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Friday, 10 April 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

The comments which I made regarding the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok apply equally to the Yangon Shangri-La Hotel.  Whatever is the highest rating for hotels, I would give it to Shangri-La Hotels.  Again, the breakfast buffet was equally as exceptional, and I had a large breakfast each morning so that I could skip lunch.  Viking covered the breakfasts at the hotels, but not the lunches in Bangkok and in Yangon. 

When driving into Yangon, something obvious that stands out is that all the streets and sidewalks are paved.  Yangon is home to about 5 million people, a five-fold increase in three decades.

The Sule Pagoda is at the center of the city.  The British used the Pagoda as a centerpiece for their Victorian grid-plan system in the mid 19th century.  Its origins are believed to date back to 230 BC, when two Indian missionaries were given permission to build a shrine where they preserved a hair of Buddha.   

The massive City Hall, across from Mahabandoola Gardens, was erected in 1924.  It fuses typically British-style with Burmese elements, such as traditional tiered roofs, and a peacock seal high over the entrance.

In the center of the Mahabandoola Gardens. there stands the Independence Monument, a 150' obelisk surrounded by five smaller 30' pillars.

Southeast of the Gardens, there is the Strand Hotel, patronized by personages like Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham.   After decades in the doldrums, the building was lavishly refurbished in the mid-1990s - its timeless elegance endures, with colonial-style wicker furniture in the lounge and corridors of polished marble.   In the teak furnished lounge, high tea is served to the accompaniment of harp music each afternoon.

The best known sight is the surreal Karaweik Restaurant on the eastern shore. Constructed in the early 1970s, the floating structure replicates a pyi-gyi-mum, or royal barge, such as those Burma’s kings and queens would traditionally have used on ceremonial occasions.  The restaurant is made of brick and concrete and is anchored to the lake bottom. In the evenings, popular buffet dinners feature a three-hour culture show including music, classical dance and puppetry.

Next blog - continuation of day....

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.


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