On the first time I visited Rangoon – in 1979 – it was a languid, slow- paced town, one still living in the colonial era. In those days, it was only possible to stay in Burma (as it was then known) for a week; but I could have easily spent a month there, never mind the other destinations in the north of the country – Mandalay, Maymo and Bagan (and which like Rangoon, had only the fraction of the population of today).
In 1979, Rangoon was for me, as a western traveller, mesmerising. It was an alluring combination of the British colonial era – evidenced by the buildings and shops and cafes, all of them weathered from the effects of the relentless tropical climate – and a traditional Asian society still living in a pre-capitalist era. There were few cars in the streets and they were old ones. For the most part, the streets were plied with people; people walking, people on bikes, people on the sidewalks, people stopping and chatting.
28 years later, Rangoon was a different place and I didn’t feel any inclination to stay there longer than a few days. I guess there is always a problem with arriving in a place and carrying with you a burden of memories.
Nevertheless, in 2007, there was still a certain other-worldly charm to be found in Rangoon, even though it had changed so much.
Arriving in Rangoon, rucksacks in the back of an old pick-up.
The hotel I stayed in wasn’t in an upmarket area of town – but there was plenty to see and experience in the area.
There is nothing like tropical rain in Asia…..
At the outskirts of Rangoon, the sacred places where people worship and the frenetic life of the city becomes a distant memory.