…no plan, no prior knowledge about Yangon, and no one with me. Here comes the fun journey!!!
Yangon is probably the busiest city in Myanmar. Despite the busy atmosphere where you can see car passing by throughout the day and night, I still feel like this city is very unique and contains a lot of different characteristics.
I got a chance to visit Yangon without prior knowledge of what to expect. This is my first time as a backpacker stepping out of my comfort zone, going out of the countries without prior planning. Good things, I just flowed with the city’s pace and blend in with the local.
This list is not all that the city offers. There are much more to explore but I hope that it can give you an idea of what to do in Yangon and start experiencing it on your own.
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
Seriously, you can not miss this pagoda at all. It is located at the heart of Yangon and wherever you walk or stay, just turn around and you will see this pagoda. Probably the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, this pagoda reached the height of 105 meters and was made with bricks covered with gold. Reputedly, this pagoda contains relics of the four previous Buddha of the present aeon.
One interesting fact about this pagoda is at the tip point of the pagoda, the one with umbrella shape called hti in Burmese language, consists of gold, jewels, and many diamonds. You can find a binocular that is provided to see them. I heard some people claiming that they have a hard time locating the tip but I had no problem at all. Guess, I am the lucky one!
Another interesting fact about this heritage is the Shwedagon Pagoda event held every year. Thousands and thousands of people will come to donate their jewelries as a sign of thankful. Also, if you are around, find the fountain representing the day you were born and you will see several people are bathing the god/goddess of that day.
2. Sule Pagoda
This is another pagoda that I really can not miss because for whatsoever reason, I stayed really close to this pagoda. The location of Sule Pagoda is so strategic that I believe all roads in downtown Yangon will eventually end up in this spot. What I love the most about this is there is a church, Immanuel Baptist Church, that is located right across the pagoda. Isn’t it interesting to have two religious sites standing site by site?
3. Maha Bandula Garden
At the other site of Sule Pagoda, you will notice a huge park with a pole shape landmark standing in the heart of downtown Yangon. This pole shape building is actually the Independence landmark of Myanmar. It is a free and open to public park, so stay here as long as you want. Enjoy the sun and the sound of people, cars, motorbikes, and taxis passing across. Get some sugarcane drink sold at the entrance to cool yourself down.
4. Bogyoke Aung San Market
Not really sure how I ended up here but no disappointment at all. Bogyoke Aung San Market is like the central market of Yangon. You will notice it from the architecture of the building that still represents the one from the colonial era. There are two floors within this building. The first floor is mainly used for selling handicrafts, jewelries (check out the Burmese jade and Burmese ruby), and some antiques stuffs (old bank notes, stamps, old coins, etc).
Rumor has it that the ladies who run the jewelries shops here usually offer the black market money exchange with the best rates but I am not sure about this as I already have some Kyat available with me. The second floor is used mainly for selling garment and clothes.
5. Kandawgyi Lake
Despite the crowded places throughout the city, I was really surprise to find out this peaceful place. Kandwagyi lake literally means The Great Lake is surrounded by nature park with pathway platforms build to give the visitor access across the lake. While walking or relaxing here, try to find the Karaweik, which is like the famous icon along Kandawgyi shore. If you are here during the sunset on a nice day, you will be mesmerized by the sunset view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
6. Tayoke Tan
Tayoke Tan or commonly known as the Chinatown of Yangon is located along the 18th to 24th street in downtown Yangon. Just like typical Chinatown in any where in the world, this place is always steaming with traffic. If you feel like the traffic is not bothering you yet, come at the evening where the food trucks are joining the crowd by lining up on the side of the roads selling everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, to ready-to-eat food.
7. Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Chak Htat Gyi Budha)
Not really listed on my top destination, but if you have time, sure come visit this place. The Buddha temple of Chaukhtatgyi is the house for the most respected reclining Buddha across Myanmar. The length of this image span approximately 220-feet long. If you walk to the end of the image, you can see that at the feet of the Buddha, there are 108 inscriptions representing the characteristics of Buddha.
8. Try Local Food
Myanmar has a lot of unique local food and honestly, most of the food that I tried are really good. Since I got no specific plan on food to eat, most of the time I just go to the crowded stalls, join the unique experience of sitting on the small plastic stool and enjoy the food. Don’t forget to enjoy their free tea, too.
9. Inya Lake
I figured out this place as I was heading to the place I stayed from airport. The taxi driver recommended me to visit this place and so the very next evening, I made my way here. This is a lovely place. Located right next to Yangon University, this place is famously known as a romantic dating place for university students. A lot of couple are spotted here and it is still drawing a lot of crowd after the sunset. If you want to get the view from every corner of the lake, take a walk around it which is about two to three hours with some allocated time to enjoy the sunset and taking some pictures.
10. Just Walk Around
When I was here, majority of the time I travel by walking. You really do not know what to expect when you are walking. I found majority of the places here by randomly walking, asking for recommendation and direction from the locals. You’ll be surprised to notice the various businesses, from big electronic chains to small sugarcane stalls along the places you passed by. Worry not of walking alone because there are lots of people walking too. Finding a temple within a few blocks is not a surprise and if you are interested, most of the time you are welcome to visit.
Exploring Yangon on foot really gives you the in depth view of how this busy city is functioning. From my experience, I think this city is very safe but again follow your instinct. If you are lost, ask the locals. They are more than happy to help you. Just one thing to keep in mind, be very careful when crossing the street. Other than that, go and explore. Who knows you found some places that you can recommend to me for my future visit and I will add it to this list.