Saturday, December 28, 2013

City Full of Nooks and Crannies

On our second day in Yangon we headed to the bustling Bogjoke Aun Sang Market in the downtown area. This market is the main shopping destination for tourists, though not exclusively so - there were still plenty of locals. Prices tend to be higher in the businesses that line the perimeter of the market, and these shops also appear to cater more to tourists and sell knick knacks and souvenirs. You have to wander in to get to the good stuff! However, as noted in my last post, most shopkeepers were very friendly and don't aggressively hawk their wares. 

A big indoor section of the market sold gold and jewelry. I don't have any skills in distinguishing good quality gems and metals from fakes, so I mostly just walked through this area without really looking closely. 

We came to an inner area with tightly-spaced shops that sold lots of fabrics. Many of the shops have tailors that they know who will create a longyi (the long skirt) for you out of a fabric that you choose. The fabrics come in a dizzying array of colors, patterns, and material. I ended up buying a hand-sewn bright green longyi with flowers along the border for about $15 USD, plus a tailoring fee of $5. There are many cheaper options; you can buy fabric for less than $5, but in this case I was willing to spend more for the quality. 

It amazed me how many nooks and crannies are taken over by tiny businesses. In the photo below, you see people eating snacks and drinking tea at a myriad of street side makeshift shops. Teashops are very popular in Myanmar, whether they are these ones out in the open with plastic chairs and tables, or nicer restaurant styles. The tea is very similar to teh in Singapore, which is brewed black tea with lots of condensed milk - a highly sweet and rich drink.

Many of these vendors are mobile, one-man businesses, as seen below. I think the guy was selling some sort of noodles. They probably are officially required to have some sort of permit, but I'm not sure how closely regulations are enforced.

On the second floor of one of the buildings is a fascinated array of little service shops, such as tailors and mechanics of various types. Most dealt with clothing. It was a mini-economy up there, with everything crammed up side by side, and some businesses catering to other businesses in the same space. We even wandered across another little tea shop upstairs with room for exactly four customers to sit.

The side streets along the downtown area were also very crammed - people using space efficiently!

And there were lots of street side restaurants, even near hectic main thoroughfares. All the food looked and smelled delicious but we often did not know what things were! Also, food sanitation is a concern as well. Though we didn't eat anything at these little vendors we all ended up with food poisoning in the end!  

Outside of the busyness of the city, there are a few parks and lakes where you can enjoy some peace. We went to Kandawgi Lake (below) and Inya Lake (not to be confused with Inle Lake, which is located in northern Myanmar. Often times we would see lots of couples hanging out by the lake or taking long strolls. Sometimes young people also bring along a guitar and start strumming along and singing in a group. It's a really nice atmosphere and also provides some pretty scenic views, especially near sunset. 

It's good to know that there is still lots of natural beauty in such a large city. Not all of it is well kept and maintained, though I hope these patches continue to exist, even as Myanmar develops economically in the future. 

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