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Attention Please: It is strictly forbidden to ascend the Royal Lion Throne

MYANMAR | Wednesday, 14 December 2016 | Views [307]

Attention Please: It is strictly forbidden to ascend the Royal Lion Throne.

The words stared at me, or maybe I stared at them. I couldn't help but wonder, what would happen if I did? Would adoring crowds come streaming forth in order to pay their obeisance? Would my every whim become law? Is this why the ancestral seat of the power of royal decree in Burma was so strictly off limits to the common, grungy traveller such as myself? These thoughts burned holes in my mind, kindling in my imagination the sights and sounds of the ancient throne room, the snap of pennants in the wind when the hall doors open, the dazzling hues of the assembled court shifting as one great technicolor mass as they await my next verdict. In this fleeting vision of mine I would be the modern age Felipe de Brito and Yangon was my Syriam. Is this why the Royal Lion Throne is off limits? Or is it these thoughts, perhaps, that the museum wishes to bring forth in the average visitor, drawing together the exhibits assembled and filling in the gaps with the power of imagination? Quite frankly I doubt either of these possibilities, though the text of the sign is almost tempting enough to put the first to the test and risk the wrath of the reincarnation of Anaukpetlun himself....

Yangon, I decided, after opting not to risk the ire of the ghosts of the various Burmese kings of old, is a semi-standard Southeast Asian city with a dash of that Oriental mysticism that infused the tales of the Far East of antiquity. Monks still roam the streets unimpeded, begging bowls in hand, all the while traffic careens by about as orderly as a swarm of angry bees. Nervous, semi-feral street dogs in the People's Park try hard to stay out of kicking range while groups of students engage passerby in conversations to practice their English and young couples court mere meters away, all under the toweringly impressive form of Shwedagon Pagoda. And, despite the tourists all about some of the sites, locals still outnumber foreigners at places such as Shwedagon and Sule and it's yet possible to walk across town for a half an hour and not encounter anyone but Yangon residents, and this near the sights!

Yangon does have its scuzzy underbelly too, of course, like any city its size. I'be determined that some of the shadiest characters in the city (with no sense of humour, at that) hang out atop the pedestrian overpasses in the city center, like you do, and pimps do wander the streets trying to arrange business, though I did only encounter the one, and he was pretty easy to brush off.

Tour guides proved to be about as hit or miss as anywhere else in the region, as yesterday's Dallah adventure proved. I was walking to the river to try and catch a view of the sunset, when my traveling companion of the day and I decided to hop on a ferry across the river, just to see what the other side was like. We met an erstwhile guide (in the "Foreigners Only" section of the ferry office, an area many places seem to have) who offered to show us the snake pagoda in Dallah. In misplaced high hopes of beating the sun and seeing the pagoda, we set off. In Dallah we were told that of course we could walk to the pagoda, but really we needed to take rickshaws (bicycles with a sidecar here) to get there in time, along with some mumbled explanation of a fishing village, a bamboo village, and a market. We reluctantly agreed after haggling the price down a bit, and set off with an hourly rate agreed upon and a time estimate in mind. We passed by a rapidly darkening fishing village along a canal, then a few lumber yards which looked like they had bamboo, then the snake pagoda, to arrive at the tiny market. The rickshaw driver was pleasant enough, ranting in half Myanmar and half English (give or take) the whole time, telling jokes, I think. Sooo, forty-five minutes later, after an enlightening and entertaining, if not particularly sight see-ey tour of Dallah, we got back to the now darkened and unlit parking lot where it was insisted that twice the time had elapsed. Fortunately there was a timestamped photo from when the boat was docking (there's a lesson to be learned here) that knocked a half an hour off of that price. After overpaying we extracted ourselves from the situation and vamoosed back to Yangon, where we parted ways. So yeah, hopefully that puts me back in the swing of Southeast Asia and serves as my only newbie mistake this trip!

The street food has proven to be pretty great, in spite of all the horror stories I've heard suggesting the contrary, though from talking to folks it sounds like many of the people who've been getting ill have been a bit lazy with their food decisions. Of course, just watch, in another week or so I'll be eating those words....

I think that's a wrap on Yangon. Now on to Kalaw! One day I'll figure out how to write these things without just trailing off at the end, I suppose. One day....

Tags: myanmar, rangoon, yangon


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