This is one of the two major lakes in Myanmar and is referred to as "the great royal lake." The lake provides a great view especially of the Shwedagon Pagoda, located on the eastern bank of the lake. The Shwedagon Pagoda or the Golden Pagoda dominated the skyline of the city as well as leaves quite a clear and beautiful reflection in the Kandawgyi Lake. This pagoda is one of the most sacred places for the Buddhists with the relics of the previous four Buddhas in it. The pagoda has several stupas made from different materials: gold, silver, tin, copper, lead, marble, iron, and brick. The main pagoda is gilded with gold along with the 86 stupas surrounding it. Thousands of diamonds and other gemstones were used to decorate the pagoda. Myanmar is known as the "Land of Golden Pagodas" and Shwedagon is one of the reasons why. Even though the stupa has been repeatedly plundered over the years, it has been able to maintain its glory.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
This market is the main shopping destination for tourists, though not exclusively so - there were still plenty of locals. Prices tend to be higher in the businesses that line the perimeter of the market, and these shops also appear to cater more to tourists and sell knick knacks and souvenirs. You have to wander in to get to the good stuff! However, as noted in my last post, most shopkeepers were very friendly and don't aggressively hawk their wares. A big indoor section of the market sold gold and jewelry. I don't have any skills in distinguishing good quality gems and metals from fakes, so I mostly just walked through this area without really looking closely. We came to an inner area with tightly-spaced shops that sold lots of fabrics. Many of the shops have tailors that they know who will create a longyi (the long skirt) for you out of a fabric that you choose. The fabrics come in a dizzying array of colors, patterns, and material. I ended up buying a hand-sewn bright green longyi with flowers along the border for about $15 USD, plus a tailoring fee of $5. There are many cheaper options; you can buy fabric for less than $5, but in this case I was willing to spend more for the quality.
First stop was Sule Pagoda, a golden Buddhist stupa which doubles up as a roundabout. We had a quick look round, removing our shoes first and ensuring my shoulders and knees were covered. This is the norm when visiting temples in Asia. There were signs up everywhere displaying images of the clothing rules for the pagoda. Sule Pagoda's location was central and a perfect start to our exploration. We spent a while after that just wandering looking at sights and soaking up the atmosphere. On some corners we noticed street vendors selling tiny birds in cages, these were 'luck birds', a Buddist tradition. From what I could gather the belief is freeing these birds earns 'merit'. I couldn't see the logic of trapping and caging birds to then release them, but then who am I to question another's tradition. We also passed several colonial style buildings, such as the Independence Monument and the City Hall.
Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda
Finally arriving at our last destination and the largest city in Myanmar- Yangon. It was the former capital of Burma and has a good number of buildings belonging to the British colonial era. The reclining Buddha at the Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda is a 6 storey high Buddha image.The Reclining Buddha image is decorated with very expressive colors, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow, golden robe and red finger nails. He is wearing a Golden robe and is resting his head on his right hand. The Buddhist worship the statue, while the tourists are filled with awe by the magnificence of it.
After a quick freshen up back at the B&B - we set out for the evening. We wanted to check out China Town, in particular 19th Street where we'd heard there was lots of barbeque street food stalls and beer stations. It was supposed to be pretty lively in the evenings. Barbeque all sorts (check description) also buskers and beer stations.
Outside of the busyness of the city, there are a few parks and lakes where you can enjoy some peace. We went to Kandawgi Lake (below) and Inya Lake (not to be confused with Inle Lake, which is located in northern Myanmar. Often times we would see lots of couples hanging out by the lake or taking long strolls. Sometimes young people also bring along a guitar and start strumming along and singing in a group. It's a really nice atmosphere and also provides some pretty scenic views, especially near sunset.