My trip to Myanmar in January was for work, but it was intensely sentimental as well. Myanmar (or Burma, as it’s popularly known) never shut down for tourism, per se, but it only recently opened its doors to significant international trade in 2013 – and literally overnight, it shifted from a hidden world lost in time to the top of every world traveler’s “must see” list.
While both India and Burma were part of the British Raj, that’s not where my emotional tie to Rangoon (or Yangon as it’s now called) comes in. In a previous post I referenced my grandmother’s journey from India to Japan by barge and her many adventures along the way. A stop in Rangoon was one of those adventures: my grandmother decided to leave the barge to head into the city to find something to eat. The bay was too shallow for the the large ship to fully approach, so she had to off board onto a small boat that could dock at the pier. The water was rough that day and she capsized into the bay. She didn’t know how to swim so she treaded water until she got close enough to a buoy and hung on for dear life. She was shortly rescued – and she would proudly say that the experience didn’t deter her, she still went on to go eat in Rangoon.
I visited the very area where my grandmother capsized, more than sixty years ago. Today it looks like this:
But I can only imagine when my grandmother was there it looked more like this:
Evidence of the British Raj and the city’s strong colonial influence are everywhere.
When I walked into the world-famous Strand Hotel, the hotel was nearly indistinguishable from some of the low-country hotels or inns I’ve visited in South Carolina. Tea and cocktails were delicious, although somewhat pricey.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, so I had the opportunity to visit Shwedagon Pagoda, the World Peace Pagoda, the Reclining Buddha Temple, and many other amazing sites.
Could you imagine if you saw a barge like this floating past you on the river?
I wrapped up my stay before work meetings started with a little bit of retail therapy at Scott’s Market.
While Yangon is an amazing city, if you’re headed to Myanmar to see ancient Buddhist temples and pagodas, the place to go is Bagan (fly into Mandalay and hire a driver to take you down). That’s my plan for next time!
Have Kids, Will Work