Off The Beaten Path in Yangon - Kyee Myindaing
Updated: Jul 25
Article and Photos by Joshua Van Lare
For some, the perfect day of travel is scripted by a glossy brochure. It is predictable, safe, entertaining and guarantees a multitude of predetermined, photo-op moments. Others seek something different, they desire experiences based in reality where they can explore the cultural nuances of the place they are visiting. I prefer the latter and perhaps that has a lot to do with the reason I spent five years living in Myanmar. Yangon provided incomparable uniqueness; never ceasing to fulfill my appetite for connecting with the extraordinary beauty of it’s daily life.
Should you find yourself near the river on west side of Yangon, this is definitely a worthwhile adventure. I suggest beginning early in the morning at the corner of Htee Dan and Taw Win Streets. Walk north through the bustling neighborhood and market stalls. Don't make the mistake of just breezing through the market, stop for a closer look when you see something interesting and be sure to notice interactions among the people from the neighborhood. Follow your intuition and explore the side streets if time allows. Once you reach Bagaya Street, turn left heading toward the Yangon River. If you're ready for a snack and a coffee or tea (Myanmar style) there's a small shop on the corner of Kyee Myindaing Kanner Road you can stop at before crossing the busy, main road.
Once across you can head down the stairs to the riverside, which provides another opportunity for refreshment as there is a small shop to sit at, but most importantly to watch the comings and goings of the little jetty. Small boats putter and gurgle across the strong current of the Yangon River. The ferry boats, sometimes referred to as sampans are colorfully painted. Their captains have unique looks and personalities and often take their break in the small shop near the river's edge. If you shoot video, photos, or just like to people watch, this is one of those spots you may wish to hang around for awhile.
When you've had your fill of life by the jetty (and I use that term loosely), head back up the stairs and to the left. Walk along the river to see the arrival, unloading and wholesale selling of coconuts, sugar cane and bananas. Part of the interest for me is the culture surrounding guys who work hard for a living. Regardless of what time of day you wander through, you're likely to see some guys hard at work, while others drink and even play some interesting games. I'm of the mindset that all aspects of a culture are interesting. In other words, I want to see and experience every corner of it, not just the food, historical, artistic and religious aspects of a culture. Sometimes, I find the less savory aspects of a culture are some of the most fascinating to uncover.
Once you've had enough dodging the flying coconuts, chinlone balls and diesel trucks, follow the road up to Bagaya Park. You can sit for a while and enjoy the view of the busy river traffic from above or just walk through and head toward the San Pya Fish Market. If you have a weak stomach or nose for that matter, perhaps you'll opt to skip this part of the journey. If you're hearty enough, you'll be rewarded with a real adventure. This is a full scale, in your face, wholesale seafood market; it's complete with full scale, in your face, fishy smells. In my opinion, this is a fun place to shoot photos. You'll have to keep your wits about you to avoid getting slimed by fish guts or run over by a cart load or truck full of seafood heading to one of the other markets or restaurants in Yangon or beyond.
It's my feeling that you should view your presence as that of a privileged guest who must respect the fact that the people around you are there to earn a living. It's one thing to be totally enamored by a culture and therefore to let your curiosity draw you to explore it. It is an entirely different thing to treat people as animals in a zoo in order to boast about your travels. In my opinion, intention is everything. In other words, please use caution, be friendly and respectful, stay out of the way and don't ruin the opportunity for future travelers to visit these fascinating places and marvel at the beauty of real people going about their everyday lives.
Please find a detailed map linked below.