Start your Myanmar expedition in its largest city, as well as the most important commercial centre – Yangon. What immediately strikes you is the omnipresence of buildings from the colonial-era. The entire city seems to have been planned around the 2,000-year-old Sule Pagoda, which acts as the commercial core. There is a big Indian influence visible throughout because the city was a major business hub during the British rule in India. If somebody there told me that it is still circa 1947, I wouldn't mind believing it because Myanmar doesn't seem to have developed much since. The ironic part is, Yangon is still the most happening place to be in Myanmar.Things to do in YangonSince you will spend a lot of your first day in Yangon trying to understand the mannerisms of a new country, it's important that you spend at least two days here. Here are some of the best things to do in and around Yangon during this time:1. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda – The most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar. Believed to contain relics of four previous Buddhas, including strands of hair from Gautama Buddha's head.2. Visit the Sule Pagoda – More than a religious symbol, it is an iconic structure for Yangon and Burmese political changes over the years.3. Visit the Kandawgyi Lake – Literally meaning the "great royal lake", it's a 150-acre large fresh water lake surrounded by the Kandawgyi National Park. This acts as a nice picnic spot for families in the evenings.4. Visit the pristine white beaches in Ngwesaung. It is a 15-km long beach resort located at a 5-hour drive away from Yangon. You can even spend the night here if you wish.In order to be better prepared to explore Yangon you can read this detailed piece on Yangon. You can even book hotels in advance to prevent the last-minute rush.Day 3 & 4
Best Time To Visit Yangon
How To Reach Yangon
Book Yangon Tour Package
I took over the map reading and we set out in the direction of Shwedagon Pagoda (or so I thought). After a while it was clear my map reading skills weren't up to scratch that day. I'd taken us in completely the wrong direction...oops! Despite using our umbrellas as parasols we were too hot to keep walking so we hailed a taxi. Twenty minutes later we'd only moved about 100 metres. Lesson learned, rush hour in Yangon is not the time to be getting a taxi anywhere. We got out and continued on foot. The sky behind Shwedagon Pagoda became black and angry as we approached, this just emphasised the gold even more. I managed to get just one photo before my phone died on me, annoying as there were some great photo opportunities inside the pagoda.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Next up was Bogyoke Aung San Market in Central Yangon. It was a sprawling under-cover market selling just about everything you can imagine. The main focus though appeared to be traditional arts and handicrafts. If you're in a shopping mood or are after some souvenirs then you could lose yourself here for several hours. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling it that day. Much as I love markets I just wasn't in a shopping haggling mood so we only had a quick look. I'd like to come back another time to spend more time browsing. The sky looked as if it was threatening rain so we bought an umbrella each. We'd been thinking about getting some for a couple of weeks but kept deciding against it. Everyone seemed to have them here though so we gave in, by the end of the day we were pleased we had. We pottered around the street's a bit longer looking at roadside vendors and stalls selling all-sorts. Tables overflowed with phone accessories, chargers and adapters, colourful fruit and vegetables, fish, dried fish and prawns. There were also several tea stations dotted about with with locals sitting sipping steaming glasses of green tea.
First stop was Sule Pagoda, a golden Buddhist stupa which doubles up as a roundabout. We had a quick look round, removing our shoes first and ensuring my shoulders and knees were covered. This is the norm when visiting temples in Asia. There were signs up everywhere displaying images of the clothing rules for the pagoda. Sule Pagoda's location was central and a perfect start to our exploration. We spent a while after that just wandering looking at sights and soaking up the atmosphere. On some corners we noticed street vendors selling tiny birds in cages, these were 'luck birds', a Buddist tradition. From what I could gather the belief is freeing these birds earns 'merit'. I couldn't see the logic of trapping and caging birds to then release them, but then who am I to question another's tradition. We also passed several colonial style buildings, such as the Independence Monument and the City Hall. All that walking in the heat had made us peckish so we popped into Lucky Seven Tea-shop near Independence Monument for a quick snack. I had a tasty bowl of Shan Noodles, whilst Andy went for vegetable soup, they were both great.
After a quick freshen up back at the B&B - we set out for the evening. We wanted to check out China Town, in particular 19th Street where we'd heard there was lots of barbeque street food stalls and beer stations. It was supposed to be pretty lively in the evenings. Barbeque all sorts (check description) also buskers and beer stations.
Outside of the busyness of the city, there are a few parks and lakes where you can enjoy some peace. We went to Kandawgi Lake (below) and Inya Lake (not to be confused with Inle Lake, which is located in northern Myanmar. Often times we would see lots of couples hanging out by the lake or taking long strolls. Sometimes young people also bring along a guitar and start strumming along and singing in a group. It's a really nice atmosphere and also provides some pretty scenic views, especially near sunset.
Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda
Finally arriving at our last destination and the largest city in Myanmar- Yangon. It was the former capital of Burma and has a good number of buildings belonging to the British colonial era. The reclining Buddha at the Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda is a 6 storey high Buddha image.The Reclining Buddha image is decorated with very expressive colors, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow, golden robe and red finger nails. He is wearing a Golden robe and is resting his head on his right hand. The Buddhist worship the statue, while the tourists are filled with awe by the magnificence of it.