Finally Burma - or Myanmar, but we still call it Burma back home. Even some of my friends do not know where Myanmar is. Burma they know!
My first impression on Yangon, besides my hotel room, was Sule Paya, or Sule Pagoda. I saw it from the taxi and I was able to see it from my hotel. Since the sun was about to set, I did a quick run down to the street to get the beautiful 2000 year old pagoda with the last few rays of sunlight and I knew I am finally in Yangon!
I woke up really early, luckily! So, I was able to catch the sunrise from the rooftop of my hotel. Awesome! And also awesome to see Sule Paya still being lit up from the night but in the morning glow from the rising sun.
Since it was just in the neighborhood of my hotel, Sule was also the first stop in the morning when I started my tour. As it sits in the middle of a really busy traffic circle I struggled for a while to get across to it. I spotted the pedestrian bridge over to one of the entrances on the upper level too late, and I wanted to get the best sunlight from the east side first, so I had to get into the south entrance alive!
I knew there was an entrance fee for tourists, but I was overwhelmed by three young ladies who approached me for 1) leaving my shoes, 2) offering flowers and 3) offering joss sticks and candles. All for 3000K which was the same as the entrance fee. However, with my hands full with all of the offerings for the gods, I went up the stairs and promptly was asked to pay 3000K for visiting the pagoda! My first day, my first place to visit and I was being screwed already!
Surprisingly there were no tourists inside the pagoda. But then I also felt that I saw almost no tourists in Yangon, other than my hotel and the local markets. Sule Pagoda is a place for worship and it contains a sacred hair relic according to the old tales. I did my rounds around the golden stupa, paid my respect to the Buddha and enjoyed my first Burmese pagoda as long as possible.
My shoes where of course "somewhere" in a pile of other shoes when I got back. Not much for a 3000K "I-watch-your-shoes" fee!