|Young couple in Longees|
|Before the Pagoda|
You might say Yangon (the original and now the revamped name for the city Ragoon) is a gold mine. Everything, it seems, is painted gold and even the fabric in my room at the hotel is gold (a bit gaudy for me but Jimmy Carter stayed in this room when he visited.): it’s all about the Buddhas. Buddhas are golden in every pose, stance, recline, and thought. Some even wear gold cloth or quilts sort of like a Virgin Mary is dressed in blue and white in a Catholic situation.
The eccentric enormous Pagodas glitter with gold from every angle of the city. The golden Padauk flowers hanging off their trees; and menus taut golden tofu, which is the Burmese substitute for French Fries. Prices are also golden here. A square meter of space costs 1000 dollars. The government owns just about everything so it has the power to move people out when they want to start a project, like a new enterprise with China to mine copper in the north. (Twenty thousand farmers were told to move on from their life long homes to make way for the new mines.) Then there is the incredible golden lady Aung San Suu Kyi who tho confined for 15 years to house arrest won a Noble Peace prize for fighting for rights of her countrymen, who when they protested the horrific rise in the cost of living, monks were beaten and many gunned down in a public demonstration.
|Spirits speak to the young|
There are tall golden parasols carried to shade over young children dressed in ornate golden gowns - boys and girls alike - preparing for their first departure from mom and dad to do their Buddhist obligation in a monastery for a few weeks. (A boy must go when he is between 7 and 12 and then later when he is in his early 20ties. A girl only has to do the early one.) There are white gold faces on women and men and children, a kind of 2000 year old makeup tradition called Thanakha from the tree of the same name for beauty and for health, which looks like a smudge or a square of yellow on their cheeks or forehead.
And if you really want to invest there are natural gold pearls, not cultured ones, offered along with fine jade, blood red rubies and other natural pearls found off the beaches of Myanmar at a few high end shops aimed at tourists (mostly French and Indians.) Burmese still have not forgotten the golden visit by President Obama and how that opened the door for the return of the American tourist. Hotels are packed. And souvenier shops sell framed photos of Obama and Lady Aung San Suu Kyi together.
If you really want to be impressed by gold, visit the National Museum where the Lion Throne of the former King Theebaw and Queen Supayalat stands in golden glory. It takes your breath away, especially when you see the ornate costumes the young King and Queen had to don to greet their subjects bringing gold to their gold sitting spots. At another warehouse-like structure held up by steel frames is the largest reclining Buddha on earth, wrapped in a gold and crystal robe, 70 meters long, her head (I refer to this Buddha as a “her” because it has such a feminine demeanor, smiling with passion and compassion for all who bow to him) resting on her hand, and apparently the best Buddha footprint discovered. There are 108 signs on the soles of the two pink feet, so out of sync with reality, it becomes spiritual.
And one last gold thing is the gargantuan royal barge which sits permanently in the lake here in Yangon, although there are two more that actually travel in other parts of Myanmar. This golden barge is anchored with monster heads and tails and was supposed to be used to take the royal family from town to town where people could acknowledge them. Now the one in this city is a popular restaurant.
Yangon is a divided city - the busy, old, crowded unappealing part along the harbor streets where many remnants of old British architecture still stand and in need of repair; then there are the long curving, flowering flame tree and teak tree lined streets that wind through the enormous walled grounds of military and government buildings and the golden Pagodas and private homes. Traffic is a nightmare because, get this, no motorcycles or bicycles are allowed. Therefore cars are often perpendicular when they should be going north or south and people think nothing about causing a jam. We were in one for about 20 minutes because someone was trying to cross traffic and others got in the way. There are seven million inhabitants in Yangon, so you get the problem.
Along the roadways are little oasis under canopies where men, mostly, and young couples sit on plastic stools (child size) at plastic tables and have tea or lunch of “mohinga” (a rice noodle soup with fish, lime and banana flower) or “ono koswe”, a yellow noodle soup with chicken and coconut milk. These are the real thing in Yangon. For lunch at the Padonmar Restaurant I tried fresh tea leaf and ginger salad (filled with peanuts, scallions, garlic, dried tiny shrimp, sesame seed and lime.) Have you ever had fresh green tea leaf in a salad? Tasty.
|looking for babies|