The historic center of Yangon is a succession of dilapidated colonial-era buildings, mixed with some modern buildings from undefined style. On both, an array of well-aligned parables and clothes hanging out of the windows.
We get lost among the uneven sidewalks, kidnapped by the life of its inhabitants and the potpourri of races that live in the largest city of Myanmar.
At each intersection, with the nose up, we admire the domes in Art Nouveau style, covered by the roots of the ficus benjamin and from the mildew of decades of neglect. Many crows and pigeons, they live in there as a comfortable home, regardless of the hectic traffic that becomes congested in the evening, along the road Merchant.
As we watch some policemen which are taking the bath in an improvised tub at the roadside, we try to avoid the spitting of the betel, unannounced, fortunately, by a strong guttural gasp.
The old city plant is a grid of parallel streets with increasing numbers. Every street seems to represent a trade or its related products that are exposed in plain sight.
There is the way of the painters and the street of the blacksmiths, the street of shoemakers where skilled craftsmen shape the uppers and the path of the fabric with its colorful buttons. And yet, the street of the lamps and the way of the photocopying, where the damp sheets are dried with a hair dryer. And within walking distance, the street of gold and that one of the precious stones, followed by that of fishing nets, of the mirrors, of the cables, of the ropes, of the spare parts for everything from a bumper’s car up to each individual component to build your own lighter. There’s even the way of the “little Monk”, with baskets containing all the necessary kit: the tunic, the umbrella and the rice bowl for offerings.
If you need anything in Yangon, you cannot wrong, go in the center without fail!
The ingenuity of its inhabitants exceeds all our expectations: if the they don’t have water, they take it directly from broken pipes of the road.
The light? Take it from the tangle of wires hanging from the lamppost is a breeze. Someone needs of a haircut? It appears in the alley a man with the barber bag, he hangs it to a tax ruins, let seat his client on a stool and beauty saloon is nice that fact!!
Small bars to drink tea or coffee or enjoy a cane juice are scattered everywhere. Hot pans on the sidewalks, oil that sizzles under the trees with golden roots; every corner is good to squat on plastic tiny little chairs and watch the street scene, eating the Maji-yweq dhouq, a salad prepared with tender leaves of young tamarind.
Entire families are handed down a gesture made of small things, from how to cut onions finely to how unravel the nodes on a network. A manual skill orchestrated to create a concert of artisans. An everyday event that takes your breath away and makes us curious spectators of habits that do not belong there.
In particulary, I fascinate me a lot the anarchists of the color. Each old house, in fact, has its own color and each tenant must provide independently for the maintenance of the front piece of his property. Many are painted in bright colors, from lemon yellow to green aquamarine. Others have kept the original pastel colors, from periwinkle to sugar paper. Here, the anarchists of color, regardless of the condominium meeting, repaint their home piece in a different way, creating rainbow palaces ranging from orange to turquoise. A palette tangled pipes and wires, but, in his own way, fascinating.
The neighborhoods outside the center are sorted and well kept, mostly developed around the two city lakes, with beautiful houses surrounded by lush gardens. The military political class and the wealthy Burmese people do not fare badly, sharing the hilltop breeze with numerous embassies residing in the area.
The long shadow of the Shwedagon, the golden pagoda, a symbol of Myanmar, dominates the city with its 98 meters high. At sunset, reaches its maximum splendor, but also this night, framed by the full moon, while I’m watching from our hotel room, it seems a headlight.
And my thoughts are with the Lady – as they call here in Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi – the lady who, everyone wish, will lead this Country out of the dark years of military dictatorship, giving hope for a better future.
Yangon, city of a thousand craftsmen; Myanmar, Country of a thousand golden pagodas.