Yangon, Myanmar is a quirky yet fascinating city to explore. As the gateway to Myanmar, Yangon, once called Rangoon, showcases some of the most awe-inspiring temples and pagodas in Southeast Asia. Once a colonial city ruled by the British, Yangon’s colonial charm is enduring and left almost untouched by outsiders over its five-year lockdown to the outside world. With all this history intact, there is much to discover, and without the usual crowds teeming across the continent. Bustling, alfresco markets, vibrant streets, colorful clothing and goods, and easily the friendliest folks in Asia, Yangon is magnetic and inspiring and hypnotically unfamiliar.
Shwedagon Pagoda is more than 2,500 years old, the oldest and most significant of all pagodas in Yangon and the world. In English it is called The Great Dagon Pagoda or Golden Pagoda and is more than 3000 feet high. Shewdagon is beautifully gilded, creating a lovely scene near Kandawgyi Lake atop Singuttara Hill. It is the dominant sight on the skyline. Enshrined within are relics of the last four Buddhas, making it the most sacred temple in Rangoon. Nearby, and also in Yangon, is Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, one of the most important reclining Buddhas in the country. At more than 200 feet in length, it is also one of the longest.
Museums Image: click&render (flickr)
The large cavernous building housing the National Museum in Yangon, is an interesting place to explore Myanmar culture and Myanmar history. The collection inside is priceless. Some of the most important artifacts include belongings of the former King Thibaw Min, the last king of Rangoon and Myanmar. His Lion Throne - named Sihasana and standing more than 25 feet high-beds, is bedazzled with jewels, ivory chairs, several barrows, or palanquins, on which he was carried, and magnificent costumes. The upstairs of this museum in Yangon houses an art gallery and the collections representing the country’s ancient history and natural history. The Myanmar Gem Museum is the place to find gems to buy and peruse. The four-story building displays Myanmar’s precious gems including sapphires, jades, rubies, and pearls on the third floor and features a gem market and jewelry shops on the second and third floors.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San Market Image: worak (flickr)
In the heart of Rangoon and directly on Bogyoke Aung San Road is one of the best markets in the country; Bogyoke Aung San Market where the old colonial building houses wide, tiled, indoor walkways giving way to myriad goods and services. The market is based around a square navigated by north, south, west, and east ends. Yet goods are spread over all parts, not categorized by wings. This makes it a particularly interesting and fun place to explore. Constructed in 1926, the building is named after General Aung San, a national leader and father to Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s modern day hero and Democratic Party leader. Bogyoke Aung San Market in Rangoon holds almost 1,700 shops and kiosks offering food, clothing, handicrafts, luxury goods, and much more.
There is a solid diversity of Myanmar accommodations to choose from in Yangon. An overview illustrates most hotels situated on the south side near the waterfront, which is by far the most interesting area. The central downtown and southern areas are ripe with historic alleyways and streets hiding away some of the most breathtaking architecture from the British colonial era. Guests can walk out of their hotel and throughout the easy maze of streets, exploring architecture along with interesting shops, great restaurants, and food stalls. There are also several airport hotels in the northern end.