The bus took us back to the bus station-styled airport terminal of Heho airport, for our last official day of the tour. We put our carry on luggage through the x-ray scanner at security and then went through the scanner which, unbelievably, was turned off so the security guard, briefly, checked us with a wand. The worst thing was Craig was let through without having to turn out his pockets which included his phone and wallet. Even more concerning though, a monk wasn't subjected to any checks, scanner nor wand!
The flight to Yangon was a very quiet journey and we were collected from the airport by Wyn (who had picked us up last week), our guide for the day. After getting checked in, back to Hotel Mawtin, we got organised and headed back out for some lunch. The first stop on the itinerary, after lunch, was to Bogyoke Aung San Market (formerly known as Scott Market), a colonial style building that now houses a massive market that sells artwork, jewellery, bolts of material, clothes and everything else that Myanmar offers.
After wandering around for 45 minutes, admiring the wares on display we got back in the bus and headed to our next stop, Inya Lake. The setting was beautiful, green and very peaceful despite being in the heart of the city.
As we had a while until sunset, Wyn suggested another attraction, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple, which houses a massive reclining Buddha. I think we would both have been happy to stay at the lake for longer but it's also hard to say no when the guide is very enthusiastic about what they are about to take you to. The statue of Buddha was very ornately painted, and he was absolutely massive! The decoration on his feet tells his life story as read by astrologers when he was born. Each painting depicted a different life he had led until his incarnation as Buddha.
We walked around, taking our pictures, and then stopped at an astrology shrine where each day of the week is depicted by an animal. The day of the week you were born is what animal you are. Katy is a Tuesday lion and Craig, a Monday tiger.
Our last stop of the day was to the massive Shwedagon Pagoda for sunset. After paying our foreigner fee of 10,000 Kyat each, we took the elevator up to the main level. Wyn took us around, pointing out the decoration and meaning of each of the smaller buildings surrounding the massive pagoda as the sun slowly set. The pagoda has been elevated and widened over the centuries and is covered from top to bottom in gold. The top has a bejewelled wind vane with a massive 76 carat diamond at the very top. Katy's favourite temple (5th photo) had 2 Brahma statues outside, 1 holding a lotus flower and 1 holding a baby, if you pray to the lotus flower you will be blessed with a baby girl and the baby is for a baby boy. Craig enjoyed Victory Square (1st photo) where King's would go to pray to Buddha before heading off to war (irony never fails to pass Craig by).
Wyn then allowed us to wander around for a further 45 minutes to watch the light change from dusk to dark where the pagoda is then lit with both spotlights and candle light in a strange blend of old and new. We were also accosted by a gentleman calling himself Grandpa, trying to give us the hard sell to employ him as a guide for Yangon for the day. He showed us his book of reviews, lectured us on some Buddhist history and didn't let us speak! When he finally came up for air, Katy expertly told him (lied) we had to meet our guide and that we were flying out tomorrow!
We returned to the hotel after sitting in rush hour traffic and then relaxed in the room, we were both pretty knackered, it had been a long tour! For dinner we went to 'Golden Yummy' a Japanese restaurant, conveniently and deliberately, just up the road! A soft shell crab for Katy and a Katsu curry for Craig and we were ready for bed!
The next morning we said goodbye to Carlos and Juan Paulo, who had been with us for the last 8 days, and then headed out to the laundrette. On the way back we decided to go for a coffee and ended up in the Parisian Bakery. It seemed appropriate as we flew out to Paris on our first holiday 5 years ago to the day. Katy, trying to be adventurous, ordered their self named "Parisian Coffee" expecting something a little interesting. It was not. It was a cup of black coffee. With a sachet of sugar on the side.
The afternoon was spent quietly as we organised ourselves for the next leg of our trip and collected our laundry! For dinner we had our last meal in Myanmar in Little Boss, a dumpling and noodle restaurant.
Tomorrow we skip countries again and head to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
On Myanmar. Firstly, we have enjoyed finding out more of the history of this country, trapped between India and China, with its strong Buddhist beliefs and dreadful human rights record. Before we came, we debated both the moral and ethical argument for travelling to Myanmar. As most people are aware, Myanmar has been forcibly removing and killing Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State in northern Myanmar, to the point of genocide, and these displaced people have been fleeing to Bangladesh. Rightly or wrongly, we wanted to talk to locals and find out how they felt about the situation and where they feel their country stands in the world as a whole. We finally felt confident enough to push for more information from Wyn, after he had been more open with us than our other guides. His belief (what he has been told) is that the Rohingya people have been coming over the border, illegally from India and started to cause problems when the Myanmar government said no to granting them citizenship. The government then asked them to leave the country. There are 130 different nations/tribes within Myanmar so it is a point of note that the government, at the moment, have only targeted one. We do also understand that the military run the television and radio networks within the country and internet use is still in its infancy outside of the cities. The government also used social media to create a feeling of ill-will towards the Rohingya people in the first place and so suspect propaganda is still rife within the country.
Wyn also told us of the decline of tourism from the Westin 2019, in retaliation for the events in the north which has meant there is now a growing influence by China as Myanmar allies itself with a powerful neighbour. When Craig pressed him for his feelings on that, he stated he would prefer to have a mix of both the west and China as he feels Beijing already has too much influence over the country. They are currently debt trapped to China over the cancelled Myitsone water dam (90% of the power generated would be exported to southern China) and, this weekend, China has made further pledges of aid to Myanmar which are suspected to be in return for the probable acceleration of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). This would lead to China having a deep-sea port in the Indian Ocean.
The west have backed Myanmar into a corner with its sanctions (because of it's actions) and so they made a deal with the devil.
It should also be noted, this was not posted whilst in Myanmar.
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