Yangon is not an easy city to fall in love with, unless you were born and raised there. As objective as you could be, the city has a lot of flaws and when you enter downtown, after a long taxi ride from the airport, you see them clearly. Stray dogs everywhere, intense traffic jam punctuated with incessant horns, girls and boys (often very young) begging among the cars, and when you step out, it’s the smells. I visited Myanmar in July, the rainy season (even though I didn’t see any rain but in Yangon). Yangon is a huge city with roughly 4 350 000 inhabitants, and it’s also very humid. With the heavy rains, all smells are amplified, foods, flowers but also drains. The buildings are decrepit, stained with black, their walls unable to keep the humidity oustide. As we walked into our room, we are welcomed by a musty smell damp walls. We are staying two days in Yangon, the former capital city of Myanmar before heading towards Mandalay in the north of the country, but my friend is already ready to leave. She doesn’t like the weather, the dirt and what seems to be a general mess or chaos.
I won’t lie, she’s no exception. All the travellers we met and chatted with told us “Yangon was ok… I guess”. They stay for a short period of time before or after exploring the rest of the country. I have planned to come back for about five days after visiting Mandalay, Monywa and Bagan. Am I crazy? Maybe. But I like the city. I find it somehow fascinating, enchanting and charming in its own ways. That doesn’t mean that I am a big fan of the heavy raining from dawn to night, nor that I like the sight of sick stray dogs, nor that the smells of some little streets is something I’d like to smell on a daily basis. The people, the colorful buildings, the foreigness of it all compared to France, the architecture (religious or not), the past that you can almost touch as you enter some shops or walk through some alleys and markets just make it so interesting.
It’s also nice to see how things evolve and change. To see the youth playing the guitar and singing out loud near Inya lake, notice a few english speaking schools, the pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi and some western restaurants.
Unfortunately Yangon isn’t meant to be walked, and taxis don’t allow for the same freedom and discovery spirit. Buses run in the city but I’ll admit neither of us felt brave enough to use them.
I ended up having to shorten my trip for family related reasons, and didn’t get to spend more time in Yangon than those two days + an extra one to catch my flight back to Paris. Myanmar is quite far away from Paris, flights to Yangon aren’t particularly cheap either. I’ll be busy with the last year of my Master Degree and my other projects. My sister and I also have planned to visit South Korea in April of next year, and I don’t have any vacations until December. Despite all of this, I am already thinking of going back, telling one of my very good friend about it, reading more and more about the places I have yet to see there, trying to master the alphabets and a few basic sentences. I guess I did fall in love.