To mark the launch of Go-Myanmar.com, here is the first of a regular series of posts from Myanmar (Burma) which will cover some of the experiences that this vividly colourful, dynamic, beautiful and often totally baffling country has to offer. I will also be doing my best to provide useful and informative insights for those who are planning to travel to Myanmar (or people who simply take an interest in this rapidly changing place which is so rarely out of the news at the moment).
I’m writing this blog from my hotel bed in the Indian Quarter of downtown Yangon (Rangoon), where you can find some striking Hindu temples and street markets aplenty – as well as tasty, inexpensive chappattis, samosas, goat brain brain curries and other Indian fare on every street corner. Distractingly, what sounds like a sermon blaring from a low-quality loudspeaker has been drifting into my room for over an hour; but if you are staying in budget accommodation in Myanmar, then the sounds of life are often with you, for better or worse.
In Yangon, that life continues every day of the week. On Sundays there are perhaps a few shops that are closed, but in general things are busy all the time, and you can find things to buy throughout the day, every day. In fact the only day that the famous Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) is closed is Monday.
The Indian quarter is testament to Yangon’s status as one of Southeast Asia’s great melting pots, and the Chinese are also a big presence here – as they are in so many cities around the world. Chinatown can be found to the west of the Indian quarter on the city’s grid; here you can find 19th street, with its buzzing after-dark atmosphere, cheap eats, beers and mohitos. Also reflecting Yangon’s enduring diversity are the many churches that can be found about the place (as well as a synagogue). Despite recent demonstrations by Buddhist monks against the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the sense of day-to-day ethnic and religious harmony here is in stark contrast to the prejudice and conflicts that currently blight Rakhine State in western Myanmar.
In my next blog I’ll take a look at interacting with locals and some practical issues surrounding Yangon’s notorious humidity.
Marcus Allender – founder, Go-Myanmar.com. October 29th, 2012