I’ve been to night markets all over Southeast Asia. Chang Mai, Penang, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Manado. These are just to name a few. These bazarres have been nightly, weekly or occasionally monthly affairs filled with vendors selling the same old basic stuff throughout. That said, they’re always cool to visit, but sometimes you’re left wondering what’s so special about them.
Not so in the case of the night market I visited tonight. I say without reservation that Yangon’s Kyuntaw Road night market is the most interesting, most striking, most varied and extensive night market I’ve ever been to.
This may be because it’s an annual market. It’s only once a year for ten days that Kyuntaw Road here in Sanchaung township gets transformed into a street fair. I may also be singing its praises because it’s my neighborhood. Kyuntaw Road is my cross-street. It’s the main road that my little city street connects to. The night market begins just 2 blocks south of where my street leads into Kyuntaw.
Okay, but completely objectively, never have I been to a night market/street fair that has been as energetic, lively and frankly, hokey as the one at the end of my street. It kind of epitomizes Myanmar.
Before the market got underway, this neighborhood of Yangon called Sanchaung was full of parades. See, this is an old neighborhood. Each of the local Buddhist temples (pagodas being the preferred translation) have been around a long time, are quite revered and have special days during which the locals demonstrate their reverence by loudly parading (or donating to such processions) up and down every street in Sanchaung on their way to the temple. This is why I was able to get some cool video footage of a few examples of this.
Of note in the video – At 0:38, we see the rare Burmese ladyboy, only the third time I’ve captured one on camera in my time here. Both men and women wear the same garment here on the lower part of their body, the longgyi, the English word would be sarong, which itself is taken from Indonesian.. In any case, the difference in how they're worn is in how they’re tied. At 0:38, this man has tied his longgyi in a woman’s style. No one seems to care. The large collection of banknotes he’s also wearing are donations from admirers of his performance.
I’m not really sure if this festival is a local or national thing. It doesn’t seem to be connected to any of the major Buddhist holidays. I asked the guy at my laundry service who speaks pretty good English what was happening today, and he said it was a celebration of the local pagodas.
I hope to learn more about how the Kyuntaw Road night market, the best night market in SE Asia, came about. I’ll let you know what I find out.Enjoy the video.