Yangon – National Museum and Shwedagon Pagoda

A photo blog of Friday. Breakfast at the Shwe Yo Vintage hostel was excellent (noodles, soup, cake), setting me up for the day, and the day itself was sunny (and therefore boiling hot), so/but I walked to the National Museum at 10, (it opens at 10, I was about 3km away), headed back to the hostel at 1, and back to the Pagoda for 4ish, so as to see it by day and by night. Walking was hot, crossing the busy roads is a pain, but otherwise it’s highly recommended.

Side street
My hostel’s street. Cars park diagonally – quick reverse for them all.
Statue and exhibits in the National Museum
National museum – known for being dark, but not all of it is underlit.
Old, hollow, tree-trunk
Temple piece. Ground floor of the museum is nice and cool.
Myanmar flag back from space
Myanmar flag back from space. I saw the Laos one in their National Museum in Luang Prabang the day before.
Picture detail. King in the middle, general to his left. The others are advisors.
Picture detail. King in the middle, general to his left. The others are advisors.
Myanmar tribal costumes
Costumes from different tribes – these fascinated me. Keep your weight down and the gents’ tops would look excellent.
National Museum, Myanmar
National Museum, Myanmar.
Decorated pavements
Now walking to Shwedagon Pagoda. Beautiful pavements. However, after rain, every decorated piece is an ice (rain) rink. Didn’t quite fall.
Viewpoint, Happy World amusement park – or at least, the park outside it.
Temples, Shwedagon Pagoda
Outside the central pillar, temples upon temples.
Buddhas with decorations
Buddhas look old… except for the digital decorations.
The main pagoda, gleaming as sun sets
The Pagoda as sun sets. By now the guide I had accrued had moved on from telling me about temples, to the importance of education.
Temples at sunset
Stunning as it lights up. The guide had wandered up to me as I sheltered from the rain, and just started to tell me about things. I’d turned one bloke down as I came in – and they respect a no – but Steven was engaging and I stuck with him.
Jade Buddha behind glass
Jade Buddha. Steven was with me for two hours in the end – at least an hour of that berating ill educated compatriots, and the amount they spend on religion, rather than education. I like an anarchist.
Distant view of a diamond atop the Pagoda
From a few spots, the 74 (?) carat diamond at the top of the Pagoda glints, and the colour changes as you move. Steven may have been keen on education, but he knew his stuff.
Gold Buddhas in a row
Recently repainted Buddhas. All the Buddhas are repainted regularly – “Too much money”, said Steven, keen to throw in “$1000”, “$750” as we looked at medium and larger Buddhas.
Gleaming gold pagoda by night
Fully night-time now, the Pagoda in the dark.
Escalators at the West Entrance to the Pagoda
I left, and walked back. I entered by the South-East entrance, which has steps all the way up. The West entrance (carry your shoes in a bag to allow you to exit where you like) has escalators.

Train ride in Myanmar, Yangon to Bago

Initially, travel out of Yangon seemed a bit difficult – which for me, means I don’t feel like I can organise it all on my own, and am going to have to rely on other people, here because I was feeling hemmed in by buildings and traffic. The central station, though, is 3km from my hostel, and trains leave to Bago, en route to Mandalay and Moulmein, through the day. I figured I’d get out of Yangon with a short hop, so wandered to the station for the 11.00 train.

Buying a ticket was entertaining. The station building is divided into two – the colonnades mark where. The part on the right contains the ticket desks. One in the centre has a nice, prominent ‘Welcome tourists’, which reads as an instruction to staff. It didn’t mean that was where I bought my ticket, though. Instead, I was waved over to another window on the side of this half (left as you look at it here). The bloke there didn’t seem that interested, as people came and went from the queue in front of him, but I picked up a vibe that he was doing special tickets, not for (most) locals, and that seemed to work out. He sold me my ticket, anyway. 1,000 kyats to Bago.

Yangon Railway station
Yangon Railway station, crumbling but impressive.
Two youngsters on the green seats of the train
These two joined me for a while. Possibly because their brother had sold me a bottle of water for 4x the price and they wondered what other money I might drop.
Platform with electronic display and train in the background
Balloon sculpture maker on the platform at Yangon.
Looking down the side of the train, through the open window
View from the wide open window (it’s either open or metal shutters).

The ride is famously bumpy, but the seats are soft and comfortable and I enjoyed it. I’ll try a longer one and see if I feel the same.

People sleeping on the train
Not uncomfortable on this train. The conductor (right) sleeps in upper class seats.
Wooden huts seen from the train window
Wooden huts seen from the train window.
Nuns in pink at a brief stop
Nuns in pink at a brief stop.
Mock tudor signal box, Bago, courtesy of the Brits
Mock tudor signal box, Bago, courtesy of the Brits.
Train carriage relief murals decorate the bridge at Bago
Bridge over the tracks, Bago, venerating the train.

Two hours or so later (this journey is only 40-50km!) I was in Bago just after 1, and walked to the San Francisco guesthouse. Wikitravel advises you get out of Bago as soon as possible. It is just a small city, but with the main Yangon-Mandalay highway running through it, the main road (which I seem to have to cross to go anywhere) is constantly busy and a riot of traffic and horn noises. Adding to that are regular speaker cars (better phrase for that, anyone?) which come through blaring music.

But big cities do my head in a bit, and this feels much better. I stayed an extra night.

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