About Yangon, Myanmar’s capital

1. The Dust

As I walk through downtown Yangon, I notice, “dust”- a dust of old that settles on the buildings, the street lamps, the windowsills, the sidewalks and the cracks on the walls. It’s a type of dust that traps time in place and makes it stand still; like a restless sleeping spell. Indeed this place is old, old fashioned– forgotten and still. But what contrasts that is the life awakening within its people.

It’s a type of dust that traps time in place and makes it stand still.

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2. The Life

The people of Myanmar are laid back and easy going, but full of hope and eagerness. They have an eagerness to work and to be involved. It’s like they are waking up to life after being in a city stuck in time. It is like an old clock beginning to tick again and the dust beginning to rise.

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Myanmar is growing in popularity as a traveller’s destination because of it’s unique past. You’ll definitely stick out if you are from a Western country and have a fairer complexion.

3. The People

I feel a warm welcome in Myanmar. The people’s reaction to me is similar to that of a shy but eager host welcoming you to his or her home. There is still a shyness that keeps them from being aggressive. Foreigners are still newcomers to them and they seem to carry a bit of hesitant fascination about them. They aren’t as aggressive as the Vietnamese market sellers; they are still friendly, social and willing to help. They don’t have that jaded nature that tourism brings to the locals. Here, as a tourist, I still feel like a guest.

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Local living quarters of downtown Yangon.

 

4. The script

Yangon’s downtown includes street signs all in English with the traditional script. The writing gives the place a touch of romantic mysticism. All along the streets these swirling, curving letters surround you. Their writing resembles the Sanskrit from India and is more curvy than Thai. It looks like the type of writing that a wizard or magician would use. Walking through Yangon made me feel like I was inside a spell book. For all I know a simple sign saying, “do not enter” could look like it was a mysterious incantation.

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A street vendor selling herbs by the sidewalk.  
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Oh but that script! Magical incantations or the local newspaper?

5. Still Asia

The streets of Yangon are full of commotion, bustling with the diversity of the place. Its streets (from 12th to Sule Pagoda) include shops selling all kinds of foods, spices, materials, tools, clothes, flowers and fruit. In the midst of bustling skinny sidewalks, random beetle nut stations pop up every now and then. It is like any Asian street market, full of random little shops spilling their sells out onto the street making it almost impossible to walk on and creating an organized chaos about it.

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Sidewalk beetle nut station 

 

What I think

With Myanmar recently opening its borders to the outside world, things will not stay the same. Opportunity, progress, development – tourism- will come flooding in, if it hasn’t already. Indeed that anticipation simmers within the people of Yangon, but yet they still have their old ways woven in to everyday life. The threads of the past give Yangon its unique mystery, but progress and the future won’t keep it that way. So I think, you should go. Go before it all changes. Go before the dust is cleaned off the shelves and shiny clean modernization replaces it. Go and take a step back in time.

So I say, go. Go before it all changes. Go before the dust is cleaned off the shelves and shiny clean modernization replaces it.

 

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