Shwedagon Pagoda

After a very comfortable nights’ sleep, we enjoy a magnificent breakfast in the hotel's Café Sule, before an optional stroll with Richard and Dawn to visit Scott's Market. This huge bazaar is famous for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets. It's a major tourist attraction, offering Burmese handicrafts, jewellery, precious stones, art, antiques and clothes. It's not long before our guests are busy snapping up bargains! The traditional skirt worn by local women and men, called the LONGYI, can be purchased off the shelf or made to measure while you wait. Two of our ladies get fitted out. There are stalls selling only flip flops - thousands of them. You can buy a pack of 100 pairs if you wish. We buy one pair. The locals are keen to sell their wares, but everyone is friendly, well-mannered and polite. It's 39 degrees centigrade outside, so it's nice the market is covered. Scott's Market is just around the corner from our hotel, but the route involves crossing a busy one-way road, with three lanes of traffic each side of a central "fence", but all cars heading in the same direction. One thing you must take on board when visiting Myanmar, is that traffic tends not to stop for pedestrians, even if you can find the very  occasional pedestrian crossing! It's therefore quite a challenge to get our group across the road in one piece. Richard decides a Furlongs Travel sign and bluster might work. With everyone gathered together on the pavement, he leaps into the road pretending to be a lollypop man. Probably the drivers are in shock at such an action, but all the cars come to a halt and we scurry across. A quick count proves we have everyone. Phew.

Early afternoon we all meet up again to join an escorted excursion with Zaw and Sandro. We start by visiting the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 70-metre long reclining Buddha statue! The soles of the Buddha’s feet contain 108 segments in red and gold colours each showing images representing the 108 Lakshmana’s or “auspicious characteristics” of the Buddha. This is our first visit to a pagoda visit and we are reminded to remove our shoes and socks when we enter, as well as making sure our knees and shoulders are covered. This will soon become second nature to us. A highlight of any trip to Myanmar, and especially Yangon, is a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon’s most famous landmark. This pagoda is 110 metres high, covered with gold leaf and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4,531 diamonds; the largest of which is 72 carat. Shwedagon is set on top of a hill in downtown Yangon and is visible from much of the city. We walk around the pagoda with our guides interpreting everything we see. Amazing.

To return to our hotel, we join our coaches and head off into the regular traffic congestion. Richard's bus escapes quickly, but Dawn's bus gets stuck at a set of traffic lights adjacent to the pagoda complex. It soon becomes apparent that a single policeman is controlling the lights and directing traffic. Dawn and her team sit for 15 minutes without moving a foot. The policeman then decides he's had enough, and he simply walks off! Eventually the traffic clears and Dawn's bus heads back to the hotel unharmed.

This evening we enjoy a lovely served dinner in a private room at the Sule Shangri-La Hotel, with Richard and Dawn buying the wine!