I’m gonna start with a few observations about Myanmar as a whole:
First things first, this rumour about there not being any ATM’s in Myanmar is total BS. There are cash machines everywhere nowadays. If in doubt take US dollars with you – you can pay for travel and accommodation with them or exchange them for kyats for when you need smaller change.
Secondly, Myanmese people are by far the friendliest people (as a whole) than any other. If you find them staring you out, it’s usually because they’re intrigued – flash them a cheeky smile and watch as their whole face lights up before your eyes.
And last but not least they LOVE LOVE LOVE gold. They LOVE golden temples, golden pagodas and golden statues of Buddha, the main man himself.
Main Attractions in Yangon
I flew into and out of Yangon, and both times the weather was not on my side. It was humid but wet. Oh-so-very-wet. It bucketed it down so hard for so long that I had to go to the market to buy dry clothes. It was either that or climb the mountainous stairs to my hostel. I chose new clothes.
- You, however, don’t need such an excuse to visit Bogyoke Aung San Market – it’s pretty touristy, but a great place to potter around nonetheless. You can find clothes, bags, paintings, keyrings, jewellery and other souvenirs. The streets surrounding the market are even more mesmerizing to wander around.
- Pottering about the cobblestone streets whilst people-watching was my favourite thing to do in Yangon. It’s like every street had it’s own speciality, be it printing or clock making, cloth printing, door sign making or food and drink selling – which leads me to….
- 19th Street, it’s infamous 40p mojitos, and even cheaper beer. The street, which is located in downtown Chinatown, is colourful, atmospheric and lined with restaurants waiting to throw the skewers of your choice onto their smoking BBQ’s. There are lots to choose from including pork, chicken, meatballs, tofu, ribs, squid, prawns, and then mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and plenty of other things too. The service is quick and pleasant and the food and drinks are delicious – there’s no wonder why you struggle to find a place to sit! (Rough price guide: A grilled fish will cost around 5,000kyat (£2.50) and a large portion of rice around 400 kyat (20p) ).
- Yangons first fast food joint – If you’re feeling a bit homesick, hungover or just craving the Colonel’s finest, you may be able to find some comfort here. Fast food giant KFC was the first international brand to enter the Myanmar market. There were huge crowds when the restaurant first opened it’s doors opposite Bogyoke Aung San Market in June 2015 (the second was introduced not long after in November 2015 – it even has it’s own Facebook page with 25,000 likes).
- Sule Pagoda – Located in downtown Yangon, in the crossroads of Sule Paya Road and Mahabandoola Road. It represents the centre of the city and has been a focal point for political uprisings.It served as a rallying point in both the 1988 uprisings and the 2007 Saffron Revolution. According to legend, it was built before the Shwedagon Pagoda during the time of the Buddha, making it more than 2,500 years old. The Sule Pagoda opens daily from 6 am until 10 pm. Entrance fee is US$ 3 per person. Near the pagoda’s entrance visitors shoes are put on shelves before entering the grounds. Foreign visitors are requested to make a donation (500-1,000 kyat).
- Yangon Zooilogical Gardens – is the oldest and the second largest zoo in Myanmar. Located immediately north of downtown Yangon near Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, the 70 acre recreational park also includes a museum of natural history, an aquarium and an amusement park. It boasts a huge collection of animals, comprising of over 60 species of mammals. 70 species of birds and 20 species of reptiles who, on the whole, appear to be well fed and cared for. However, enclosures are often too small and the chained elephants and circus-like weekend animal shows are upsetting spectacles for animal lovers. The Zoo opens daily from 8am til 6pm and entry costs USD $10. Image via: www.myanmars.net
- Shwedagon Pagoda – is one of the most famous pagodas in the world and it is certainly the main attraction of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city. Locally known as Shwedagon Zedi Daw. It sits atop of a hill and is 99 meters high. It can be seen from most places of Yangon day and night, as the golden roof illuminates the city. The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, the whole giddy concoction offset by a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun. It is referred to in Myanmar as “The crown of Burma.” Opening times: 4am – 10pm. Entry fee: USD $8 or 8,000 kyat. Tip: Visit after 5pm when everything is lit up and the ground is not so hot to walk on! You must cover your shoulders and knees.
- The Circle Train – is the local commuter rail network that serves the Yangon metropolitan area. Operated by Myanmar Railways, the 45.9-kilometre (28.5 mi) 39-station loop system connects satellite towns and suburban areas to the city. The loop, which takes about three hours to complete, is a way to see a cross section of life in Yangon. The Railway is heavily utilised by lower-income commuters, as it is (along with buses) the cheapest method of transportation in Yangon. The service hours are from 3:45 am to 10:15 pm daily. The cost of a ticket is 100-200 kyat (5-10p) depending on whether you travel under or over 15 miles.
Train images via: www.travel.paintedstork.com
- Reclining Buddha – The little known Chaukhtatgyi Temple in Myanmar’s capital city Yangon has one of the biggest and most graceful Reclining Buddha statues in South East Asia. The Buddha image is 66 metres (217 ft) long! The construction was sponsored by a wealthy Burmese Buddhist, Sir Po Tha, in 1899. It originally faced North-West and was actually in a seated posture, the design was changed after initial construction issues. It was completed 8 years later in 1907 by another construction company. Opening hours: all day and night. Entry fee: free.
SAFETY IN YANGON
Due to the unique laws of the country, street crime is almost non existent. Pickpockets/Muggers receive a mandatory 5 years incarceration unless they can pay large fees to reduce the sentence and the city is policed mostly by non-uniformed police. These two unique features of Myanmar means you will not experience any crime during your visit. Making Yangon one of the safest big cities in the world.