Author: Guido Helbling, Avosound - Last updated November 09, 2017
Yangon is where our travels through Burma begin and end.
We spend the first three days in Yangon to acclimatise. A good idea as it turns out, because the city is burning in 37-degree heat (and that's merely in the shade).
Like two ghosts we steal through the shady parts of the streets in order to escape the boiling temperatures. We restrict our sightseeing in the city to locations that are not too hot, e.g. the lying buddha. I manage to make a few good recordings before we move on to cool down in an air-conditioned café.
Picture: Cooling down at the feet of the lying buddha in Yangon - He carries the universe on his soles.
We are, however, a bit surprised to see that Yangon is not your typical Asian city with lots of mopeds, bicycles and carriages creating chaos in the streets. The traffic -- mainly cars -- is actually quite organised.
Picture: Bus with announcer - public transport in Yangon
Taking a bus ride is a bit of an adventure. These rolling scrapheaps make a helluva noise as they rumble through Yangon. There's no way you can hop on unless you try to understand what the Burmese announcers are actually saying (or shouting). Alternatively, you can try to decipher the Burmese writing, which is equally cryptic. We did not feel confident enough to attempt either, so we travelled on foot or by cab.
We were equally astounded by the thousands of ravens that caw from the trees. They are as much part of the city's soundscape as the noisy buses.
Today we are on our way to the famous Shwedagon pagoda. The cab driver made us slightly uneasy by proclaiming -- at 9am -- that 'it is hot today'. How much hotter can it possibly get, we ask ourselves?
Although we planned on exploring the Shwedagon pagoda by ourselves, we end up with a guide after all. He shows us the entire complex and explains everything in dizzying detail. We learn that ringing the bells around the temple with the provided sticks will result in good luck (you have to to it three times, though). I would have loved to record those sounds, but there were just too many people there.
At least I know now that you can safely ring those bells without having to go to prison...or hell (depending on the country). As a sound recordist it is important to know and respect boundaries when in a public space -- which is why I was grateful for our guide's help.
Picture: Weekday Well in the Shwedagon Pagoda -- the Sunday well is mine, which one is yours?
The guide also explained to us that there is a well for every person in the complex, depending on the weekday they were born.
As I was born on a Sunday, the guide led us to the Sunday well where I was instructed to pour water over the buddha statue -- three times. Then he asked buddha for my good fortune and good karma. Touched by this gesture, we repeated the procedure at the Thursday well.
When in Yangon, you will want to visit one of the most famous and important pagodas in Asia. Shwedagon is not just a pagoda -- it is one of the most impressive temples in Asia, sporting a 90-meter high golden stupa. It was erected in the spot where the last tiger was sighted (back in 1910) and made out of tons of gold and countless gemstones (the latter surround the tip of the structure). The main Shwedagon pagoda is surrounded by dozens of temples, side temples and other pagodas (both big and small), all of them equipped with the typically frilly umbrellas at the top and adorned with hundreds of little bells that chime in the wind.
If you visit Shwedagon by night, you will be impressed by the atmosphere and the pleasant temperatures. You will also encounter many Burmese people celebrating with their families, visiting their saints and revelling in the peaceful and jolly air that surrounds this special place.
Hint: the ticket is valid all day, so you can enjoy the great atmosphere in the evening as well.
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