Yangon formerly known as Rangoon, is the largest city in Myanmar where the crumbling buildings of the British colonials rub shoulders with the modern blocks of new Myanmar, glittering temples and pagodas. It’s busy and hectic but it’s got a different feel compared with Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh. Possibly because it’s only recently the government has loosened its grip, or maybe it’s the lack of scooters and motorbikes as two wheeled vehicles are illegal in the city.
FINDING YOUR WAY
The area south of Shwedagon Paya & Kandawgyi Lake is divided up into neat blocks so it’s easy to find your way around. Here you’ll find the main tourist sites, hotels, hostels, markets and the heart of Yangon night life, 19th Street.
HISTORICAL SITES & TEMPLES
Absolutely stunning. Guide books will say you need about 3 hours here and I’m sure I was there for about that. Everywhere you look are tiny details you missed the first time you walked round. It’s best visited in the morning when it’s not too hot or just before sunset. As the light fades the pink sky makes the gold of Shwedagon Paya twinkle and appear more golden.
As with all religious sites you will need to dress appropriately to enter the site. It’s easier to wear the correct clothing (and locals will appreciate you dressing conservatively in their city), but you can rent a sarong from the ticket counters. Read more about Buddhist temple etiquette here.
Foreign visitors pay 8,000 Kyats.
A short walk from Shwedagon Paya so you can visit both sites in a day. It’s not particularly stunning, but it’s a quiet place to wonder around. The wooden walkways are a bit unstable with the odd plank missing so watch your step.
EXPLORE BY TRAIN
The Circle Line
The train clickety-clacks out of Yangon to the green and dusty countryside with farms and villages. 29 miles of bumpy old track call at 38 stations where locals hop on and off as well as vendors selling fruits, vegetables and various fried snacks. The seats are hard and there is no air-con, but there are no doors or windows either so you’ll get a bit of a breeze as the train clunks along. It is hot in the heat of the day so make sure you take water. The easiest place to start is Yangon Central Station from platforms 6 and 7. The full loop takes three hours but you can hop off at any time to explore.
Tickets are about 11p.
FOOD & DRINK
Tea is a big deal in Myanmar – it’s black, Indian style normally served with sweetened condensed milk. The Rangoon Teahouse isn’t a traditional Burmese teahouse. It serves midrange delicious food and drinks. Curries start from 6,500 Kyats. Try the Dragon fruit drink with coconut water, lime and honey. For dessert definitely try the chocolate samosas. Where possible ingredients are sourced locally.
Friendly staff will give suggestions for new things to try and obviously they do great noodles. Try Lahpet Thoke which is Tea Leaf Salad. A mix of flavors and textures: Soft pickled tea leaves, crisp roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds and crunchy beans fried in garlic.
A really cheap place to eat. You can get a full fish for 6,000 Kyats (which is about £3.50) 19th Street is where most of the action is. Here restaurants double as bars with music late into the night, something of a rarity as curfews come and go.
Have been banned since I travelled to Yangon in 2017 to be replaced with more structured markets – something of a battle in a lot of Southeast Asian cities.
Anywhere between 9th and 39th street will be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from key sites.
Lil Yangon Hostel
I was recommended this hostel and it’s brilliant. The rooms are spacious and the beds are very comfortable. Kitchen is equipped with toaster, microwave and fridge with free tea and coffee all day. The staff were super helpful and can help you arrange onward travel.
Sleep In Hostel
For something a bit cheaper
Most people will fly into Yangon International Airport to start their trip around Myanmar. Daily flights into the international airport from cities including Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur or catch internal flights to Mandalay and Bagan. Be aware that domestic flights are expensive and you’ll probably be better off catching the bus.
Remember to get your tourist visa in advance. More trip planning information here.
Aung Mingalar and Hlaing Thar Yar are the two main bus terminals. Both are located about 45 minutes drive outside of the city so you need to be sure which one your bus departs from. The best way to avoid confusion is to ask for your hostel or hotel to arrange it for you. They will book the bus and arrange transport to the terminal for you.
A large network of buses cover the country and are generally preferable as they are faster and more comfortable than trains for long journeys.
Visited February 2017
Little Amy Tours @littleamytours