Yangon Visit in April 2007 by Guo Qiao Hong and Ben Van Rooy

Update:18 Apr 2007

Getting to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma is easy. One can fly cheaply to Bangkok from which you can take Thai Airways or Myanmar Airways to fly into Yangon or Rangoon as many locals still would like it to be named. My lovely travel companion had told me a lot about the place, but as they say ¡®seeing is believing¡¯.

 Yangon is by and large untouched by any large scale redevelopment and is able to show how we as westerners and perhaps most people in the world would prefer to see real Asia. Naturally, it is the people that make that kind of thing happen or not but one can only be thankful that it has not happened in Yangon just yet . Qiao Hong had told me about the kindness and the frien dliness of the people, often beyond what we can expect in Xiamen even though we are already spoiled by them too. It is obvious that these folk are celebrating life in a way we used to do a very long time ago. As a child I remember very well how we were taught to know how to behave and to be nice to each other at all times. We have been here only a very short time but we have not seen anything that you could construe as poor attitude or violence or behaviour. There are no beggars walking the street and everybody has plenty of food to eat. Talking about food!!!? Of course, Xiamenese food and in particular Li Jiang Hong Restaurant serves up about the best you can buy in Xiamen but you have to come to Myanmar to taste the many fantastic dishes and combinations hitherto unheard off.

There is no doubt that Myanmar is one of the most successful countries that can boast about race relationships with ethnic groups. Besides their own incredibly many different ethnic population of around 55 million which is spread up and down the country, they have accepted freely and unreservedly the many groups of folk from their neigbouring countries including China with an astonishing amount of Fujian and Guangdong people that settled here many years ago. India makes up another large group of the Myanmar population. Little surprise than that ¡°China Town¡± is a must see. It is pure and unspoiled and it would be poor taste by those that want to change its mystique as has happened in other Asian countries. The hustle and bustle and its obvious brisk trading is giving a rich ambiance to the city that is difficult to replace.

Although it is clear to see that there is a considerable gap between rich and poor, most people we have spoken to seem happy with their lot. A good percentage of that happiness is probably due to a strong belief in Buddhism. Whereas the western world, including myself, and many of my esteemed Chinese friends, have little in common with religion these days, it is refreshing to see how a nation can work very well with their God. Brought up as a Catholic you cannot simply forget the teachings of ¡°that book¡± which becomes a guide for life if you want but many don¡¯t even see the book at all.

Wherever you go, there is a certain pride and confidence in the people of Yangon. Service at restaurants and hotels is superb and staff, often mostly male, are very well trained in their duties. Many buildings are in need of a ¡®lick of paint¡¯ but the quality of finishing is evident everywhere and it will take little to refurbish these most beautiful architecturally important buildings. In furniture and interiors one can only marvel at the design and finishing qualities that are equal or better than anywhere you see.
Throughout Yangon and even well outside it, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a central focal point and a compulsory visit is required. Just as soon you come close, you can sense the serenity of the place and you become spellbound by its splendour. Many things and statues have a particular meaning and it is therefore best to have someone knowledgeable to explain.
Besides its strong focus to herald Buddhism by the many buildings and statues, the city virtually is littered with parks, reserves and lakes that give the area a very welcoming feel to it. The flowering trees and bougainvillea are all over town and hillside showing great colour contrast.

We recommend all and sundry to make a tour to this wonderful place. It certainly won¡¯t be long before we return.

By Guo Qiao Hong and Ben Van Rooy  

From the Editor

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