‘See less, crib less’. Most travelers I came across didn’t have much to recommend Yangon for and on the contrary tried to down sell it. Don’t fall for it, the city is all about the streets. From boiled corn, veg filled dosai, oil-dripping egg fries to remnants of Britain, Rangoon can be a leisurely adventure for the non-checklist-traveler. And oh, mingalaba means hello in Burmese, something you will hear a million times a day, get used to saying it, sing it.
The airport isn’t far from the city unless you land during peak hours, it can be bad. For anyone who has visited south east Asia, Yangon can feel like India’s oriental brother separated at child-birth. The bustling streets, ubiquitous red stains, flavours that you can’t describe, and much more.
How long: personally, not less than 2 full days. Mind you, there isn’t much to ‘see’ as much there is to experience.
Stay: shannkalay hostel. Dorms at 6usd, private at 10usd. Dorms aren’t very spacious, breakfast is good, hospitable staff, clean bathrooms, great location.
Top things to do/see in Yangon
- Tomb of bahadur shah zafar: Located close to the Shwedagon Pagoda in a quiet street lies the remains of the last Mughal emperor of India. After Zafar was exiled by the British, he spent his final days here with his family. The place generates an eerie sense of sympathy for what the emperor may have gone through. Worse still, a family that once ruled most of India had to see the last of its kin languish in a neighbouring land. The caretaker, one Mr Kamaluddin was generous enough to show us around and couldn’t stop conversing after he found out that we spoke Tamil.
- Pansodan art gallery: This is a large apartment in Downtown Yangon run by an artist where you can find paintings and art collections (mostly contemporary) for sale and viewing. I was quite surprised at the art scene that the country had to offer, don’t miss.
- The streets: Just keep walking, the intersecting streets of the city are best explored on foot and you will find it hard to resist its offerings. Tons of eatables and beer stations at every corner makes Yangon what it is.
- Shwedagon Pagoda: The highlight of Yangon is a couple of kilometers from the downtown area and can be a fairly long walk. Grab a taxi for about 2K kyats and head there. The temple has an entrance fee of 10K kyats and you’ll find a hell lot of people there.
- 999 Shan noodle: try the basic shan noodle here with a reddish sweet & sour drink whose name I forgot but the menu will make it obvious. For barely 2.5K kyats, you’ll have one of the finest meals of the country.
- Rangoon tea house: An upmarket restaurant whose prices are higher than average for Rangoon. A good assortment of cocktails makes this a perfect dinner venue.
- Linkage restaurant: The food is decent here and the cause is greater. This place encourages artists and the proceeds from the business are used for their development. Worth a visit
- Bogyoke aung San market: If you are in Yangon and miss this place, it’s a crime. For a shopaholic like myself, yes I enjoy flea markets and handicrafts, this is a paradise. Sad part, Yangon was my first stop, so I couldn’t pick up much as I would have had to lug things around. Anyway, the market has everything from clothes to woodwork to jade to jewelry to food. Bargain hard, you’ll get what you want.
The good: food
The bad: airport and bus station are way outside the city
The ugly: red stains all over due to betel/ tobacco chewing
Tout level: 0. People don’t care, too nice to cheat
Language: English is well understood
Internal Transport: most places are walk-able if you’re stationed in downtown. Taxis are cheap too costing barely a dollar for upto 5 kms.
Map: Check out the stars