Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My O, Myanmar: Loving Yangon’s Golden Splendor.( Yangon, ASEAN’s Jewel Series 17)

My O, Myanmar 
Loving Yangon’s Golden Splendor.
Yangon, ASEAN’s Jewel Series 17

I didn’t have so much on this trip to Myanmar as it was only in 2015 
landmark national election that catapulted Aung San Suu Kyi 
 from being a political prisoner to the leader of a new free nation.

With its numerous ethnic groups having been engrossed
in widespread ethnic strife in one of the world's longest
civil wars, I thought two years was to early for a war
torn country to recover for the ravages of chronic unrest.


I was wrong. The minute we landed at the spanking
new Yangon International Airport, I knew we were
in for something fresh and a new exciting adventure.


I was also saddened by the reality that here is a country, fresh from long 
term strife, having a better and more modern international airport than 
the Philippines, which is supposed to be a free and democratic nation
 but reeling from endless political disunity and rampant corruption.


We took a shuttle from the airport,  



...and we were very impressed  on how 
green, and how clean Yangon was.



Wide well paved tree- lined  roads,




…shaded sidewalks and beautifully
landscaped and pedestrian areas,


…and of course, smog free air.

Day 1 

It was a pleasant traffic free drive from the airport-
we arrived late in the afternoon at the Melia Hotel. 

Melia Hotel had a spacious,
contemporary designed lobby,

Check in was a breeze, the people
 at the front desk were friendly,

...and we were immediately on our way to our our suite,
 Premium Lake View Room    at the 20th floor.

 It  was beautiful and surprisingly very  spacious and  had two 
nice and comfy twin beds,enough for a family of four to fit in.

It had a nice seating area that serves as a mini living room-
beside a panoramic window with a view of Inya Lake. 

This would be our home in Yangon for the next five days.

We then had a dinner at the Marketplace,  Melia’s 
beautiful in house restaurant- which had a massive 
spread of local and international dishes at the buffet.

It was a wonderful dinner and we retired early to bed.

With a beautiful hotel to stay, things are looking good
for our first time adventure in this warm ASEAN country.

Day 2 

We woke up very early in the morning and decided
to have a leisurely walk at the Inya Lake lakeshore.

Located right in front of Hotel Melia where our room
had a breathtaking view of this scenic, serene lake. 

Inya Lake is an artificial lake built in the early 1882 
by Myanmar’s  former British colonizers as a
water reservoir to  provide a water supply to Yangon.

It is formerly known as Lake Victoria, it is the largest  
lake  in Yangon, much of the shoreline are some of 
the most exclusive neighborhoods in Yangon.

The lakeshore is a popular recreational area and
a favorite romantic dating place for Yangonites.

We walked thru the University Avenue,

…until we arrived at Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence, which was 
barely  visible as it was well fortified with fence topped with
 razor sharp bladed wires, and a very tall iron gate.

It was alright as our hotel room window
had a better view of her lakefront house.

After the early morning lakeside
walk, we returned to the hotel-

…and had a first taste of Mo Hin Kar, considered as
Myanmar’s national dish at the Marketplace buffet.

I registered at convention as it was to start the next day. and 
went to the Level Lounge to have a coffee while waiting 
for our rented van that would take us for a Yangon City tour.

 The van arrived at the hotel almost past
10 AM which took us to the city center,

…and drove around to the city’s colonial district.

Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and the country’s  
biggest city, has the densest concentration of beautiful
colonial- era buildings anywhere else in Asia.

Driving around the downtown area would take
you back to the glory days of the old Rangoon.

What used to be the cornerstone of the British Empire,

…Yangon’s imposing buildings is a testimony on how
stately and how progressive this bustling port city then. 

I was impressed on how the city is preserving
its colonial heritage- and I am glad how these
historic, old buildings are being coaxed back to life.

I would love to return to Yangon in ten years to
witness the colonial splendor of British Rangoon,
slowly coming back to life, this time with local touch.

After a downtown tour, we had a late lunch at Sharky’s, 

…a very popular organic restaurant for
the health buffs and health conscious. 

Sharky’s uses 100% organic ingredients and they scour the 
country for the finest crops, soils and natural farms products.

It prides itself using natural, unprocessed and unrefined ingredients 
devoid of artificial flavorings, colorings, and any form of preservatives.
Its founder and chief artisan, Ye Htut Winis a revered top notch chef, 
states his dedication to cook foods crafted from only the best quality,

…using local ingredients and not being simply
an emulation but rather a revelation in cuisine.

A must eat restaurant to anyone visiting Yangon.

We then drove to Bogyoke Aung San Market, a major 
bazaar  located in Pabedan township in central Yangon.


Used to be known as Scott Market it was built during the
 British  rule in 1926, and was named after the popular
Municipal  Commissioner  of the time, Mr. Gavin Scott

After Burmese independence in 1948, it was

Known for its colonial architecture the market is listed
on the Yangon City Heritage List, it is considered a major 
tourist  destination, dominated by antique stores,

…Burmese handicraft,

…art galleries,

…clothing stores,

… but people come here for
the numerous jewelry shops.

In the middle of the market are jewellers, selling famous
 Burmese jade, rubies and other precious stones.

There is always something for everyone at 
the eclectic Bogyoke Aung San Market. 

Shopping in Yangon is never complete without
being in this busy, eclectic, frenzy public market.

From the market, we visited Kandagwye Lake

…a vast lakeside complex,
with  a nature park,

…a boardwalk,

…picnic and seating areas.

 The Pyi Gyi Mon Royal Barge, a gilded wooden 'royal barge' is
             moored on the shore do it is also referred as the Great Royal Lake.            

