Friday, August 14, 2015

Yangon, Myanmar ~ The Girl Under the Bridge

“Hello!” a sweet young voice called out in perfect English.

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Yangon River

I turned to see who had issued such a cheery, understandable greeting. And then it took a minute to collect my thoughts as I  couldn’t quite comprehend what I was seeing  ~ the welcome  had come from under the bridge pictured above.

The bridge we’d just walked across was the roof of our little greeter’s house – a wooden bridge leading to one of the docks along the murky waters of the Yangon River, some three blocks from our 5-star hotel.

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Life under the bridge - Yangon, Myanmar
In her pink dress the little one  looked like a doll. Her smile was as bright as the sun, as she waved and again called out to me, “Hello!”

She was standing in a space under the bridge, (identical to the space in this nearby bridge shown in the photo above).  Note: Even this shutterbug could not bring myself to take photos of my young greeter and her family.

The scene was indelibly imprinted without photos: Her mother squatted by a small cooking fire, her father was asleep on a mat and her brother played off to the side. . .in her home under the wooden bridge at the side of the murky Yangon River

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Surveying life on the murky waters of the Yangon River
I smiled, returned her greeting and we retraced our route  across her roof to continue our explorations of Yangon, Myanmar – the place not so long ago know as Rangoon, Burma.

“Yangon means ‘end of strife”

We were spending three days and two nights in Yangon, Myanmar, formerly Rangoon, Burma, as part of our 34-day cruise aboard Oceania’s Nautica; a spring sailing that was taking us on a “magic carpet ride” from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey.

While the Hindu and Buddhist temples and pagodas were as stunning as tourist promotional materials promised in Myanmar, it was scenes like our little greeter that left the most lasting memories during our far-too-short a stay:

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Feed the Birds - that's what she cried, in Yangon, Myanmar
. . .like the lady selling crumbs to feed the birds on the street corner.

Burma,now known as Myanmar,a British colony for nearly100 years,declared its independence in 1948. It remained a representative democracy until a military coup in 1962 initiated an isolationist policy.

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Playing real-life "Chicken" in Yangon, Myanmar
. . . or the memory of the nerve-numbing frenzied, flurry of automobiles, pedicabs, ancient buses, and pedestrians on the labyrinth of streets – requiring all who entered or tried to cross to play a game of chance, an all-too-real reality game of “Chicken”.

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Yangon public buses
From the ship’s tour desk: “Yangon has an extensive bus network, but the buses are very crowded, do not have A/C, do not always adhere to published schedules or routes and are not available at the cruise pier area.” 

After seeing them, we understood the ship’s information. We weren’t inclined to climb about the buses. Walking was our preferred means of transportation during our stay. It was a great way of collecting memories. . .

From 1962 until 2011 Myanmar, formerly Burma, was ruled by a military junta. In 2011 the military introduced gradual political, economic, and foreign policy reforms.

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Who once drove those vehicles, we wondered
The street scenes were so varied they assaulted our senses.  The vehicles pictured above we found parked mid-way between our luxurious hotel and the beautiful MahaBandoola Garden below.

Since 1948 ethnic groups –- more than 100 -- within Myanmar have been infighting – the most recent draft ceasefire agreement signed in March, 2015 – only a month prior to our arrival.

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Mahabandoola Garden - Yangon, Myanmar
As visitors we had to remember we were still on the forefront; that tourism is a new phenomenon in this city of more than five million people. Walking along streets lined with charming worn buildings that reminded us of  its recent strife-filled decades.

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What stories the buildings could tell - Yangon, Myanmar
A tourism boycott was put into place in 1996 and lifted in 2010 when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (referred to here simply as, “The Lady”) was released from house arrest. In 2010 international tourists numbered 300,000; in 2012 one million.

Yet there are signs of economic growth and a renewed effort to emerge from those dark, isolated years. The photos above and below were taken within a few blocks of each other and reflect the kaleidoscope of scenes we encountered as we explored but a portion of this sprawling city.

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Yangon, Myanmar
In 1988 the military cracked down on protesters reportedly killing some 3,000 people and displacing thousands more.

It is easy to jump to conclusions about a place, especially when you are there for as short a time as we were.  So we’d hesitate to make any grand observations about  this city – for centuries a small fishing village --believed to have been founded in the 6th century. 

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Street eatery - Yangon, Myanmar
We can tell you that we felt safe walking its streets; the people with whom we had contact made us feel genuinely welcomed.  We did not eat or drink anything sold or available on the streets – they washed and cleaned dishes but used water that was questionable to our Western minds and stomachs.

