Asia · 21 Days · 26 Moments · January 2019

Myanmar 2019


1 February 2019

Return flight from one of the most interesting trips. So sad to leave this country and many friends, especially Andi and Jörg, behind. At least we finished the university course, the main purpose of the trip! Looking forward to go to Myanmar again, saying Mingalabar to one of the friendliest people I have ever met.

31 January 2019

A premature end to a fabulous trip. A fractured fibula. Just rearranging my flight home... ☹️
Today was the last session for the early morning student batch. Still a lot of interest for the Risk Management topic. We now continue with the course by teaching the teachers and various banks. Still a full daily schedule until next week.

30 January 2019

Lovely sunrise today morning, viewed from the hotel on he way to the university. Our course is nearing its end and preparations for the next batch are under way. Entering the lecture theatre, the perils of Emerging Markets become apparent again - power cut. Looking at the electricity we abstained from trying to fix it but fortunately 10 minutes later power was restored and we could start our session.

27 January 2019

The Cabinet Room, in which General Aung San was assassinated in 1947 is currently undergoing renovation to restore it to its 1947 look as requested by his family. The complex also houses the former parliament (now much larger and in Naypyidaw) which was, not unsurprisingly, built after the British parliament with government and opposition facing each other.
The Secretariat (aka the former Minister’s Office) was built in the late 1800s and was finished in 1905. It was the home and administrative seat of British Burma. During an earthquake in the 1930s, it suffered substantial damage with two of four corner towers as well as the central dome collapsing. It is also the location where on 19 July 1947 General Bogyoke Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi) and the founder of modern Burma, was assassinated, together with six cabinet ministers. The building has been vacant since the government was moved to Naypyidaw, the new capital of Myanmar. With international financial support it is currently being converted into a Martyr Museum as well as office space, and remains mostly vacant during the construction. However, some rooms are used for art exhibitions.
The current art exhibition at The Secretariat. It is actually sponsored by the Goethe Institute.
Walking around in Yangon can be challenging and general advice is to NOT be glued to the mobile phone or texting while walking. Reasons are obvious. The Yangon Heritage Trust building is on Pansodan Street. The YHT looks after the heritage buildings and also organises guided walks through Yangon (we did not take part in such walks). Next to it is the Sofaer building (looks interesting from the inside) which houses Lokanat Galleries and the Sofaer Tea & Coffee place where we stopped for a quick lunch.
Street sellers around the Strand and some derelict buildings in prime location. Let’s hope Myanmar’s economic development will accelerate in time for these buildings to be rescued. Myanmar arts and craft goods are sold at Pomelo, a social enterprise a few blocks further east. Good selection and decent, affordable prices - and not too touristy...
Downtown Yangon stroll today starting at Sule Pagoda and City Hall. Magnificent old, usually Victorian, buildings by the British who left in 1947. Aya Bank building, the High Court and the Yangon Stock Exchange as well as the Independence Monument and Myanmar Economic Bank are all on the way to the Strand. The Stock Exchange lists around 5 or 6 stocks, all unchanged on Friday (last trading day).

26 January 2019

Sunset at the Novotel pool in Yangon. Another day of the trip goes bye... ☹️
Saturday lunch at the White Swan Bakery & Restaurant at the north shore of the Inya Lake in Yangon. The colonial style building reminded me of the White House with occupants here a lot friendlier and accommodating than those across the pond. The chicken avocado salad was lovely, as was the blueberry smoothie. Will surely be back for supper next week when the lake side terrace is also open! Watch this space!

