One fine day in Yangon city of miracles

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Yangon, Myanmar. I am here, it is bustling with energy. I find a quiet corner in the Shwedagon Temple only to witness beautiful relationships, romance, a family chilling, wonderful animated people chatting and smiling together.

At a diamond store three girls stand together as I walk in, I ask them to sit down, honoured but embarrassed that they feel the need to stand on ceremony. A monk holds up the traffic taking his time on a rickshaw but no one minds or becomes annoyed. I meet a little girl with a contagious laugh. She and her mother play in the grounds of the temple, and yet more monks.

I visit the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda and the most incredible, majestic reclining Buddha, (65m long and 16m high!) I walk past random people sleeping on the ground as time slips past them and walk on to visit a restaurant my new mate Sai Pipi owns. It’s on 19th Street, I meet the staff, adorable street kids and eat a delicious meal. Then I am out into the monsoon rains, I watch and approach a man who has made his own shelter from the storm, then its dinner at Mr. Shan Noodle – the most perfect vegetarian noodle on the planet, but I defy you to get a smile out of Mr. Shan Noodle himself!

A fine day in Yangon city, of miracles.

My first day and evening are spent in Yangon, once again, as I am on limited time here, I pack in a whirlwind of activities and fly all over the city making the most of this experience. My first stop has to be The Strand Hotel; it’s one of the most famous hotels in Asia. As I enter the bar I marvel at the grand mahogany counter and the dark wood panelling that fills the space in front of me. You can see the history written in the walls, the bar has been around since the early 1900’s

I slide my body down into a huge leather chair, choosing to sit at the table where Mick Jagger and Anthony Bordain had sat, and as the waiter comes to take my order I realise I am lucky enough to meet the man who served them. With a pocket full of Kyat, the currency of Myanmar, I purchase a pint of local beer. It is cheap, dirt-cheap, and even in this well-known hotel. I welcome the fresh coolness of the glass and soon order another.

After an hour spent sitting here people watching I am off to explore the streets. Poorly constructed stalls carrying fruits and vegetables are haphazardly placed in between tall buildings, a large gold spire rises into the sky. Open windows, clothes hanging from washing lines, even the satellite dishes are painted in a bright orange. Buses, cars and people pass through the city not particularly in any rush but still giving off a busy vibe. I watch ladies cutting tomatoes by the roadside using nothing but a strip of wood as a chopping board, kids crouching to play street games as traffic runs past and there are books everywhere! Stalls and the roadsides are full of paperback books, I skip left and right trying not to step on them. One thing that is a big surprise to see is there are no motorbikes, after the craziness of the streets before this is a nice break from them.

As I carry on walking a man asks me to join him and his friend for tea in a street side café, they are sitting on a bed of mud, and I decline, smile and walk on. I manage to finally catch a photo of a brown butterfly in the gardens of the national park and happy with my photo I begin to stop people as they walk past, asking them to smile for me, to try and catch a view of the Myanmar streets through my lens. They all give me massive smiles and content poses, thanking me as they move on. In a 5.2 Million to one chance I spot the guy from the street side cafe later in the day going down one side of an escalator as I go up the other side at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Even with this stunning temple beginning to come into view in front of me I find myself watching the street café man and he glides past me – once again a reminder of what a small world this can be! My first impressions of this wonderful mystical place is colourful, romantic, mind blowing and intriguing.

Welcome to Yangon, City of miracles!