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Street cafe - Yangon, Myanmar
The city is clearly more worn than modern – still showing signs of damage from a 1930’s earthquake and from World War II – and that could be a turn-off for some visitors. We found it charming. We want to return.

Yangon has some of the most beautiful pagodas  and Buddha statues  in Southeast Asia. One day we’ll likely tell you about them. They were stunning, but those places get a lot of publicity. . .

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Yangon River taxi 
Today I just wanted to tell you about the warm welcome we had from the little girl under the bridge.

Thanks – as always – for the time you spend with us! I had a computer melt-down this week which means the half-written post about our historic hotel stay in Yangon will come in the near future.  Happy and safe travels to you until we see you again ~

If you have some time check out  these collections with which we are linking this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

52 comments:

  1. This is a lovely description of your first impressions of your first visit to Yangon!

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    1. Thanks for the visit Rachel. It was an amazing place.

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  2. Love these shots and the different views of Yangon. I am definitely adding this place to my list! - Tasha

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    1. Yangon is certainly worth a visit and plan on a few days there just to pace yourself as you make your way around this frantic sort of city! Thanks for the visit Natasha!

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  3. Thank you so much for this insightful glimpse at Yangon. I didn't realize that's what its name meant. Most of the people from Myanmar that I met in Malaysia were the Rohingya refugees who were persecuted for practicing Islam and fled the country. They are live such impoverished lives in Malaysia, can only work illegally and don't have access to public education, but at least whole villages weren't being massacred as was happening in Myanmar. It really affected my view of the country and made me hesitant to visit.

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    1. The Myanmar refugees sound much like those leaving Syria and the Middle East and Africa. It is difficult to image a life so horrid that being a refuge would be better - sad, really. Things do appear to be changing in Myanmar, but it is going to take time.

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  4. I enjoyed seeing Yangon through your eyes and can imagine the feelings you had when you were greeted by the sweet girl in her bright pink dress, beneath the bridge.

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    1. It was startling, but what was so amazing was that the family seemed quite content and happy. Maybe their accommodation was better than that of many but still it took a bit to comprehend what we were seeing. I guess happiness is where you make it. . . Thanks for the visit Jan.

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  5. I enjoyed seeing Yangon through your eyes and can imagine the feelings you had when you were greeted by the sweet girl in her bright pink dress, beneath the bridge.

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  6. I've wanted to visit Myanmar since I first read of it allowing tourists in again and your post was a fascinating glimpse into Yangon. I loved your opening and your various observations of the new and old, wealth and poverty.Great post!

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    1. Thanks Anita, glad you enjoyed the post. I think you'd find Yangon fascinating in oh, so many ways! Hope you do get there.

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  7. Hello, one has to feel sorry for the little girl and her family living under the bridge. Amazing place and wonderful series of photos. Have a happy new week!

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    1. It was amazing to see them there and wonder what happens to their home when the monsoons hit and the water in the river rises. . .I'll remember them long after the temples have been forgotten, that's for sure. Thanks for the visit, Eileen - happy week to you.

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  8. It was fascinating to read your about your experience in Yangon. It seems to be filled with contrast, a mix of scars of the past and optimism for the future.

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    1. We'd go out for a few hours and then go back to our room to cool off and to comprehend what we had just seen. Yangon was best absorbed in small doses. Thanks for the visit Donna!

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  9. Interesting shots from Burma. There is bit of old world charm along with modernity.

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    1. I love that old world charm, Rajesh, because that's what make cities different - that shot of new buildings could be anywhere else in the world. The slightly worn and crusty are my favorite kinds of buildings. Thanks for the visit!

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  10. Those moments are what makes travel so special. Wish I could visit Yangon.

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    1. It really was one of those ah-ha moments in travel - I knew it was something to tell you all about because it was so sweet and special. My favorite approach to life is turning places into people and this little girl helped me do that here. Thanks much for the visit!

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  11. nice experience and photos. Myanmar always looks wonderful and not crowded, but I'm still very on the fence about traveling there.

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    1. Myanmar was packed with people and in many places so crowded that I couldn't stop and take photos -- I'd have caused a traffic jam on the already jammed sidewalks. These are photos are from those rare moments I had space and time to snap a photo. . .thanks much for the visit today!

