One Last Day in Myanmar
I don’t think you could ever get tired of being aboard Silversea ‘s Silver Shadow. My butler, Catalino, brought breakfast to my suite once again, and once again, he arrived at my suite a few minutes early. This makes getting ready for an early-morning tour a snap.
Yesterday, I booked one of Silversea’s shore excursions offered on our third full day in Yangon, Myanmar. However, due to insufficient participation, that tour had to be cancelled at the last moment.
Now, on other lines, this would be a disaster. A cancelled tour typically means there’s no way you’re going on a tour. But on Silversea, that’s not a problem at all. At the opening hour of 7:30, I presented myself at the Shore Excursion desk on Deck 5, and staff kindly rebooked me on a new tour at the same price-point as my existing one, that was scheduled to depart at the very same time.
That’s how I came to find myself on Silversea’s $59-per-person Island Pagoda Discovery Tour (RGN-C3). At five hours in duration, it was the exact length I was looking for. To be honest, I’m a little burned out after two full days of non-stop touring in Yangon, and wouldn’t mind an afternoon onboard the soothing Silver Shadow.
Rather than battle the traffic juggernaut in Yangon, this fantastic tour took us to the town of Thanlyin, which is nearer to our docking location and just 15 kilometres to the southeast of Yangon, across the Yangon River.
One of Myanmar’s principal port cities for centuries, most travellers would never find Thanlyin unless they tried to. Without the big-name spectacle of Yangon, it has the appearance of being just another township. But as I discovered today, this town is well worth the journey.
To start with, we stopped at a local market for 30 minutes of exploration. This couldn’t be further from Yangon’s Scott Market in terms of overall experience; this is the real deal, a market frequented by local residents for their day-to-day needs. Bustling to the point of being overwhelming even at quarter to nine in the morning,
As with most local township markets in Myanmar, this one was a hodgepodge of items, from fresh seafood to boxed Colgate toothpaste. There are spices and curries and fruits and vegetables, clothing and hygiene products, and dried and fresh meats in shapes and sizes never before seen. Add to that a few hundred shoppers packed into the narrow streets, and you’re left with an amazing experience.
Equally amazing was how guests left the market: aboard a horse-drawn rickshaw-style wagon. Taking two guests apiece, a small procession of horse-drawn carts made its way slowly for about two kilometres down the road, weaving in between crammed omnibuses, dangerous-looking fuel trucks, and motorcycles weaving in and out.
The skies opened up as we visited the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, which is perched on a hill and dates back to 1300. It’s almost a miniature version of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, with a similar circular arrangement to the stupas and shrines that adorn its base.
Like any other Buddhist site in Myanmar, dressing for the part is important here. Shorts are not allowed full-stop, and bare shoulders aren’t allowed on women, either. So that relegates men and women to wearing full-shouldered shirts and long pants. I’d recommend light, expedition-style pants; jeans are a nightmare here.
Add to that, temples here require both shoes and socks to be removed and stored with a guard, typically outside the temple or at the foot of one of the staircases. Remember how I said it was pouring rain? Well, you’ll get to walk barefoot through puddles of all kinds as you trek around these spiritual sights. I can’t complain: the rain cooled off the stone, which can get pretty hot in the heat of the day.
The rain only enhanced the beauty of the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, which became one of my surprise finds of this cruise and this visit to Myanmar.
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