photo taken. In fact, soon after taking the photo of a husband and wife with their child, I was nudged by an elderly woman who indicated she wanted her photo taken also, and was delighted to have it displayed on the digital camera screen.
On the third day, Eugene arranged for me to visit the Aye Chan Tha Orphanage where about 60 boys are cared for by a buddhist monk and a small staff.
The facilities are basic, consisting of 9 dormitories with 8 bunks crowded in each room. Class rooms contained a blackboard, and low tables, which the children sat at on the floor. The playground consisted of a bare patch of muddy ground on which some of them played soccer, while others practised volleyball. Their meals consist almost entirely of rice with small additions of chicken, meat or curry. But the children appear to be happy and grateful to be cared for.
The children and staff were most appreciative of the story books, chalk, exercise books, pens, coluring books and pencils, soft toys and chocolates we gave them.
The day was a heart warming experience, and I hope to be able to assist the orphanage again.
Previous: Nyaung Shwe / Inle Lake.
Due to careless budgeting, I was running low on cash after returning from Inle Lake, so I stayed at the inexpensive Mother Land Inn (http://myanmarmotherlandinn.com/) where I obtained a basic but very clean private room for $US10 per night. The hotel appeared to be the only building in the area which was well maintained, but it was interesting to wander around the streets and see the local population at work. Once again, by signs I obtained permission to take several photos, and also managed to buy food of the street stalls which I enjoyed.
And so ends another interesting, adventurous, funfilled holiday, in a remarkable country which I hope to visit again in the not too distant future.
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