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.
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.
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.