Myanmar’s Biggest City and Former Capital
Until recently when the government moved the capital to Nay Pyi Taw in central Myanmar, Yangon was Myanmar’s capital city, and it is still by far the largest and most convenient city for travelers to introduce themselves to Myanmar today.
Before heading off to see some of the better known attractions of Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan Archeological Zone, Yangon has a its own note worthy sites for travelers to check out, starting with Shwedagon Paya, the most sacred Buddhist site in Yangon. The word ‘Paya’ translates as temple or pagoda, and Shwedagon dwarfs any other temple in the country.
Covered in 60 tons of pure gold, the dome of the temple rise high into the Yangon skyline and can be seen from many different areas around the city. A short taxi ride from central Yangon, the best time to visit is early morning or late evening when the tiled flooring is not too hot to walk on, (shoes must be removed,) and it is a bit quieter.
The temple itself takes anywhere from one hour to half a day to walk around, as it has many interesting pavilions, bells and different meditation areas to explore. It is an excellent place for people watching, as monks mingle with ordinary Yangon residents to say their prayers and worship. It is not a place that should be rushed.
City Centre Markets
One of the most pleasant areas of Yangon to hang around and watch local life as it happens is Bogyoke Aung San Market, sometimes referred to by the old colonial name of Scott Market. On one the main roads running through the city, Bogyoke Aung San Market is a good place to shop for local souvenirs and also to change any US dollars into local currency, Kyat, although choose money changers with caution compare prices first.
The markets sells jewelry, (not all genuine and mostly jade and other local gemstones,) traditional longyi , (the garment worn by both Burmese men and women,) bags, textiles and much more. Haggling is essential although the two tiered tourist pricing system doesn’t seem to be as overpriced as in some other neighboring countries.
Practicalities: Restaurants and Accommodation in Yangon
The city centre is the main place for eating, although there are normally a few restaurants within walking distance of almost all popular tourist hotels. After a trip around Bogyoke Aung San Market, explore the main road in either direction to see some of the western style coffee shops nearby, or browse the more cramped and bustling streets opposite for a more authentic taste of South East Asia by sampling one of the many local or Indian eateries nearby.
Most accommodation is quite spread out in Yangon and there is no obvious location to choose to stay. Looking for a hotel either within walking distance of Shwedagon Paya or within walking distance of another main attraction, Bogyoke Aung San Market in the centre of town, would both be good choices.