Monday, January 26, 2015

National Races Village

Mingalaba! We returned to Myanmar some time ago.

The weather is warm and dry, a real warm European summer. Sometimes, in the evening, I am enjoying the fresh air with scents of burnt leaves from some of the gardens around and I remember the childhood when people were burning their weed in my country in Europe. There is no trace of humidity in the air. It is just pleasant. Flowers are blooming and the mango trees are showing their fruits. It is the strawberry season!

We visited the National Races Village this weekend, one of the last sightseeing sights we had on our list for Yangon. It is an open-air ethnological museum which displays houses from the different regions of the country.

The park which hosts the museum expands on the shore of river Bago. It is situated close to Thanlyin Bridge, in Thanketa Township, around 30 to 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Yangon. The entrance fee for foreigners is 3000 Kyatts. It is nice as you can rent bicycles and ride along the long alleys. There are some cafes and locals sell fruits around the park.

(One should not pay more than 6000 Kyatts from downtown to arrive there. Of course, the taxi drivers will try to get as much as they can from the tourists (show them a picture of the entrance of the park on your phone together with the address so they quickly understand where to take you). The first taxi driver tried to charge us 15000 Kyatts!!! It is best to say "no, thank you" and just leave than try to negotiate even if he is reducing the price and calls after you. Of course, we did not have an idea where the park is and how long the drive would be. But asking different taxi drivers we realised that it cannot be more than 5000 Kyatts from our home. With a bit of negotiation we could even have gone a bit below but knowing the heavy traffic we accepted this price.) 

Myanmar is a very diverse and rich country with different cultures and traditions. It has over 135 different ethnic groups gathered in eight national ethnic 'races' as they are called (Bamar, Chin, Kayah, Kayin, Kachin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan) each of them with their particularities. You can visit a house from each of these areas.

Traditionally the houses are built on stilts because of the long and strong rains but also because the cattle is kept under the house. The architecture of the house differs from region to region depending mostly on weather conditions and the wealth of the region. Inside of a region you have variations of style depending on the position, religion and wealth of the inhabitants.

The houses are built out of wood and bamboo, and most of them have thatched roofs. Some have large and numerous windows while some, which are in areas with a colder climate, have only some small ones. In each of the house there is a collection of household items, music instruments and costumes. Most of the houses have terraces where the guests are received and taken care of.

In some of them, young people are dressed in the traditional costumes of that region and are posing for pictures.

Each house has a small shop which sells traditional fabrics and small handicrafts of that specific region.
The locals come also to enjoy the park with its Watch Tower, the enclosures with birds, crocodiles or dears, a small artificial waterfall, the lakes, the mangrove park and the river bank. The young couples, again, hide behind umbrellas for a bit of intimacy. There are many locals but only a few tourists.

If you are in Yangon for a bit longer than three days it is worth a visit. The museum opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. But because of the long distance from downtown try to avoid the rush hour of lunchtime and around 5 p.m.

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