Two days in Yangon- II

photos and text by Muktadir Rashid

xtra006Tourists, with a desire for shopping, can visit the Bo Gyoke Aung San market (Ex-Scott Market). Much like Bangladesh, you can bargain the prices and purchase gems and other valuable stones along with wooden souvenirs.  The market is more like Dhaka’s New Market but cleaner and decorated.
I bought a bottle of water with 300 kyats. After the initial shock, I realised that the 300 kyats is equal to BDT 20. One of my friends spent 200 kyats to use an urinal in the market.
You can have lunch anywhere. But one would need to consider the humidity before having the food.
For the tourists, another attraction is the ‘Gems museum’ where you have to enter without any electronic gadgets to see the US$ 7 million-worth Star Ruby, among others.
xtra007According to the museum assistant manager ‘Male,’ over 100 foreign tourists visit the museum every day in November and December but the number dwindles to less than 50 per day during the rainy season.
During the first half of 2015, over 323,701 tourists from various countries, including France, Germany, China and Japan have visited Myanmar by land, air and sea routes. The country has opened up to the world following a democratisation process after the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
So, I was excited to see the prison-like headquarters of the NLD, which is also the house of Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi.
Bypassing restrictions on our request, our bus slowly passed through the road in front of NLD headquarters.
This was where Suu Kyi was under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from July 20, 1989, until her release on November 13, 2010.
xtra008During the day-long touring, I was eager to visit Yangon’s less attractive tourist location where the last Mughal emperor Mirza Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar, also known as Bahadur Shah II, was buried along his wife and daughter.
Following his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled Bahadur Shah II to ‘Rangoon’ in British-controlled Burma.
Tourist guide Daw Win Myo Khin said the British could not pronounce Yangon. So they called it Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar. The present capital of the country has been relocated to the newly-built Naypyidaw to 54 million people.
According to Zafar Shah Mausoleum management committee member Hajiz Kamal Uddin, who migrated from India, the British government had buried the last emperor in November 1862 systematically so that the exact location of the grave cannot be traced. But in February 1991, the concealed tomb of a Chistiya Sufi follower was excavated during a renovation project.
xtra009He said hardly 20 people from Europe and the subcontinent visit the shrine daily, where you can still see ‘Red Fort’ written atop an entrance. Kamal said if there is any sectarian trouble the government instantly deploys forces around the shrine.
In the evening, I met many Bangladeshi businessmen and NGO officials who are living in the country for years. They hoped that bilateral relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh will continue to improve.
Currently, Novo Air is operating direct flight to Yangon from Dhaka, besides Biman Bangladesh Airlines.