Ganesha and the Mogok ruby dealers
What is it that lures us back to places we have been previously? One of my first walks in Yangon on this trip was to find the Golden Smiles Inn, the guesthouse where I had stayed in 2004, well to the west of where I stayed in 2014. The Golden Smiles Inn was no longer listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook so that should have tipped me off. But I remembered a great wrapped Bodhi tree, alive with Ganesha and other Hindu deities at the foot of which sat the dealers in rubies from Mogok.
Street map of Yangon
Off I sauntered along Maha Bandula Street, round Sule Pagoda, down Sule Pagoda Road, passed Maha Bandula Gardens and headed west along Merchant Street. Shortly after where Strand Road joins Merchant Street, I spotted the Bodhi tree at the intersection of Shwe Botha Street and Merchant Street. There were the little plastic stools and tables loaded with rubies from Mogok but the cracked neon happy face sign that signaled the Golden Smiles Inn was nowhere to be seen. I walked up and down several times peering into the dim interior of the shops and buildings. This is a busy little spot, crowded with people buying and selling. I skirted the biggest crowd, clearly in some sort of lackadaisical line, and peeked into the building. There was the dilapidated photocopy machine I remembered, jammed into a very small space under the stairs of an entryway to the building that had been the home to the Golden Smiles Inn.
I slipped passed the line and climbed the stairs to discover that the Golden Smiles Inn had morphed into a Christian chapel! It was locked so down the stairs I went, passed the muddle of people wanting to have copies made and out into the street. I looked up. Under the rash of electrical wires, I could make out the Grecian columns that supported the balcony where I had eaten breakfast all those years ago. The grimy white columns I remembered were now painted cream and the balustrade had a burgundy trim. No sign of the backpackers’ laundry that hung in dismal heaps above the heads of the breakfasters.
A little frisson of sadness fluttered through me. But at least Ganesha and his friends the ruby dealers were still in their place. I wandered off, satisfied that my memory for places was still intact.
Streets of Yangon Photo Essay
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