Formerly known as Rangoon, this bustling city may no longer be the Burmese capital, but it continues to be the hub of economic activity, a hive of intellectual debate and the gateway for international visitors. The stunning Shwedagon Pagoda is the centerpiece of the city, a gleaming golden stupa visible from all over town. Closer to the waterfront, downtown Yangon is a warren of historic streets concealing some of the best British colonial-era architecture in the region. This is the real deal, and a walk along the Strand or Pansodan Street is like a stroll back in time. One surprise on arrival here is the complete lack of motorbikes, as they are banned from the streets in Yangon. Vibrant and dynamic, sweaty and steamy, Yangon is reaching for the future while trapped in the past.
The glorious golden spire of the gilded Shwedagon is the defining image of Yangon and a symbol of Burmese identity. Rising 98 m from its base, it positively glistens on a sunny day. Dating back 2,500 years – if legend is to be believed – Shwedagon is an absolute must. Every good Buddhist in Myanmar tries to make at least one pilgrimage here in their lifetime; many come for the Shwedagon festival in February to March. The compound, with its main stupa and 82 other buildings, is astounding any time of day, but the evening and sunrise – when slanting light illuminates the gilding – is the most magical.
Located on the middle of one of Yangon’s leafiest parks, this is a fine place to stroll at dusk and see locals out and about exercising. Look out for a spectacular reflection of the Shwedagon in the placid waters. Dominating the eastern side of the lake is a kitsch replica of a royal Burmese barge called Karaweik. Symbolizing Garuda, the vehicle of Hindu god Vishnu, it offers a popular photo opportunity.
BOGYOKE AUNG SAN (SCOTT) MARKET
This grand old market has the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts in Yangon, as well as jewelry, longyi, shoes, bags and pretty much anything else.
YANGON’S CIRCLE TRAIN
Opened in 1961, the train carries an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people a day in a loop around the city. This is the way the locals live it – a unique, fun and authentic experience. Be prepared to be thrown into the midst of local life, chat to curious travelers and maybe stand for some of the 3-hour journey, with priority given to sacks of vegetables heading to local markets. This experience will give a unique opportunity to enjoy observing the lively and colorful local life around the biggest city in Myanmar.
A stone away from Yangon’s downtown, this famous town was a popular port of Portugal in the early 17th century. The stunning view from the 1,822-meter-long bridge overlooking Bago river is worth the trip to Thanlyin. Portuguese influenced buildings can also be seen as an evidence of its golden days. Thanlyin and its surrounding offer many attractions including National Race Village, over 200 years old Kyaik-Khauk Pagoda and Yele-Kyauktan Pagoda, known as the “Island Pagoda”, on Bago river.
The town of Dala is located in the colorful countryside surrounding the busy city of Yangon. Travel by ferry across the Yangon River to Dala where a trishaw ride exposes the natural beauty and local customs of this rural town. Although close to Yangon, the pace of life is dramatically different. Stop at the local monastery to learn about the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the people before returning to Yangon.
Easy access from Yangon, the town is about 2 hour boat trip along the canal from Yangon. Experience a joyful rural life during the trip, as Twante is known for its potteries making and cotton weaving industries. A smaller version of infamous Shwedagon Pagoda, named Shwesandaw Pagoda, is also worth a visit nearby the center.
Once the glittering capital of lower Myanmar during Mon Dyansty, Bago is about 80 km north of Yangon. Along the way to this town, it is possible to enjoy the charming and peaceful lifestyle of the local community. With the river crossing in the of the town, Bago has many capturing cultural sites to visit, including Shwemawdaw Pagoda, Shwethakyaung reclining Buddha, kalayani Sima Ordination Hall, a massive 28 meter tall Buddha Statue in Kyaikpun Pagoda, and the the Mon Kingdom’s Kanbawzathardi Palace.
Located in Greater Yangon, this well maintained cemetery has 27,000 tombstones of British Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in Myanmar during WWII. This beautiful and peaceful place is about 90-minute drive away from downtown Yangon.