An essential place to visit in my nature quest was the largest market in Yangon, Thiri Mingalar Market. To call it busy and bustling would be an understatement. Trucks and bicycles loaded with produce from the countryside were being unloaded. Crowds of people milled around - shopping, selling, looking, talking, eating, drinking or just being. There was a remarkably good vibe.
In the market there are red, yellow and green bananas displayed for sale. They are sold on their stalks, in large bunches.
Flowers are important in Burmese culture as offerings to Buddha.
Lots of places to sit and have a healthy home cooked snack. No fast food here. This product was strictly not for vegetarians.
Bamboo had been prepared for cooking. It must have been hard work - cutting it down, cutting it into pieces, stripping the tough exterior, exposing the soft inner shoots that will be cooked and eaten. Bamboo has many uses in Southeast Asia. As well as food, it is used for baskets, hats and building materials. It grows easily in the tropical climate, but bamboo forests are so vigorous they can choke out everything else, reducing biodiversity.
Chilis, green and red, and various varieties, also grow easily here, are an essential ingredient in Asian cooking, including Myanmar cooking.
Next site in my nature quest was a train carriage. The Circle Line goes around Yangon and the surrounding countryside. The round trip takes three hours. It was a bit like being in the cinema. I just sat there and watched the ever changing varied cast of characters getting on and off the train.
Cheroots are very important in Myanmar culture. According to writer Daw Khin Myo Chit, there is a traditional sensual Myanmar love song, still sung today, about a lady who gives her lover a cheroot. Her maid tells him she did not buy the tha nat leaf from the market, but picked it from the tree with her own hands, and let it dry under her bed from the warmth of her body.
Many people use the train as a means to transport goods. It is cheaper and much better for the environment than road use.
People selling food and drink get on and off the train. In this case the man is selling sliced pineapple. Another person was selling bottled water, another bananas.
This child has thanakha paste on her cheeks. Thanakha is a popular natural sunscreen derived from the shaved bark of a tree in the orange family. It is massaged into the cheeks of women and children. It is also believed to soften the skin and is used as makeup.
A man got on the train carrying two cages full of birds. He was taking them to Yangon to sell them, so people could set them free, thereby accumulating merit. According to Buddhist teachings, accumulating merit in this life is important in relation to your next incarnation. This man had obviously trapped the birds specifically for this purpose. I worried about the welfare of the birds, and wondered how they would get on in their new environment.
Last year an article in Scientific American discussed research in Cambodia that estimated nearly 700,000 birds go through this trade every year. They include 57 different species, including some that are threatened with extinction.
The Buddhist ritual of merit release, common throughout Asia, raises concerns about cruelty to the birds, and the impact on threatened species. The aim of the action is to show compassion, but the current context has clearly debased the noble intention.
This is the last of my three posts on Myanmar. I only went to Inle Lake and Yangon. One day I hope to return to explore more of this fascinating country.