The Royal Barge carries the royalties in the
olden days whenever they tour the kingdom.

It also serves as the royal ceremonial vessel
in celebrating the Annual waterway Parade.

It is a beautiful and serene lake located at the heart
 of the city and s must visit to every tourist in Yangon.

From the Kandagwye Lake we proceeded to the 
Shwedagon Pagoda Myanmar’s center of faith.

Also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda or the Shwedagon Zedi Daw
 to the locals, it is probably  the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Yangon,

…and one of the most popular Bhuddist pilgrimage
sites not only in Myanmar but in Asia as a whole.

Situated on Singuttara Hill, tothe west of Kandawgye Lake,
It is aptly also called the Golden Pagoda, as this magnificent 
 temple is gilded in gold and precious and semi precious stones.

The stupa's plinth is made of gold plated bricks, and each level,
from the bell-shaped part of the stupa,  the turban,  the inverted
alms bowl, inverted and upright lotus petals, the banana bud up
to the umbrella crown are gilded with genuine gold plates. 
 The crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies and
the very top, is tipped with a huge 76 carat, 15 grams diamond.

The pagoda is a breathtaking sight up- close-
and seen from afar, this bejeweled temple is
a shimmering, glittering splendor at night. 

Shwedagon Pagoda is Myanmar’s most popular attraction,
and should not be missed by any tourist visiting Yangon.

We then had a dinner at Sedona Hotel, 
for their Asian Late Night Buffet

…that had a massive spread
of delectable Asian dishes,

…and indigenous desserts.

We were serenaded by a talented Filipino Duo,
who even dished out several Pinoy songs when  
they learned that we are from the Philippines.

It was a relaxing late night buffet,
and with an ice cold Myanmar Beer,

…it was perfect way to cap
up our second day in Yangon. 

Day 3 

We had an early breakfast at the Level Lounge,


…and I attended  the convention the whole morning.


We had a quick lunch art the Hard Rock Cafe 
located at the nearby Myanmar Plaza Mall.

Known for its iconic beverages,

…fan-favorite Legendary Burgers 

,,,and humongous heavenly desserts,

…one should never miss the Myanmar Chicken

 A mildly spiced, slow cooked aromatic chicken curry
infused with ground turmeric, and sauce called garam
masala. It is a must try and a not to be missed dish as
it is exclusively available in their Yangon restaurant.

It was hard to believe Hard Rock Café’s 
presence in this tranquil and conservative cit
and we were happy to see one in Myanmar.

After lunch, I reserved the Level Lounge Conference Room
which we were able to use for free being a Melia Level guest,

…gathered our hospital consultants,

…to practice our medical resident, who is scheduled to have 
an oral research presentation at the convention the next day.

We stayed there until late afternoon,

…and watched the beautiful sunset
before retiring back to our hotel rooms.

We later had dinner at Le Planteur,  a Michelin Star Restaurant,
and recognized as one the best restaurants in Asia as a whole.

Located at the shores of serene Inya Lake
one may have a choice to dine outdoor
under the moonlight by the lakeside,

…or on several private indoor dining rooms,

…with interiors that of a dominantly classy French
with an eclectic mix of local Burmese elements.

Whichever you choose, the dining
ambiance in Le Planteur is amazing.

The food was superb,and the service was excellent.

Le Planteur is definitely the bestfine-dining restaurant in Yangon,
and no other restaurant in the city can equal it if even comes close it. 

Day 4 

It was our penultimate day in Yangon.and after
 having an early breakfast tat the Level Lounge,

…I attended the several plenary sessions at the convention,


…and headed back to the Level Lounge for light lunch.


After lunch I also had a one on one practice coaching
with our senior medical resident who was scheduled
to have her oral paper presentation in few hours.

We later went down to the hotel convention hall,


…and she had an awesome
and well received presentation.


Late in the afternoon, we all attended a mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral 
 a breathtakingly beautiful red brick church. Built in 1895, this impressive 
neo-Gothic red- brick building with classic spires and a bell tower front,

…it is one of the most stunning
churches I visited in my lifetime.

The interior was floridly decorated, with alternating
red- white- blue and green-brick  design, creating
an eye- catching mosaic- like pattern, that make the
church seem to pulsate like a living and breathing entity.

The Cathedral is a beautiful and stunning church- in and out.

We later went on shopping at HLA Day, a very popular souvenir shop  
in Yangon located in a well preserved colonial building, right above 
the iconic Rangoon Tea House,in a well preserved colonial building.

Hla Day or ‘hla de’ means beautiful in Burmese,
and indeed, what they sell here are beautiful
quality handmade products made by local artisans.

The store is a merry mixture of massive display of local
 handicrafts and artworks, showcasing local craftsmanship, 
that capture the colors, the beauty and flavors of Myanmar.

Every Burmese kyat spent bytourists in Hla Day souvenirs-
are reinvested in to help their community of producers  to 
empower them meet standards that customers expect. 

HLA Day Souvenirs is the place to go in Yangon
for tourists looking for souvenirs to take home.

We had dinner at Melia Hotel’s Marketplace,

…and retired early to prepare for ou
morning flight back to the Philippines. 

 Day 5 

With our bags packed, we took the
hotel shuttle back to the airport.


Looking back, our trip to Yangon was one
of the most relaxing trip abroad that we had.

Yangon is a clean and green city

…almost traffic free,


…surrounded by beautiful serene lakes,

…ancient temples,

…colonial buildings.

Yangon had a modern yet rustic feel, that took me back 
to the time when the world was young and life was simple.

Fresh out of turmoil, the city is being rebuilt,

…and I would definitely want to return to Yangon see it
rising back to it’s good old colonial glory the is Rangoon.