Welcome to Yangon...a city with over 5-million inhabitants, ex-capital of Myanmar (from 2006) and the place with most colonial buildings in the Asian region, as per Wikipedia! Yangon (known also previously as Rangon) is often referred to as an extremely busy, overly loud, full with (too) many run-down buildings and ugly electricity cable balls (next to shiny golden pagodas) at every third buildings corner! And sometimes the city is simply too hot, humid and sticky (and all this of course at the same time).BUT...During my short stay there I enjoyed the small streets, away from the tourists shopping centers. I saw colours and smiles, beautiful architecture under the facades falling down, local markets held directly on the street, I saw the dust and the beauty, as they live next to another! Here is my digital tour in the pictures... As Emo, a friend and a journalist, said in his Yangon-article (in Bulgarian only, available here): "the city is fueled by the people, which in a way resemble hard-working and non-stop-moving ants. And their DNA is a big mix from different Burmese tribes, Indians, British and of course monks..."
Now please meet Lily (on the first picture), my guide in the Swedagon pagoda, which is the biggest temple in Yangon and at the same time the most sacred Buddist pagoda in Myanmar. However no women and/or foreigners are allowed in the pagoda inside, but in the beautiful and huge complex around all locals and tourist are welcome, of course if you follow the basic rules: no shoes and covered knees and shoulders. Lily asked me about my birthday and then she got a tiny booklet out of her bag to figure out I was born on a Monday. Then we stopped at the Monday corner (with a tiger as sacred animal) where I could offer a necklace from fresh jasmine blossom around the statues and had the honour to poor three cup of waters over the head. This ritual is not only bringing good luck but also releases the person performing it from his/her sins. The same is valid for the people lining up every evening and morning to sweep the ground around the pagoda. Lily told me there are lists where the names are entered and its a big waiting ;-)
It is important for Burmese Buddhists to know on which day of the week they were born, as this determines their planetary post. There are eight planetary posts, as Wednesday is split in two (a.m. and p.m.). They are marked by animals that represent the day — garuda for Sunday, tiger for Monday, lion for Tuesday, tusked elephant for Wednesday morning, tuskless elephant for Wednesday afternoon, mouse for Thursday, guinea pig for Friday and nāga for Saturday. Each planetary post has a Buddha image and devotees offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish. At the base of the post behind the image is a guardian angel, and underneath the image is the animal representing that particular day. The base of the stupa is octagonal and also surrounded by eight small shrines (one for each planetary post). It is customary to circumnavigate Buddhist stupas in a clockwise direction.
The pilgrim, on his way up the steps of the pagoda, buys flowers, candles, coloured flags and streamers. These are to be placed at the stupa in a symbolic act of giving, which is an important aspect of Buddhist teaching.