Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar, very diverse and definitely worth a visit. While in downtown some streets and houses are still in a state of disrepair there are also charming colonial buildings, western malls and picturesque lanes by the lake. Yangon is also a city with some of the countries most important and impressive sacred sites like the Shwedagon Pagoda or the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple. But at the same time it’s the place where new and modern shops and restaurants emerge. While it’s easy to orientate in the grid of downtown, the hot weather, bad roads and sometimes long distances make it not the best city for long walks. We actually took a taxi for basically every meter as they are very cheap and there is no tourist friendly public transportation. So for taxi rides I highly recommend the app Grab!
Stay: The newly opened Pan Pacific Hotel right above the Junction City mall is most central in downtown Yangon, chic, modern and offers fantastic breakfast. The staff is very friendly and helpful even with last minute arrangements.
Do: One of the highlights in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda with its massive golden stupa. The whole temple complex is beautiful, there are so many statues, stupas and gold everywhere you look. Lots of tourists, believers and pilgrims come from all over the world to worship and pray here. Another impressive sacred sight is the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple because of the 66 meter long declining Buddha statue. It’s not only extremely big it’s also very beautiful. Especially the details on face and feet are lovely. Right across the street you find the Ngahtatgyi pagoda with an enormous sitting Buddha. A good way to get a feeling for the local everyday life and the areas around Yangon is a ride with the Circle Line train. The train starts and ends at the central station and takes three hours to complete its circuit. The ticket only costs about 20 cents and you get to see a lot of different colorful sceneries and people selling fruits, drinks or noodles, getting on and off the train with hawker’s trays or tablets on their heads. Quite the opposite to bustling downtown is the neighborhood around the Inya lake. Here it is calm and more idyllic, you can take a walk around the lake or sit on the lawn with a cold beer and many other young Burmese.
Eat: Rangoon Tea House is a vibrant twist on the traditional burmese teahouse. In the restaurant they serve a delicious variety of indian and asian inspired dishes, like chicken biryani and tea leaf salad. The cocktails like Mandalay Mule or Jasmine Gin & Tonic are also great, especially during happy hour (3pm-7pm). Green Gallery is a small, welcoming thai restaurant, that offers delicious curries and thai classics in a nice, cozy and vibrant atmosphere. Le Planteur is a more fancy restaurant in a beautiful colonial building with a garden right at the Inya lake. Bread Talk in the Junction City mall is a bakery chain from Singapore with some delicious breads and pastries, especially the Hokkaido cake roll. The supermarket called marketplace by city mart in the mall is also well stocked. Yangon Bake House is a cafe with a great social initiative and super delicious cakes, bars and pies, like apple pie and coco-lime bars. They have a second small stall in the Junction City mall, but the original place is more inviting. At Blind Tiger, a cosy and classy bar, they have delicious cocktails, live music and an international crowd.
Shop: Yangoods sells stylish, modern and funny fashion and home decoration that also captures the history and traditions of burmese design and heritage. They have several shops throughout the main tourist spots and cities in the country. There are several social enterprises in Yangon that support small businesses and local producers. Hal Day and Pomelo for example, sell pretty souvenirs and design objects produced by locals.
Getting around: Grab! The app that works like Uber can be used in Yangon, (and is currently tested in Mandalay also). Because the taxis don’t have meters you have to negotiate the price before every ride. With Grab the price is already fixed and the drivers speak a little English. Even though Yangon is not a very pedestrian-friendly city, the old historic colonial buildings in downtown or neighborhoods like Chinatown are worth exploring by foot. The iDiscover App is free to download and offers several interesting walks through Yangon. In order to use the Internet on the go a local Sim card is essential, you can buy them directly at the airport, for example from ooredoo, and the staff will help you to install everything.
For general information about traveling in Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism and Tourism Transparency have the latest developments of permitted areas for tourists, Visa information and how to travel responsibly. Merken