Flight to Yangon...Wiki Info Yangon
On the way from airport via Motherland 2 shuttle bus, raining, and bus loses it's brakes! The driver is very quick and avoids hitting a woman crossing the street by smashing into a gate of a driveway.... The fellows from Motherland quickly arrange a taxi which takes us to the hostel. Very friendly personnel welcomes us and we are able to get into a nice room.
Breakfast (included) is tea, toast, & eggs. We walk the city - only 15 minute walk from Motherland. Planning on just two nights but we decide to make arrangements for onward we'll need more time so Bon talks to gal at front desk before we head out.
Had some discussions with desk gals, apparently they misunderstood Bonnie yesterday and thought we were leaving today - had no room, Inn is fully booked. Well, that lasted about 10 minutes with Bon in the driver's seat...now we've got our room again plus bus tickets for Bagan and reservations for the night of 16th (we fly out the 17th). Like all places we've been on this trip, costs have been much higher than anticipated. The LP said the bus to Bagan (2010) cost $15 US but now with an unfavorable exchange it's costing $25 US each. Bon spoke to a fellow who's been here several times and he said he's see prices almost double in just the last 3 months!
Left Motherland by 10am and hotfooted it to the train station where we took the 'circle trip' around Greater Yangon for the next 2 1/2 hours. Most interesting was watching the locals inside our carriage who boarded about half way into the trip from a rural village area. They heaped into the car, which has bench seats along the sides with wide aisle down the middle, big bags and bags of green goods apparently for market - I only recognized some turnips and cucs. While we trundled along they proceeded to sort, trim, and bundle with rubber bands these greens - most looked like either vines or spice-like plants for soups?! They (looked like boys in late teens)worked the entire time while they chewed betel nut leavesWiki Info Betel/Areca Nut
spitting the red juice out the window periodically. Their teeth showed the effects of this habit - red and eaten away.
Along the way in the countryside most obvious is the garbage, trash, litter all along the tracks except where it's completely submerged in vining, green growth and under brush. Every channel of water - of which there are many - is mostly just a sewage/trash filled waste disposal conduit which incidentally also waters their plots of green veggies. Houses are woven mat sided, single room jobs with a palm leaf roof or plastic tarp, if really lucky it might be corrugated metal. Most are barely above water line, some on stilts. Life here looks quite similar to that in Bangladesh although here in rural areas even a bit more harsh and less organized if that's possible.
We got off the train at a stop - Ahlone Rd. and almost as soon as we disembarked it began to pour. Walking the 1 1/2 km to the most famous temple in Myanmar, Shwedagon Paya, was a drenching experience.Wiki Info Shwedagon Pagoda
As soon as we arrived the rain stopped and our tour of the temple grounds was unimpeded other than the slick, smooth, slippery marble flooring with nearly wiped me out several times, ha! Most impressive pilgrimage site for some 2500 years, said to be covered with 53 metric tons of gold leaf and more than 5000 diamonds plus 2000 other precious and semi precious stones! Lots of people on the grounds, in the temples, with families eating meals and just making a family outing day of it.
Two hours and we'd been blinded enough by the gold glittered and mirrored temples with their hundreds of Buddhas! After a walk back to town - buses are impossible to figure out where they go and even more difficult to fit into, ha! - we decided to exchange more $$$ but the bank was closed, forgot it was Sunday. Numerous street changers offered to give us a deal (850 was best of ligit ones, 900 for the questionables). We've been told that the police are watching for black marketers and if caught it's sort of like Venezuela, you lose your money and so does the trader! Back to Motherland and our cool down cold water shower.
They will wake us at 5:30 for early breakfast since we have to take a taxi an hour to the 'tourist' bus station. I end the day on a sour note...my tablet is totally not working so I'm forced to go back to pen and paper journal writing. Very discouraging since it was so handy to just copy and paste, plus no booklets to carry/lose. I should be glad it lasted as long as it did, but I got addicted to it and now face withdrawal...painful.