Myanmar or Burma? In planning this trip, I heard the country called by both names. Luckily, the 24 hours of flying to get here gave me plenty of time to read through the guidebook and figure out what is going on with this country’s name. Myanmar has been the official name of the country since 1989 when the military junta running things decided to do away with the name Burma. The UN and most other countries call the country Myanmar. The United States apparently does not care for the name preferences of military juntas and has decided to continue to call the country Burma. In the spirit of being an ugly American, I'm going with Burma.
Word of advice- don’t fly China Southern. It was a hot mess beginning to end. I was told that my bag did not make it to Yangon because of my "tight" (3.5 hour) connection in Guangzhou. They were not sure when/if it might arrive, but definitely not in the next day since there was not another flight from Guangzhou.
This meant that my first stop in Yangon was to the Bogyoke Aung San Market (aka Scott Market), which has more than 2,000 shops. I picked up some fabulous Burmese fashions including elephant print harem pants, ridiculously high underwear that could double as a parachute, and a shirt that says “Myanmar” which seems way less cool to wear when actually in Burma.
After the shopping adventure, we went to the Shwedagon Paya, one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites. In a cave under this 325 foot temple, it is believed that there are eight of Buddha’s hairs. Unfortunately, if you go down to this cave, you turn to stone, so it looks like I’m going to have to take their word for it.
We hired a guide to take us around the temple. He told us that it is important what day of the week you were born on. He even had a handy little book that lets you look up the day you were born. Turns out that I made my grand entrance on a Friday. Each day of the week is represented by a different animal. For example, Monday is a tiger. Friday appears to be a hamster pig. Apparently Buddha was also born on a Friday, so I’m in good hamster pig company. There is a different shrine to each day of the week, so I paid a visit to the Friday shrine. Another clever part of the belief system- it is good luck to come to the temple on the day of the week you were born and sweep it with a broom. Given that you have to have your shoes off while there, I am pretty glad about the aggressive amounts of sweeping going on.