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  12. What a surprise to hear a voice from under the bridge and the fact that a family was living there. I suppose nothing is unusual for you from all your travels Jackie.
    I'm wondering why so many names have been changed - for instance Burma to Myanmar, is this a political move do you suppose?
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

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    1. Rangoon had been the British name for the city and in the case of Burma and Myanmar I found one source that indicated it is a 'political thing' with the United Nations recognizing Myanmar but democracy groups still prefer Burma. No, Burma was unusual for us Judith but that is one of the reasons we wanted to see it. (Actually we have a lot of people living under bridges here in Seattle -- the homeless population exists worldwide it sadly seems).

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  13. Wow, such incredibly moving images and experiences, Jackie. XO I'm so glad I get to see this place through your eyes. XO

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    1. Thanks Krista - it was an amazing place. . .but then I guess every place in the world is amazing for some reason or another, isn't it? Have a lovely week! Hugs, J.

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  14. I found this a very interesting post about your time in Yangon. Fascinating.

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    1. Margaret, thanks so much for your visit. I appreciate the time readers spend here and hope to make it worthwhile (and enjoyable). Hope you'll come back!

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  15. What I love about third world countries is the incongruity. The picture of the cars zipping along the highway with the woman carrying goods on her head and the man on the bicycle with his wares is such a good example.

    Thanks for the virtual visit to Myanmar.

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    1. Incongruity, contrasts. . .so very appropriate descriptions of this still developing country. I could have spent hours just watching - as you noted- the contrasts in the street! Thanks much for the visit and comments~

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  16. There are so many interesting posts. This a great blog.

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    1. Thanks and glad you found our blog interesting. Hope you'll be a regular here!!

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  17. This is the first blog post I have seen about Rangoon/Myanmar.
    Thanks for the lovely photo tour and the stories.
    Have a Beautiful Week!
    Peace :)

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    1. Hopefully you will return for more as I've posted two others about Rangoon. Glad you found us and I hope you'll be back often~ Happy Travels!

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  18. You do lead a most interesting and fun life....and I so love that you share all this with us.

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    1. Thanks BJ. We decided to travel while we can and make the memories we can cherish when we no longer are able to travel! Thanks for stopping by.

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  19. Thanks for the story and information on Yangon. This is an area that we know very little about so it was great to read.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post - Yangoon just may get another visit from us one day. Way too much to see and do for just a short stop like we had. Thanks much for the visit~

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  20. What an amazing place! It is always interesting - & jarring to me - to see and live that juxtaposition of prosperity and lack...and then I think that as jarring as it is for me, it must be even more so for the people who live it, when they aren't busy living a life and getting used to inequity.

    What a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing it with us for Photo Friday!

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    1. Thank you for the lovely words about this post! It really was such a contrast that we had to take 'time outs' and retreat to our room (also to cool down) but to process scenes we'd just witnessed. Love Photo Friday!!

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  21. I was glued to every word! It's interesting to learn a bit about a place I know little about.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Amy. Yangon was an amazing stop -- one of several that had us processing thoughts and feelings prompted by what we were seeing!

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  22. Every one who we meet who has visited Myanmar has urged us to visit as soon as possible before it "changes". What you described in narrative and photos, makes me think that the change is definitely underway, but if we can get there in the next few years, old Yangon will still be apparent.

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    1. I think you've got several years of 'window' Suzanne. A friend who took a land tour said that her group was affected by the still-lacking sanitation standards and found themselves often confined to their rooms fighting stomach illness (and they had not eaten street foods, but from bona fide establishments along the way). So there will continue to be a crusty, somewhat contaminated side to the place for several more years I suspect although signs of change are apparent.

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  23. Thank you for taking up along on this journey to a place so unfamiliar and so interesting. I appreciate you sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/08/double-play-on-way.html

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    1. It was a pleasure to be a part of the link up. Thanks for the visit, please return again soon!

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  24. That is lot of useful information on Yangon.
    The pics are great! Hope I will visit some day.

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    1. I hope too that you will get to visit Yangon one day soon, Indrani! You'd take some great photos there!!!

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  25. That is a wonderful greeting from the little girl in the pink dress; sounds like the name of a novel. We have yet to make it to Yangon, but will get there soon.

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    1. Ha, ha, ha I hadn't thought of it that way Paula. I do hope you get to Yangon - it is a fascinating place.

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  26. Wow! What an amazingly descriptive picture you gave us of Yangon. The pictures are incredible. You really made me want to go.

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    1. Thanks Patti. I always hope that our experiences and photos might give someone the inspiration -- or nudge -- to head out to a place just a bit off the grid and make wonderful discoveries of their own. I appreciate your comment.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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