Though Yangon’s name means “end of strife”, the city has certainly seen its share of it over the years. Conquered in 1755, it was then captured during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824), returned to Burma following the war and then decimated by fire in 1841. Seized by Britain in the Second Angle-Burmese war (1852), the city was occupied by the Japanese from 1942-1945 and damaged by World War II. Following World War II, Yangon’s formidable infrastructure declined markedly (especially in the 1960s) and the city was hit by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Current Yangon, a cross-pollination of ethnicities, foods and colourful buildings in slow decay, remains a wondrous place to discover. Despite its size, I saw few tourists and even fewer nonchalant Burmese: walking down the street inevitably led to a series of smiles, waves and a serious amount of staring. Given the isolation in Burma, its inhabitants were understandably thirsty for interaction. Thus, any given moment turned into a portrait of odds and ends. Case in point: this was the scene outside my hostel on my first morning:
Giant cow? Check. Satellite dish? Check. Lifejacket store? Check. Teenage boys catcalling the female tourists? Check.
I started out in Yangon, and then looped back to the former capital as my time in Burma was coming to a close. The first thing that caught my eye was the buildings, slowly losing the fight against the elements but incredibly elegant in their dilapidation:
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