“You can take a picture on this spot. You’ll get a better view of the stupa here” a voice told me in somewhat a better Burmese-English while I was taking a photograph inside one of the pavilions in Shwedagon Paya. I looked back to see a young monk with glasses. He introduced himself as Xanther. He volunteered to take my photo. Thinking about it, I don’t have a personal photo here yet so I obliged. He seemed like a friendly guy and offered to take me around the paya if I wanted. I wasn’t sure at first but he might be one of those young monks trying to practice their English so I let myself be entertained.
I let the wind lull me to sleep inside room 205 of Motherland Inn II. I arrived early morning in Yangon from Mandalay, took a shared taxi to town, had the free buffet breakfast at the inn and headed to my room at the upper floor. Finding the wide open view at my window, I opened the glass windows and was delighted to feel the gust of wind coming in. I turned of the aircon and left the window open except for the screen and let myself drift to dreamland.
I was already prepared for the worst for the 10+ hours Bus journey to Bagan from Yangon. Oh I’ve read so many horror stories of old buses breaking down, air-conditioning giving up mid-way the journey or even some bumpy roads that would shake you up awake. But, fortunate to say, it wasn’t even that close. Changes here were for the better and the journey was much more comfortable and easier than I expected. I guess it was too comfortable that I had to push my seatmate, who’s sleeping like oil, a few times as he constantly leans on my side of the seat.
The tranquil face of a gigantic Buddha filled my vision as I enter a large open shed with metal roof. He seemed contented there, reclining on the floor with his crown adorned with diamonds and precious stones glittering for everyone to see. This is Chaukhtatgyi Paya, home of this gigantic Buddha, uncommonly known but is considered one of the most beautiful reclining Buddha in Myanmar.
“Where are you from?” is the usual ice-breaker question people here would ask. “I’m from the Phillippines” I replied with a smile as I bite into my toasted slice of bread with a healthy layer of butter and strawberry jam while having breakfast. Young adults here like to engage in a conversation to practice their English. “Where are you going today?” I told him that I’d be leaving tonight for Bagan but this morning I’ll hit the streets of Downtown Yangon first to do some sightseeing.
Surprisingly, the endless stream of people didn’t bother me at all. My sight was fixated at the cone-shaped stupa piercing the sky. The afternoon light strikes its slab of gold layers making it shimmer magnificently under the sun. I am humbled by the towering presence of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred, the most ancient and the 2nd oldest Buddhist pagoda not only in Burma but all over the world. Surrounding the main stupa are numerous mini stupas, shrines, pavilions and prayer halls that it’s easy to get lost on the platform on a hill and be overwhelmed by the many details.
Maps are my best friend when I’m exploring a new place. Starting from where I am, the Motherland Inn 2, I asked the girl at the reception for the location of the Thian Phyu Money Changer Center on the map and found out it was about 3 blocks south west. Since I don’t have any kyat yet, I just decided to walk. Besides, exploring on-foot is the usual way for me to get to know the city. Botataung Paya is on the way so it might be a good place for a side trip.