The jewel of Southeast Asia, Yangon has been out of the world for decades, but is now rapidly entering into the global tourist map. The unique blend of fascinating Buddhist temples and majestic British colonial architecture makes it a superior destination. If we add to that its location on several rivers, the proximity of underdeveloped beaches and a large number of well kept green areas all around, this city has all one could possibly ask for! And since it has just started awakening, it is the perfect moment to visit and get a direct view of how Asia once was.
What is Yangon Like
Yangon is one of the best examples of a garden city. The city center has a perfect orthogonal street grid, with elegant buildings and beautiful temples, while the periphery is dominated by green areas dotted with buildings. The city lies on several rivers: Yangon, Bago, Hlaing and the Pazundaung canal and includes several lakes like Kandawgyi and Inya. The city center distinguishes itself due to its density and the beauty of its architecture. It begins at Bo Gyoke road in the north, and spreads all the way to the three rivers (except for Bago). It is the only big city in Southeast Asia that has a proper center with a Main Square, on the crossroad of Maha Bandula and Sule Pagoda road. Several important buildings are located there.
What to See in Yangon
The main architectural landmark of Yangon is the spectacular Shwedagon Paya: a 98 meter tall main stupa with 82 other buildings decorated with golden leafs, diamonds and other precious stones. The most important religious monument in Myanmar is located on the Singuttara Hill, a sacred place 2 km northwest of the main square. Next to it, on a separate hill Maha Vizaya pagoda is less crowded yet authentic. Nearby Kandawgyi lake is a nice place to escape from the fuss of the city and the beautiful Karaweik at its eastern end is a replica of the Burmese royal boat. Sunsets here will never be forgotten. In the city center, Sule Paya on the main square is 2000 years old. Next to it we find two great examples of colonial heritage: the Yangon City Hall and the Yangon High Court. The charming little Mahabandola Garden between them houses the Independence Monument. Nearby the Bogyoke Market on Bo Gyoke road has the largest selection of handicrafts in the city.
The best area to stay in Yangon by far is the city center. Although hotels outside of the center often have gardens and include a lot of adjacent space, there are no amenities in their close vicinity, which means that guests would have to dine at the hotel. Central hotel prices are a bit higher, the surrounding is dirtier and noisier, but the shopping, dining, services and cultural offer are considerably better. There are several midrange hotels near the city hall, while budget hotels and pensions are close to the Pazundaung canal, at the edge of the old city. For an unforgettable experience in Yangon check this luxury yacht hotel.
Public transport in Yangon relies on very old and crowded buses. They are cheap and one can hop on through the open door at marked bus stops or at any time the bus stops for any reason. The other way of moving around Yangon is hiring a taxi. Taxis are still reasonably cheap, but the drivers speak very little English, so it is advised to be armed with names and directions and try to pronounce them well before getting into one. Walking around the city can be a rewarding experience and is highly recommended. There is still not much traffic in Yangon compared to its neighboring counterparts, so it’s safe. Besides that, some beautiful temples and neighborhoods are hidden all around the city, and can only be accessed on foot.
Great location, beautiful architecture and nice parks are just some of the attractions of this charming metropolis. However, Yangon biggest asset is its people, amongst the friendliest and most authentic in the region. Both men and women still wear traditional clothes similar to a sarong, men chew betel nut and spit all around, while women still paint their faces with thanaka as sun protection. It is an exotic city that shocks you immediately by the huge contrast of the luxury of its architecture and urban parks on one side, and poverty and traditional way of life on the other. The other paradox, quite rare nowadays for large cities, it feels like a smaller town or village. We are talking about a metropolis of around five million warm friendly people!
Yangon Travel Guide
- Stay in the city centre, not for from the main square. Happy Frog recommends Best Western Chinatown Hotel
- Shwedagon Paya and the nearby Maha Vizaya;
- Sule Paya and the main square;
- The old Synagogue and the Mosque;
- Strand Hotel and the Botataung Paya.
- Have dinner at one of the street stalls on 19th
- On foot, by bus, rickshaw or taxi.
- Go on an excursion to Bago.
DO NOT MISS:
- Get lost in the Kandagwgyi lake and watch sunset near the Karaweik;
- Explore the Old town, and find Chinese and Hindu temples;
- Have a cocktail at Sky bistro and enjoy the view over Yangon;
- Shop at Bogyoke market;
- Take a city bus to mix with locals.