Visiting Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been high on our trip bucket list since the beginning. Given the country borders haven’t been open that many years to tourists, we wanted the opportunity to see and experience it before it becomes more touristed and exposed to western influences. Some parts of the country are even still closed to visitors, so we stuck to safer options starting in Yangon, then traveling to Inle Lake and Bagan.
Roaming the streets of Yangon for a few days was an interesting experience considering we were the only tourists around once we would depart from our hotel. We received lots of gawking and stares as obvious outsiders, but found locals to be pretty friendly. Nearly all the women we saw wore streaks of thanaka on their face which is a natural tree bark used for sunscreen and as makeup. The men wear longhis instead of pants, a long piece of fabric tied around their waist and into a big knot. Trav even sported one so his knees were covered while at the Shwedagon Pagoda, a beautiful group of temples (so much gold and jewels!) set in the middle of the city. You usually found a place like this full of tourists, but instead the scene was monks and local Burmese families. Around the big stupa in the middle you can find a shrine devoted to each day of the week – people pray at each depending on which day of the week they were born.
We love exploring street markets and they were everywhere around Yangon selling everything from typical food to one market had nothing but party supplies. Vendors ranged from big stalls to those with just a simple sheet topped with a few fruits or veggies. Vendors lined the left and right side of the streets, plus had sheets laid down the middle of the road, which we later realized was for cars driving through. The cars just drive right over and the vendor doesn’t have to move their items. Clever or potential for fruit tasting of car fumes? You decide. As is usual in SE Asia, many locals eat their meals from street food vendors. For dining they would eat around tiny plastic table and chairs that back home we would use for small kids. But there it’s just the norm for adults to huddle around these tables with their knees crammed in just enjoying their lunch. Overall Yangon was interesting simply as our first stop into Myanmar and local life, but the city doesn’t really offer much and we looked forward to moving on.