Our stay in Yangon had been largely transitory, a necessary stopover to Bagan, and our final departure point out of Myanmar when the trip was over. Upon landing at the airport from Kuala Lumpur, we stayed in the capital for less than twelve hours before we took an overnight bus for Bagan. After three days in Bagan, we went back to Yangon for one final day before our flight back to Kuala Lumpur early the next morning.
The sun hadn't even come out yet when our bus arrived in Yangon from Bagan on our last day in Myanmar. We planned to use the entire day to explore the capital, and began our early morning with breakfast and a shower at the guest house.
The first thing that always comes to mind when I remember Yangon is the heat - humid and nearly unbearable, but not entirely foreign to me, a Manila resident. On our last day in Myanmar, we were already used to the Burmese heat, and bravely went on to visit Sule Pagoda, our first stop. Unlike the isolated pagodas and temples in Bagan, standing tall and lonely across wide empty plains, Sule Pagoda seemed to be right at the center of the hustle and bustle of the city. Many Burmese were solemnly praying in front of numerous Buddha statues within the pagoda. There were hardly any foreigners. Before we left, we chanced upon a girl selling local birds at the entrance of the pagoda. I read somewhere about the Buddhist practice of setting animals free, and how it was supposed to bring good karma. I paid a few kyat to experience it. Whether or not I actually gained good karma, there is no way to know for sure.
Our next stop was Bogyoke Market, where we bought a few trinkets and souvenirs for ourselves and loved ones back home. The power had gone out while we were shopping for souvenirs. We found temporary refuge from the heat at a local watering hole of sorts, where they sold refreshing drinks. I dared to order an Iced Lemon Coffee. It was strangely refreshing.
After Bogyoke Market we took a cab to Shwedagon Pagoda, our last stop. More than the ornate structures and the general grandeur of the place, I marveled at the people. Some were deep in prayer, others were sharing a meal under the shade of a tree, and others didn't fail to notice us foreigners watching them. They seemed to mirror our curiosity, and smiles and nods were exchanged. We will never know each other's names, but that's okay.
We were set on heading back to our guest house, looking forward to a late lunch, when on the cab ride from Shwedagon Pagoda, our driver abruptly stopped and pointed to the other side of the road, where the National League for Democracy headquarters was. Why he decided to show us the place, we will never know, but it was a welcome surprise. I wish we could've gotten down and gone inside, but the whole thing had been such a surprise, we couldn't do much when, after a while, he started the engine again and drove us off to our guest house.