The name Yangon means "End of Suffering" or "End of Strife". The city has more than 5 million inhabitants. It is in some respects just like all big cities, for instance the heavy traffic. But there are other parts that are unique. For instance the large Buddhist sites like the Sule Pagoda and the Shwedagon Pagoda, both about 2500 years old, and the Chauk Htat Gyee Pagoda with the huge reclining Buddha. Like everywhere in Myanmar, Buddhism is visible throughout, with large and small temples and other worship places, and with monks visible on the streets. Another part of Yangon that stands out is the downtown area along the river with many colonial-era buildings.
The airport is fairly close to the city, on the outskirts of town. It is not as large as you would expect for such a large city. Yangon has a circle train that goes in a large circle all the way around the city. It is heavily used by the local population. I took the train most of the way around the city for about two hours. It was interesting to see the various faces of Yangon, from the downtown areas to slum-like makeshift houses to farmers on the outskirts. Another important part of public transport are the buses. They seemed to be in fairly good shape. I took an overland bus to Taungoo, which was very nice.
There are some department stores in Yangon, but mostly the stores are small. There are lots of local restaurants, with the typical Burmese food, which I like very much. I stayed in three hotels in Yangon, two good middle class hotels and one more upscale hotel. I had specifically asked for middle class hotels, I don't see a reason to pay a lot of money on a bed to sleep in. Prices for food and drink were of course higher than in the other towns that I visited, but still quite inexpensive.
Yangon has a large university. I was located in downtown Yangon till 1988, when it was moved outside of Yangon because the regime wanted to keep the rebellious students away from the city.
All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.
According to legend, the pagoda was built during the lifetime of Buddha, making it 2500 years old. It is located in the center of downtown Yangon, next to City Hall (built from 1886 - 1892). It is a Mon-style pagoda, octagonal in shape, with each side 7.3 m (24.0 ft) long; its height is 44.1 m (144.7 ft).
Most of the following description is from the Shwedagon Pagoda entry in Wikipedia.
According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda is over 2600 years old. Some historians place it in the 6th to 10th century CE.
The stupa fell into disrepair until the 14th century, when the Mon king Binnya U of Bago had the stupa rebuilt to a height of 18 m (59 ft). A century later, Queen Shinsawbu (1453-72), Dhammazedi's mother-in-law, raised its height to 40 m (130 ft). She terraced the hill on which it stands, paved the top terrace with flagstones, and assigned land and hereditary slaves for its maintenance. She yielded up the throne to Dhammazedi in 1472, retiring to Dagon; during her last illness she had her bed placed so that she could rest her dying eyes upon the gilded dome of the sacred place. The Mon face of the Shwe Dagon inscription catalogs a list of repairs beginning in 1436 and finishing during Dhammazedi's reign. It mentions Queen Shinsawbu under a Pali name of sixty-six letters. By the beginning of the 16th century the pagoda had become the most famous place of pilgrimage in Myanmar.
A series of earthquakes during the next centuries caused damage. The worst damage came from a 1768 earthquake that brought down the top of the stupa, but afterward King Hsinbyushin (lit. Lord of the White Elephant) of Konbaung Dynasty raised it to its current height of 99 m (325 ft). A new crown umbrella called hti was donated by King Mindon Min in 1871 after the annexation of Lower Burma by the British.
An earthquake of moderate intensity in October 1970 put the shaft of the hti visibly out of alignment. A scaffold was erected and extensive repairs to the hti were made.
The Chauk Htat Gyee Pagoda houses a large reclining Buddha statue. It is 68.5 m (224.7 ft) long and 17.7 m (58.1 ft) high. It was build from 1907 to 1912 as a semi-reclining Buddha. It was rebuilt in 1957 - 1962 into a fully reclining Buddha.
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