Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar
Woke early, post jet lag so went in search of an Internet connection. Found the business center in the Traders Hotel and logged onto Gmail, Facebook and Twitter without an issue. It looks like the regime blocks most IRC and IM services. Then we picked up by Stella (name changed) and Harry (name changed) from for a day touring Yangon. Visited the Mon Hoeing monastery where 1300 monks and novices live and study. There was an enormous feeling of tranquility as they quietly queued for their meal amongst gardens filled with Bougainvillea. Then to the giant reclining Buddha at Kyaukhtatgyi pagoda which is worth a visit as much for the way Buddha has been depicted as female with lipstick, nail polish and eyelashes as for the fantastic symbols on the soles of his feet. Stella was forthcoming about the current regime and it’s appalling corruption. They have moved the capital inland and have created an insane, artificial compound where the military and civil servants live in pampered luxury. They are building a zoo, of all things there, and transporting the animals from Yangon zoo to fill it. So the people in the capital get a few old camels and the rest get shipped 300 miles inland. Civil service pensions are no better, her mother receives 100 Kyat or $0,10 a day. Stella’s bitterness was mainly reserved for the treatment of the poor who seem to have been mainly abandoned by the political rulers. The stories of aid for rural people post Cyclone Nargis in 2009 were terrifying. We had lunch on the north shore of the Kandawygi lake at a Burmese restaurant. Good food and not expensive (12,000 Kyat/$12 for two) and from there on to the Shwedagon Padoga. This is a assault of the senses, more gold, decoration, marble and stupas than you can imagine. Tucked amongst all of this are individual moments of peace and quiet reflection as people find ways to meditate in such a large complex. Take some time here to be quiet for a few minutes. In the evening had dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the Traders. Food not bad but the decor was like the a function room at the Reading Ramada Inn – soulless.