Yangon is the gateway to Myanmar and the most important city in the country. We met her at nightfall when darkness invades the streets and the only lights that shine are the domes of pagodas and the signs of bars and restaurants of the modern districts. It is a city of obscure and decadent charm: very often, in fact, there is no electricity and long blackouts occur.
Here, time seems to have stopped, Yangon is dirty, black, chaotic, but in the dark ,there is always a light. Our light was the view from the terrace of the Lavender Hotel: in front of us, immense and shining, there was Shwedagon Paya. The pagoda, symbol of Myanmar, as well as the most important building in Yangon, which today is a metropolis divided into 33 townships. We stayed in Bahan, a neighborhood divided between wealth and poverty, between folklore and modernity. Obviously we were in the folkloric part but we only discovered it on the second day when, with the sunlight, we noticed that the hotel entrance is hidden from a market with fish, meat, and flowers, but the hotel is well maintained, with spacious, clean rooms and bathrooms. Breakfast offers Asian specialties and coffee, so if you want a brioche you have to go to the modern neighborhood because in this area there aren’t many bars, restaurants or cafes with Western products. During the British colonialism, in fact, the commercial heart of the city was moved to the river where, still today, you can find luxury hotels and skyscrapers.
The city wakes up at dawn and slowly the streets are filled with artisans, women who go to the market, taxi drivers, buses, monks, children and elderly. Daylight, however, allows you to see a tough, poor, humble reality. A reality of houses with tin roofs, wooden shacks, people dressed in rags, children from a deep look of someone who has already experienced much hardship despite its tender age.
But Yangon isn’t like other Asian cities: view from above isn’t a cement cluster but it is a city full of green. The eye, in fact, isn’t lost in the gray of the houses but stops in the tops of the trees, which delimit the residential areas with parks and forests. The impact is brutal, but this is the true Asia, the one that doesn’t yet know about globalization, the wild and beautiful Asia, the Asia that is opening to all the world. The Asia that surprises you.
In the next articles, I will give you some itineraries to discover Yangon’s curiosities and attractions.