24 January 2019

Lunch at the iconic Rangoon Tea House Artisan tea house with tea (and coffee) left, right and center. Very good food too, especially some of the curries (Burmese and Indian). Having a fresh coconut to drink for 3,000 kyat (£1.50) - deliciously refreshing. Venue is popular with locals and tourist alike. Highly recommended (had lunch there for two of the last three days there. The only day we missed (yesterday) we did not get a seat as it was already full. 😒

21 January 2019

Sunset at the Ferry Pier. The ferry is just opposite the Strand Hotel and remains heavily used with hundreds of people crossing the Yangon River to the other side on their commute. Living on the other side of the river is substantially cheaper, compensating for a commute that often last more than 90 minutes. I am feeling for our students that are arriving at 7am at the university on this side of the river...
After a long days stroll, a well deserved High Tea at The Strand Café.
A stroll through the Yangon Art Galleries Within a few hundred meters around the railway station are various galleries. First stop was at Gallery 65, based in an old colonial-style house. Decent art, not too expensive (mostly between $100 and $1,000) but nothing fancy or inviting with the current exhibition. Pansodan Gallery was next and we nearly missed it. Entry is through a clothing shop on the ground floor (selling, amongst others, BVB Dortmund shirts for £3), then climbing the stairs to the first floor. Very good selection but a little pricier and hippier. Best selection was at River Gallery, a few yards from the river. Spacious, modern gallery with a quite a few artists but with prices between $1,500 to $15,000 unfortunately beyond my price range. 😩
Yangon Railway Station A nice trip down memory lane (and obviously also on the tracks) is a visit to the old railway station, still in use with trains departing regularly. People are very friendly (as everywhere so far in Yangon) and any railway enthusiast will enjoy to see decade old European and Japanese train engines. Despite its old age and lack of upgrade over the years, modern technology has found its way in - free mobile charging points!

19 January 2019

At Yangon University for the Risk Management in Banking course, part of the Master in Banking and Finance degree. GIZ (German Development Agency) sponsored the lecture theatres... First meeting with the professors was already on Monday.

17 January 2019

Thursday dinner at The Penthouse with our friends from the GIZ and a nice view towards Shwedagon Pagoda. Babett and the Sports Bar at the Novotel were also quite popular with us!

16 January 2019

Staying at the very nice Novotel Max Yangon. Usually skipping lunch - no wonder with this breakfast spread. But at least I got some exercise at the pool and at the gym.

15 January 2019

Downtown Yangon and Sule Pagoda Guess the traffic pictures are self-explanatory. The Sule Pagoda is a Burmese stupa located in the heart of downtown Yangon, occupying the centre of the city and an important space in contemporary Burmese politics, ideology and geography. According to legend, it was built before the Shwedagon Pagoda during the time of the Buddha, making it more than 2,600 years old. The Sule Pagoda has been the focal point of both Yangon and Burmese politics. It has served as a rallying point in both the 1988 uprisings and 2007 Saffron Revolution. The Sule Pagoda was made the center of Yangon by Lt. Alexander Fraser of the Bengal Engineers, who created the present street layout of Yangon soon after the British occupation in the middle of the 19th century.
Bogyoke Market Bogyoke Aung San Market (formerly Scott's Market) is a major bazaar in central Yangon, Myanmar. Known for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets, the market is dominated by antique, Burmese handicraft and jewellery shops, art galleries, and clothing stores. Scott Market was built in 1926, quite late in the British rule of Myanmar, and is named after the Municipal Commissioner of the time, Mr. Gavin Scott. After Burmese independence in 1948, it was renamed after Bogyoke (General) Aung San.

13 January 2019

Shwedagon Pagoda The origin of the Shwedagon Pagoda materialised over 2,600 years ago. In India, Prince Siddhartha had just attained Buddhahood when he was visited by two brothers Tapussa and Bhallika, merchants from Myanmar who offered a gift of honey cakes. In return, the Buddha personally removed eight hairs from his head and gave these to the two brothers for enshrinement in their native town of Okkalapa which is now Yangon. On their return, the brothers presented the hairs too the King of Okkalapa who erected the Pagoda and enshrined the eight hairs together with the relics of the previous three Buddhas. The original height of the Pagoda was 66ft (20m). From the 14th century onward successive monarchs in Myanmar rebuilt or regilded it until Shwedagon reached a height of 326ft (99m). It has ten unique sections and the top is England with 3154 gold bells and 79569 diamonds and other precious stones. Not to be missed by any visitor to Yangon!