This morning’s destination was the Shwedagon pagoda, the most important Buddhist site in Burma. We knew it was a must see in Yangon, but had not anticipated how stunning it would be.
The lower part of the central stupa is covered in gold leaf but higher up the panels are solid gold and the top vane is studded with 1100 diamonds and over 1300 other stones, while the top-most ball has over 4,000 diamonds (1,800 carats) and on the very top of this sphere is a single 72 carat diamond.
We arrived about 9:00am and didn’t see another foreigner till we were in the closing stages of our walk around about 1.5 hours later.
We returned to the centre of town and followed a bit of a walking tour through the streets. The British colonial influence was evident in the architecture. Most buildings look very run down- to derelict, but there is some evidence also of restoration work.
The footpaths are treacherous and walking does require one to remain alert at all times.
It was great to see glimpses of real life and the river was busy with ferries zipping back and forth.
Andrew managed to take a photo of three derelict army jeeps. He then had a anxious moment as I pointed out the building was the bureau of Special Investigation and Andrew spotted a guard coming out to have a look. He then began to study the architecture on the other side of the street as we nonchalantly, yet purposefully walked away.
Everywhere in the city there are plenty armed police. Standing in pairs on street corners watching everyone go by.
The other noticeable feature of the city is that there are no motorbikes. Andrew had read that at some point a motorcyclist had hit the car of a general and after that they were banned. And there are fines for tooting your horn – so all in all traffic is quieter and less chaotic. An anomaly does remain: while they drive on the right hand side of the road there is a mix of both left and right hand drive vehicles, making overtaking interesting in many cases.