My first and last two days in Burma (Myanmar) were spent in the capital city of Yangon, where our ship was docked. The first thing that struck me about Yangon was the sheer size of their pagodas. Shwedagon pagoda is over 350 feet tall, while Sule (pictured) also towers over the streets
The second thing that struck me was how all of their red and green traffic lights countdown the seconds until they will change.
While I was walking towards the pagodas, a group of schoolchildren on a field trip noticed us and (along with other camaraderie) loved having their photos taken. On the face of the children (and nearly every adult) is thanaka – ground tree bark paste which prevents sunburn and gives a cooling sensation.
On my last day, I woke up at 5 am to take Yangon’s circular train around the city. After (eventually) finding platform 7, I took a seat with the locals and waited for the train.
The three hour ride passed by pagodas, markets, and slums. Duck egg sellers roamed the cars, picking up the train at one station and leaving the next. Burmese people taking furniture to the market rushed to load the train, and were often still loading the train as it was beginning to leave the station.
After I got off the train and ate lunch, I found a group playing chinlone who invited me to join them after watching for several minutes. It seemed like a version of hacky sack or keepie uppie. Without hesitation, I took off my shoes and joined the game.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that chinlone is a combination of sport and dance, a team sport with no opposing team. The focus is not on winning, but rather on how beautifully one plays. While I was able to keep the ball up (for the most part), I highly doubt anyone was impressed by my ‘beautiful’ game.
After playing for about 10 minutes in the 100 degree Yangon weather, I was fried. The following photo is actually from the Mandalay Royal Palace, but it fits nonetheless.