Yangon, the biggest city of Myanmar offers a lot of sights and adventures to see and conquer. But which ones deserve your time and which ones should you avoid? This short article provides you with some information regarding some of the coolest activities in and around Yangon.
Yangon by foot
One of the coolest things about Yangon is the fact that you can walk almost everywhere if you are halfway a decent walker. During my first trip to Yangon I walked basically everywhere (exceptions are the outer districts of course) and while I was tired afterwards it did help to get to know the city.
A great way to start things of is by joining a Free Yangon Walk. Free Yangon Walks offers a 2 hour tour around the inner city (downtown) area of Yangon and provides the group with a local tourist guide and a foreign expat that has been living in the city for a while. During the walk you might not cover a lot of kilometers but you will see the most interesting and impressive buildings in the city and will hear a lot about the history of Yangon (especially related to the British occupation). This walk is a great way to get a first overview of the city as well as meet likeminded travelers. When joining this trip on my first day in Yangon I met a very cool fellow traveler with whom I travelled the next few days.
Besides the Free Yangon Walk mentioned above it is also recommendable to explore Yangon by yourself. Once you got the structure of the city down (and got a map) you will easily understand how it works and how you can get from A to B. You can not only see the downtown area but also reach spots that are a bit further away quite easily. Besides that walking or strolling around the narrow streets and stumbling upon some new and unseen areas is always a great and exciting moment. Don’t miss out on that.
As mentioned above Downtown Yangon is home to some pretty nice buildings and a very neat colonial style atmosphere spreads across the city centre. It’s nice to embrace this atmosphere and simply relax in the park across the beautiful City Hall or check the famous Strands Hotel for even more colonialism.
THE Pagoda of pagodas. Not much more to say. Go there! And go there early. From experience it’s best to go during sunrise (or sunset, but there will be more people around!) since the light will be pretty nice to take some amazing pictures. While you are waiting for the right light take a deep breath, sit back and simply look at all the different kinds of people that you will see. Everyone comes to Shwedagon Pagoda to make merit, to attend special religious events or to stand and stare. Just like you. The entrance fee is 8,000 Kyat for foreigners but it’s one of those things you simply have to do. So do it. Do it.
Sule Pagoda Yangon
When talking about Pagodas there are obviously more that might be worth mentioning, especially if you are buddhist. The second famous one on this list is Sule Pagoda. It’s not as impressive as Shwedagon Pagoda but has one distinctive advantage: It is in the city centre. Right next to City Hall and there for makes for a neat picture and an interesting atmosphere. You’ll be around anyways, so pay it a visit!
Parks & Recreation
Yangon calls a few very nice parks its own. Kandawgyi Park deserves a special mention here since it is quite close to downtown Yangon (and even closer to Shwedagon Pagoda) and therefore accessible by foot. It’s quite nice, quite big and super green and very cool spot to relax and just flew the hustle and bustle of hot Yangon city. Besides that it also hosts a pretty impressive palace (Karaweik) and gives you lots of space to walk in peace and enjoy some quiet time. You don’t only need to stick to Kandawgyi Park though. There are a few more nice green spots that deserve your exploration. Go for it.
One of the things that your Lonely Planet quite likely mentions is the Bogyoke Market. A big market area that sells lots of stuff and makes it into every ‘things to see’ list. After having it seen I don’t really know why though. It’s not really impressive, the building it is placed in is quite cool but that’s about it. Maybe you check it out and tell me later why it’s so awesome. It’s quite close to the train station so you are likely to pass it anyways at some point. Let me know what it did for you then.
Yangon Circle Train Ride
One of those “Do it, because it’s individual and not many others do it” tips in your travel guide book (e.g Lonely Planet) might state to attend the circle train. 3 hours of local train ride. ‘You’ll see things that you haven’t seen before’, etc.
Well. In my opinion it’s not really worth checking out. If you are a spoiled tourist who has never been in a ‘poor’ area before, it might be something different but if you have travelled before, especially in Southeast Asia, you won’t see many new things here. Sure it is still puzzling to see those poor districts of big cities but do we need to stare at it and take pictures of it as part of a touristic attraction? Better give money or time to organizations that help the poor there instead of starring at it and taking pictures. Moreover the train moves super slow and those 3 hours will feel like eternity. If you got 3 hours to waste though, it might be still something to check out.
Talk to Travelers!
One thing that is quite likely is that most foreigners in Yangon aren’t abroad for the first time. I don’t know anyone who just went straight to Myanmar from home. Backpackers or expats alike. Most people have been abroad or travelled before and therefore usually have lots of cool and intersting stories to tell. So go to places where there are lots of people and don’t be shy to talk and start conversations. I’ve heard some amazing travel, work and live stories during my time in Yangon and wouldn’t want to miss the contact I made there.
What have been your favorite spots and moments in Yangon?
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