Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Yangon: Myanmar Gems Museum & Gems Mart, National Museum, Kandawgyi Lake and Bogyoke Aung San Market

The trip to the Myanmar Gems Museum and the National Museum was rather disappointing. At the gems museum, I had expected to learn how gems or minerals are extracted from the earth but none of these, nor of how these are processed were published. All of the items on display were briefly labeled. As with the National Museum, the halls were poorly lit and the items were not described in much detail. It fell short of being educational to the visitor and behaved more like a rather dull 3-D picture book with labels of a few words.

The Myanmar Gems Museum is located at the third floor of the building with the bottom three floors occupied by Gems stores. As R's movement was limited by the pain of her foot, she hopped so as not to apply pressure on the problematic foot. After going pass the security check, we immediately headed to the elevator only to be stopped by the guard. The lift is not to be used. So, there were three flights of stairs to conquer and R managed to inch her way up.

As the museum building is on the hill and on the third floor, this allowed us to appreciate the view of Myanmar. Much later, we could see the Maha Pasana Cave from inside the museum. The entrance fee was USD5. While we were making this payment, the attendant was promoting the sale of a souvenier book that details all the gems found in Myanmar. Sadly, the book was an attempt of the attendant trying to earn additional revenue as it was more a home project of compiled photocopies and pasted cut-outs precious stones pictures.

Inside the museum, all encased in glass are gem stones and mineral stones. There were complete tea sets of different type of jades. According to the guide, black jade is not as valuable as green ones. Jade quality is identified based on its greenness and clarity although white jade fetches high price too.

On display were varying shades of rubies, jade, saphires, agate, aquamarine, moonstones and so forth with clarity and deeper, darker shades fetching higher prices. There were two big showcases; one depicting fishes in an aquarium while the other a model of Shwedagon; both covered with precious stones and metals.

At the other side of the museum were displays of metals that Myanmar produce. We have gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tungsten and several more. And, there were other minerals made up of several elements, which I cannot now remember. Photography is not permitted, which is a pity as I'd have like to take pictures of these minerals. It was from this visit that it hit me how filthy rich Myanmar is. In addition to these minerals, there's oil and water, and its fertile soil enriches a healthy produce of agriculture. Yet, its people are one of the poorest in the world where proper sanitation and medical amenities are still lacking in many parts of its country. This has attracted many NGOs and volunteers from all regions of the world to help improve living conditions of its people especially those in the rural areas.

The building in plain sight from the road with its big sign

View of houses in the midst of the green from the building

Largest jade boulder by the entrance of the museum building

A label underneath the big stone detailing its origin and dimensions

At the National Museum, we were greeted by the first hall of inscriptions where written engravings were found on wood and gold sheets. Again, photography is not permitted. These were followed by ancient writings and modern literature. The museum has five floors, with each floor showing interesting exhibits of Myanmar royal regalia, architecture, jewelery, religion, culture, history and art. There was even this grand throne hall where the only of the eight thrones remain, the Lion Throne. Like an ancient treasure seen in a Sinbad movie (imagine the throne in a cave for more effects of forbiddance, ancientness and rarity), the heavily-crafted throne of gold and all precious metals on earth stands like a gate on a solid high platform. Where the King sat, he must have appeared so high and unreachable to anybody. (Other links on Myanmar thrones found here and here)

I particularly like the display of traditional Myanmarese musical instruments. I wished they had more to tell of what was displayed.

Image linked from The Thrones of Myanmar Kings by Ma Thanegi

I can't quite remember the chronicle of events; whether we visited the Bogyoke Aung San Market first before heading to Lake Kandawgyi. Anyway, the trip to the market was short because I didn't bring enough cash to spend and R didn't seem to be keen to make any purchase. Since we could easily exchange money at our hotel, I've carried only enough Kyat and US dollars to last the day while keeping the rest of my US dollars safely locked in R's luggage back at the hotel. While the trip to the market was pre-planned, I had come unprepared with just enough money to spend them all on some souveniers (t-shirts) to bring home. The market kind of reminded me of the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. As Myanmar is famous for its gemstones, there are a lot of gem shops in the market. Also in great numbers were textile shops, selling designs of all sorts for making longyis.

I wondered if Min-U had found it peculiar that we have had an especially brief shopping spree. Once again, we were back on the road and soon found ourselves advancing towards Lake Kandawgyi. Prior entry, Min-U had told us to stay quiet to let him do the talking. Later, I realised he had done this to save us the entrance fee by having us guised as locals, which I thought was really sweet of him. I am very much grateful for Min-U's consideration. Throughout our trip, he would drive us to the venue as close as possible so as to save R from walking. He was doing exactly that at Lake Kandawgyi. I requested to be stopped at several spots to grab a few pictures. At one such spot, I had found a couple sitting side by side amongst the tall grass by the bank of the lake. How sweet, I thought.

Kandawgyi Palace Hotel

Karaweik, Floating Royal Barge

Shwedagon Paya across Lake Kandawgyi

A school bus in which two particular students kept waving to us for a long while before they turned into a junction. The children have such beautiful smiles.

No comments: