We arrived in Yangoon late in the afternoon, and the first thing we noticed is that the guidebook was right- almost all the men, even young fashionable ones with spiked hair are wearing longyi (long skirts), many people have blood red teeth from chewing betelnut, and many women (and a few men) have their faces painted with yellow-white thanaka. You'll see it in some of our photos on the blog, mostly as white circles on the cheeks. We grabbed a cab and made our way to our hotel through some of the most chaotic traffic I've ever seen. People in Burma drive on the right side of the road, but since this was only mandated a few years ago almost all vehicles have the steering wheel on the right as well, which makes for interesting driving. We've mostly seen people driving pretty slowly though, which is good because there are tons of people and bikes going every which way, plus the occasional car that wants to drive on the left.
After about an hour in traffic we arrived in downtown Yangon, checked in, and immediately headed back out so that we could catch Shwedagon Paya at sunset. Shwedagon is the largest and most holy site in all of Burma, and the pictures really don't do it justice. It's covered in gold leaf every 5 years and the top is covered in gemstones, jewelry, and large gold plates donated by Buddhists seeking merit. It is stunning.
Sadly traffic meant another hour (total taxi fare- $2 USD) before we got to Shwedagon and it was already dusk, but fortunately the whole area is illuminated at night and maybe even more beautiful. One definite advantage of seeing it at night is that they put a spot light on the 76 carat diamond at the top so you can see it sparkle from the right vantage point.
After seeing Shwedagon we wandered to a nearbye night market where we saw monks gambling, a stall offering quick tattoos, and a lot of carnival type games. Another $2 cab ride and we were back at our hotel where we had some decent curry at the restaurant next door. All in all a successful first day in Burma!