Type: City Break
Best Date to Visit: Nov-Jan
Things to Do: Roam, Shopping
Points of Interest: Scwedagon Pagoda, Sule Pagoda, National Museum of Myanmar, Abandoned Amusement Park, Kandawgyi lake and many more
The Good: Cheap, much more modern than first perceived
The Bad: Very Traffic, walking is sometimes easier and quicker than the road, Pavements are not made up.
Yangon is the largest and most populated city of Myanmar. The city is no longer the capital as it has been recently replaced to Naypyidaw (on 2006) which was purposely built to uphold the administrative functions of the country.
I stayed in Yangon for around four days in total which I think is enough for the former capital city of Myanmar. I was staying near China town in a hostel and nearly everything was a walkaway from the location. There was plenty to see in the city and below are descriptions and my experiences towards these points of interests.
The Main Attraction
Firstly, the main place to visit in Yangon is the Schwedagon Pagoda also dubbed the Golden Pagoda which is like its unofficial name gold plated and diamond studded. This Pagoda which is 99 meters tall can arguably be seen from most places in Yangon. It is the country’s main and most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Although closed at night, the best time to see this is when dark as various spotlights illuminate the pagoda in stunning picturesque ways.
…and the other attraction.
Half the size of Schwedagon the Sule Pagoda is also a place to go. It is situated in a very busy manic part of Yangon’s centre near markets and colonial buildings. This pagoda is ancient and built around 2,500 years ago. It has always been octagonal, but it has constantly been repaired and renovated. For me this place didn’t really seem to cater for tourism and was strictly for worship (felt like it anyway), for this reason I did not enter the Pagoda.
In the middle of a busy district is the Myanmar National Museum which showcases Burmese art, history and culture. A beautiful place for visitors who want to learn more about the nation in a single building.
Kandawgyi lake which is also known as the Royal lake is also a nice place to visit. Situated near Yangon Zoo it is said to have marvellous views especially upon the sunset. The main attraction for this lake is the Karaweik Hall which looks like a huge barge floating on the lake, a spectacle to see. The hall hosts entertainment with reception halls, theatres, restaurants and conference halls.
A Little Adventure
One of the best hidden secrets of Yangon is the abandoned amusement park, which I don’t think is an official tourist attraction but very popular for adventurous young travellers. The amusement park still has all the rustic rides brilliant for photos, beware though as this park is not maintained so plants have grown and there are plenty of mosquitos.
For nightlife China town is a nice place to go, there is several outside bars and pubs. The street is also good when looking for food at night there are so many different restaurants to choose from. Two high end bars I went to were Eclipse and Port Autonomy. Port Autonomy is situated near Yangon river just next to 42nd street. This bar is classy compared to the other bars across Yangon, great place for cocktails in a chilled atmosphere. Eclipse in the other hand which is situated above Melia Mall is a nighlife multiplex with sport bars, clubs or a full throttle rave. Eclipse is a higher end complex so dressing a little nice would be recommendable.
Yangon was what I expected it to be but with little surprises. Before seeing Yangon for myself I envisaged it to be like that of Vietnam’s Hanoi. However, the city was much more updated and advanced than I first thought it’d be. The city had more upper-class malls and shops than I thought they’d have. Furthermore, the parks and Pagoda’s were clean updated and well organised. However, the downside was that the road traffic was very bad and that at times walking was a better option. Even when walking the pavements would not exist and you would find yourself walking side by side with vehicles, however this was safe and I never found myself in danger at any time.
All in all Yangon is a city which although chaotic at times (roads/ streets), there is beauty there if you choose to see it. Its people are some of the friendliest on par with all the ASEAN nations I have been to. It is evident that Yangon is constantly improving and that its government is fully behind it. I fully recommend a visit to this city apart from its beautiful golden structures it is cheap, friendly and safe, a big thumbs up.