Travel Tuesday – Yangon

yangon photo
Photo by Jose Javier Martin Espartosa

g and the city is calling out to be explored. Yangon’s people, food, history and beauty are unique and unforgettable.

Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city, and it’s slowly creeping us a leading destination on Asia’s trail. Myanmar is a captivating place, it’s hard to believe that only a few years ago it was under military rule and tourists weren’t advised to visit. Yangon is growing at an incredible rate, skyscrapers are popping up everywhere and the city is alive and waiting for visitors. Ghosts of Myanmar’s (previously Burma), past linger in the architecture, with British colonial buildings everywhere. Majestic, crumbling and decaying buildings can be spotted everywhere and these grand structures are a constant reminder of the past fading away. Those worth visiting include the Myanmar Railway Headquarters, the High Court Building from 1914 and the Secretariat Office, where General Aung San was assassinated in 1947.

yangon photo
Photo by paularps

The top sight is certainly the Shwedagon Paya, a 2,500 year old Pagoda complex which enshrines strand of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. This Buddhist site is the most sacred in Myanmar, and sit on the Singuttara Hill. It xonsists of hundreds of colourful temples, stupas and statues and documents a rich history of architecture for the city. It golden glow is stunning, and its intricate design mesmerising. The Shwedagon Pagoda stands at 110 metres, a huge growth from its beginning of 8.2 metres. The lower stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold bars and the upper part with 13,153. The tip of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond. This lengthy and astonishing description is still unable to do justice to the intense beauty and spirituality of the complex as seen in person. The bustle of monks washing statues, meditating, offering flowers and worshiping is a sight like no other. The Pagoda is particularly serene at sunset.

Another important historical site is the Sule Pagoda is in the very centre of Yangon. It is a spiritual site as well as an important meeting point for anti-government and pro-democracy protestors throughout history. As you arrive, you’ll notice a group of women by the Pagoda with birds in baskets. These birds symbolise the captivity of the Burmese people endured for centuries. Releasing them is a symbol of hope and continued peace and freedom of the people. Liberate the birds and pay tribute to the country’s freedom.

bogyoke market photo
Photo by kudumomo

To experience the vibrant smells and tastes of the culture, head to the Bogyoke Market, a treasure trove. Vendors hawk fish, poultry, stacks of herbs and spices as well as handicrafts like shoulder bags, jewellery slippers and sarongs. Hours alone could be spent walking around the diverse food stalls, eyeing up the amazing ripe fruits and inviting chillies and spices. Don’t miss the fabric section, some of the intricate patterns can be found nowhere else and the fabrics are sold at a relatively good price. Perfect to make something when you get it home.

Two lakes can be found in Yangon, it’s hard to decide which is the most beautiful. The Kandawgyi Lake, or Great Royal Lake, was created during British colonial times and is surrounded by a huge tree-filled park. Enjoying a picnic, with a view of the Shwedagon Pagoda glistening in the reflection of the lakes water is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Inya Lake hosts 37 acres and is the largest lake in Yangon. It offers a rest from the bustle of city life and is home to the mansions of many of the city’s elite. Explore the picturesque setting of majestic houses and end the day eating fresh grilled fish in one of the lake-side restaurants.

yangon lake photo
Photo by yisris

 

The National Museum of Yangon is a good place for the history buffs. Whilst its a little outdated, its collections are impressive and broad, offering you a jumping off point to learn more about the country’s turbulent landscape. The Drugs Elimination Museum is a more specific, and modern museum to visit. It documents the history Myanmar’s drug wars and follows wars scenes, political history and artwork about the horrors of drug-induced insanity. The exhibitions are truly unique.

yangon food photo
Photo by HeyItsWilliam

Walking around the streets, the food is unmissable. As always, we advise you to taste, taste and taste at every opportunity. China Town offers a wide variety of delicious goods as well as the local fresh markets like Thein Gyi Market. Besides eating, another way to delve into local life is by hopping on board the Yangon circle train. Join the 100,000 daily commuters and their bags and food trays as they ride the loop through the city. Local interaction is unforgettable and the route the cheapest way to get around. Remember to pack your camera as you will not want to miss the photo opportunities of the vibrant culture from the train.

 

Have you joined the crowds and visited Yangon? Why did you love this exciting city? Let us know in the comments below.