Yangon’s official highlight is the Shwedegon Pagoda, a huge temple complex with a golden stupa visible for miles around. Towards sunset the entire site comes alive with the sound of chatter, prayers and the rich round sound of buddhist bells, being rung to create karma.
It is a wonderful experience to go there early on in a trip to Burma and I loved it. It is difficult to photograph but hopefully this shot of the golden stupa and the one below o the crowds walking past will give you a little taster.
The Shwedegon Pagoda wasn’t my highlight, though. The highlight was completing a circle of friendship. I went on holiday with Bree, an Australian friend I had first met in 2009 on a trip to Cuba. Her travel companion fell in love with our tour leader and a year later I went back out to Cuba to visit them. A year after that I went to Sergio and Rowan’s wedding in Australia. Bree was bridesmaid. We talked about Burma then and when I realised that Aung San Suu Kyi was asking tourists to return, I was on the case immediately.
A fantastic trip to Cuba came full circle when Bree greeted me as I stepped out of the lift at the hotel. From Cuba to Canberra to Yangon – I love it when a plan works out!
More Cuban friendship moments were in store. On a parallel trip to ours back in 2009 were two fantastic Californian women, Carol and Janet. They were on the last day of their Burma tour as we arrived. We had a fantastic lunch, reminiscing about Cuba and hearing about their experiences of Burmese people and places.
Here we all are in Yangon:
This picture says everything about one of travelling’s true delights – meeting fascinating people and making friends for life. I have that first Cuba trip to thank for meeting at least eight people who I hope would call me ‘friend’!
If you’re a solo traveller debating whether to go away with a group, do it. There may be one or two people you don’t click with but there will be many more who inspire you for many years to come.
And if you’re going to go, why not make it Burma and make it this year? It’s a beautiful country, as this pic from Yangon shows:
By Carole Scott