Tuesday, 30 December 2014


We did a day of tourism in Yangon. It doesn't feel Christmassy. It's 34C and humid. I don't recall the last time I felt this heat, but it isn't in recent memory. I also don't know if that's recorded somewhere natural or on the crowded downtown blacktop with air conditioners concentrating heat outside all day.  It was basically intervals in and out of shadows for us.  

City hall. 

I missed the name, but the Hudson Bay equivalent from the British Empire originally.  Now something else. Pointy to right is a Christian church. 

Supreme Court. Our guy showing us stuff today is on a limited time scale (by us) as we're recovering from being sick. But he says the police and courts don't do much. In two weeks here, we saw one police car on the road and its two associates police men. We saw zero guns or army guys, but did see a few army barracks type places. It looked to me more like make work/basic army corps of engineers type civil work for teenage boys. 

Protest outside Supreme Court.  

Independence monument. Couple side notes: in two weeks of being here I haven't heard or seen in print the word Burma once. People seem to identify as Myanmar people. There are 135 ethnic groups, but 8 major ones. Apparently Myanmar derives from myan and ma, which either in the past or maybe still, were the Chinese descriptors of these people to the south. Myan is strong, ma is fast. We didn't see anyone moving too fast, but they sure are strong, especially for how small they are. Median body weight must be 2/3 of me for men, if not less. Life expectancy is shorter, 65 years. We were told that it used to be common for farmers to live long, but not so much anymore. I don't know if smoking was historic or introduced (ie they have indigenous stuff they smoke before tobacco) and I can't imagine lifelong exposure to absolutely belching black diesel smoke in your face helps. If previous generations farmed with buffalo work and didn't smoke I could see how it'd be a very healthy life. Let's just say that working in the fields and eating fresh food every day leaves skin cancer as probably a higher risk than obesity. 

Couple standing in nice park. 

This is but a tiny sliver of what is vended on the streets. The one thing that is apparent is men and women are equal, and everyone who can make conversation wants their country to be better. They think they did their part by electing Aung San Suu Kyi. She's one of only 4 people to be bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship too. They stress education desires for the whole population (sounds like it's now basically free or nominal cost to public for primary), are concerned about the prevalence of smoking and the lack of awareness of large scale social health ills. On a daily basis there appears to be a lot of freedom to do as one pleases. I can google seemingly any topic and can blog, which I can't do in China. They want visitors to like Myamar, to realize that it has a long history as being a gem of a country, and wish to get back. 

Apparently some Jewish guy who migrated from Bhagdad early in the century owns this, and is a vibrant figure in the local economy. 

We visited Shwedagon Pagoda, thankfully as shade was coming to Yangon.  It's the most significant one in Myanmar, and significant beyond that as other Bhuddist country people come to pilgrimage.  It's busy - we called it pagoda town as there's so much to the complex. It was partially covered for maintenance while we were there, but the whole thing is actual gold and the top is all rubies and diamonds. 

Bhodi tree at entrance. 

Main pagoda (covered with stuff). 

That thing is really all covered in plate gold. Those who perpetuate the urban myth that all the gold mankind has ever extracted is less than a swimming pool may wish to contemplate. 

Bhuddist principles don't appear in any way combative or incompatible with the modern world.  It's refreshing to be in a climate where people can be devout without being archaic at best or idiotic at worst.  I asked someone about the monks using cell phones and scooters and such, and they said Bhudda didn't have those things then so couldn't make rules about them, following old rules would be silly. But he told people principles for a good life and to think for themselves. Well, that sure seems smarter than some religious bickering in the world. 

I hope Myanmar sorts itself out. It should be rich in a way that all citizens have better lives. It has an abundance of resources. Given adequate transport, nobody should be hungry. People are educated decently, with some having access to more. More is better in this phase. It's also hopeful to see how equal men and women are in their daily routines. It all comes down to politics, which has unfortunately stifled many countries and peoples of high potential. 

Unwound by pool then New Year dinner for 2. The Russians gave this hotel to Myanmar in 1958. Rumor has it Nikita Kruschev had a hand in designing this very pool.  It was a very modern hotel at the time and has been renovated since. I would say it holds its own in the Asian hotel market, especially being on 37 acres on the lake. 

Bakke tracked down a balloon to make New Year dinner for 2 a bit festive. 

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