Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar/Burma and the economic center of the country. It also has the main international airport of the country, making it the gateway to all the sights in Myanmar, including fantastic Bagan with its thousands of temples! The big cities are always a great way to learn about the culture of a country and with the Shwedagon Pagoda and beautiful Kandawkyi Lake, Yangon has a few sites that make the trip worthwhile!
Why you should go: The single most popular sight in Yangon and worth the trip alone is Shewdagon Pagoda. The iconic temple can be seen from many places in town – no wonder, the pagoda is 99m high and covered in pure gold, with estimates running up to 60 tons of gold. Add to that more than 7,000 precious stones sparkling in the sun, and you have a sight you can’t miss. While legend holds that the stupa was built more than 2,600 years ago, historians suggest it was more likely constructed in the 6th to 10th century, with countless updates and renovations over the centuries since. It is still a place of worship with daily prayers and rituals being conducted!
What also makes Yangon stand out from other big Asian cities are the many parks and lakes throughout the city, giving you plenty of options to escape the bustling crowds and traffic. You’ll have the People’s Park on one side of the Shwedagon Pagoda and, my favorite, Kandawgyi Lake on the other. It makes for a nice stroll, especially during sunset with splendid views of the pagoda and palace! Inya Lake is even bigger and also has some nice boardwalks around it!
And while in most Asian cities air conditioned malls have replaced the traditional markets, you can still find them here in Yangon. On the crowded streets of downtown, you’ll find anything from food and clothes to household articles, car parts and construction materials. And if plumbing supplies are not the right souvenir for you, check out Bogyoke Aung San market with a more tourist friendly selection!
Getting to Yangon is easy with non-stop flights from every major airport in Asia. Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are connected via low-cost carrier Air Asia, making it very affordable.
Getting Around Yangon is insexpensive: The airport is brand-new and more beautiful and efficient than any airport you’ll find in the US! It’s cheap ($8) to get into the city by taxi, use the official taxis to avoid surprises. Local taxis around the city are easy to find. You have to agree on a fixed fee for your trip before you get in, but I found most drivers to be honest and charge reasonable fees around town (less than $5).
My favorite area to stay in Yangon is around Kandawgyi Lake – it’s much nicer and less crowded than downtown and you have beautiful views over the city. I recommend the Esperado Hotel – it’s great value or the more upscale Kandawgyi Palace or Chatrium hotels. Many of the hotels are in bustling downtown – but it’s not as much fun as it used to be and the area looks run down. The new “hip and trendy” part of town is around Inya Lake with the new Melia Hotel!
Places to eat: Even if you are not staying at the Esperado Hotel, it’s worth visiting for it’s great rooftop restaurant with the best sunset views in town! The food is good and inexpensive considering the location. For a luxurious treat, try the bar or restaurants at the Strand Hotel with excellent service and prices to match! For travelers on a budget, there is plenty of tasty local food at low prices all over downtown.