Serene Retreat

Updated: 2014-08-28 10:18

By Rebecca Lo(Shanghai Star)

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Serene Retreat

Shwedagon Pagoda serves as one of the religious centers of Yangon. [Photo by Rebecca Lo/For China Daily]

Yangon mesmerizes with ancient pagodas, scenic lakes, hip bars in restored colonial architecture and delicious freshwater seafood. Rebecca Lo finds out why it is Asia’s current hotspot.

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It is just past dawn as we make our way up the southern steps of Singuttara Hill. After arriving at Shwedagon Pagoda, we enter the golden complex and marvel at how all of Yangon seems to be worshipping at this hour. We walk in a clockwise pattern around the central stupa alongside the locals.

Monks go about their daily morning prayers, couples stroll hand in hand, and families with babes in arms chat while resting on the marble steps.

It has the atmosphere of a town square, showcasing the country’s seamless marriage between the sacred and the secular. It is a scene repeated many times throughout the former city in a multitude of ways.

For centuries, Myanmar has fascinated intrepid adventurers, though only recently has travel to the country become safer and more convenient.

With the release of political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi in 2010 followed by the easing of economic sanctions in 2012 by the United States and European Union, the country is on the cusp of exploding as a tourist destination. And all roads lead to Yangon, its most populous city.

We are both wilting from the 38 C heat by dusk, and decide to have a light supper at Mandalay Restaurant in Belmond Governor’s Residence. We are seated at a table overlooking the pretty garden on the veranda under gently whirling ceiling fans, and thoroughly enjoy the white tablecloth service by the hotel’s attentive staff.

I love my salad topped with grilled sea bass; some of the greens are unfamiliar to my taste buds, but their sour and savory notes make the dish refreshing when paired with a generous amount of flaky fish.

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