I took a bus into downtown Yangon which had a right-sided steering wheel, even though people drove on the right side of the road in Myanmar. I’d heard that many second-hand vehicles were imported from countries like Japan where they drove on the left, but this was the first time I’d actually ridden in one and it felt a bit strange. The streets of the city this time of the day were always busy.
Slowly, we rolled past old colonial mansions, faded and mildewed, some of them crumbling, with vines and shrubs sprouting from their cracked seams. Soon we were moving along the wide avenues of downtown Yangon, past the faded white colonnades of the Strand hotel, the red-brick Victorian building of the Secretariat and the decayed glamor of art deco cinemas, relics from when Yangon was the colonial capital of British Burma.
As the traffic light where we had stopped turned green, a groaning truck, spewing black exhaust, passed a dilapidated bus parked by the side of the road. A man in a sleeveless white undershirt, pedalled past us in his old rickshaw loaded down with crates, winding precariously through the congested traffic. Tough work to do in the heat, I thought, since I was sweating just sitting in the bus, even with all the windows open.
At Sule Pagoda road, I got out of the bus and started down the street. Stepping carefully over the cracks in the pavement,
I wandered past the golden pagoda in the round-about to a small courtyard where some young men stood in a circle, juggling a light cane ball with their feet. A popular game in Myanmar, the chinlon is passed around by bouncing it off their knees, chest and shoulders to keep it in the air. A man, with the mythical naga, a snake-like creature tattooed on his shoulder, had hitched up his longyi, and used his head to butt the cane ball to one of his team mates.
I stood for quite some time admiring their graceful acrobatic moves as they passed the ball around, and then continued down the squalid backstreet. Walking along the betel-splattered pavement, I passed posters peeling off walls and buildings streaked with mildew.
When I looked up to admire a carving on an old window frame, I noticed a man leaning out of a fifth-story window, lifting up a pail with a rope attached to bars on the window sill. Was there some kind of clandestine exchange going on or maybe just a quicker way to move goods up a building with no elevator?
My travelogue on Myanmar is available on
Click here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KN64B2S