Yangon Tips: an itinerary for two days
I was excited to finally be going to Myanmar. A country that still has its problems and only recently even really opened up to tourists. For once I’d manage to go somewhere before the big masses and enjoy the golden stupas and green surroundings without hundreds of other foreigners next to me. Unfortunately, I only had eight days in Myanmar and therefore my time in Yangon would be limited.
They had granted my e-visa and my Air Asia flight worked smoothly as well. At the custom border I was a bit nervous whether it could really have been that easy to just print out my e-visa that I received in an e-mail. But it was and they planted a new stamp in my passport after taking my picture.
Getting to Yangon from the airport
First, I retreived some money from one of the ATMs. It didn’t say how much the transaction cost but the maximum amount was 300k MMK. There I met Nick from England. Together we haggled down a taxi from 12k to 10k and then a driver drove us to downtown Yangon in about 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Yangon
Since you are only allowed to stay at the official hotels from the booking pages, you will most likely pre-book one. I’d recommend staying in the downtown area between 30st and 15st. You have many options to eat and Sule Pagoda and Junction Mall within walkin distance.
What to do in Yangon
Visit Sule Pagoda
From far away on Maha Bandoola Rd you can spot the shiny golden pagoda. There is an entrance in every cardinal direction and every entrance has a different meaning (for example one is for wisdom). The entry fee is 3k and in the end they expect you to make a donation for your shoes which you have to leave at the entrance. Inside surely someone will want to explain to you what all the different shrines are for. Again they will expext a donation of about 2k but it’s very interesting. In the Sule Pagoda you can get good luck if you know what day you were born. So, if you were born on a Sunday, walk to that shrine and then pour water over the small Buddha five times. For happiness, a long life, true love, good business and a happy family. Then, you step to the bell next to it and hit it with the gong for three or five times to share the luck with the people who aren’t there with you. Apart from the good karma, the Sule Pagoda with all its gold is very impressive and definitely worth a visit.
Visit a market
There are several food and wholesale markets in Yangon. The most touristy one is Bogyoke which is open from 8 am to 5 pm. It’s located just opposite Junction City Mall. A more local alternative is Theingyi Zay market. I actually didn’t spot any other tourists while I walked through it. Nobody even tried to sell me anything but if I stopped to look at something, I often was pushed by people squeezing past me. It won’t be your most relaxed shopping experience but definitely a cheap and interesting one.
For food I liked the market along Maha Bandula Street opposite of city hall leading to the river. At the beginning of the street there also is a tourist information in which you receive good tipps and can probably buy cheaper trips than they sell at your hostel. Another food market (mostly bbq skewers) is in Chinatown on 19th street. Farther, there are many little street vendors in all the streets from 19th to 11th street.
Visit Shewagon Pagoda
That’s of course the must see of Yangon. They know that as well and happily take 8000 kyats from foreigners. Shewagon Pagoda is located next to People’s Park. Again there are four entrances and each has a different meaning. The one from the People’s Park side has escalators leading to the top. So, if you ever wanted to ride an escalator barefoot this is your chance! In temples in Myanmar neither shoes nor socks are allowed. To exit, I chose the stairway leading down toward Yangon downtown. To get to Shewagon Pagoda I took a bus next to the Cinema, leading north, which cost 200 kyat. Since I didn’t spot a bus to go back right away I walked which I would not recommend. There is nothing to see and especially after dark it’s dangerous with the cars.
The pagoda itself is very nice and golden. There are many small shrines and of course lots of areas to get good luck and good karma. I recommend to go there half an hour to an hour before sunset to have enough time to look everything during daylight and then watch how the gold of the pagoda changes during sunset. I found that it looked even more stunning against the dark night sky.
Take a walk through Peple’s Park
Against what other guide books said I had to pay 300 kyats to enter People Park and received a sticker. There is an amusement park that looks a little run down and therefore is interesting to look at. Next to it there are also a few old airplanes to take pictures with. Then, there is a section called lover’s plain which offers a few benches to sit down around the lake and a love sign. On the other side of this section there is a long and broad stairway leading toward Shewagon Pagoda. Near the park exit there is a small botanical garden. It’s not the most spectacular park but you can definitely have a nice stroll in the shade of trees.
Go to 19th street to have a 60 cent beer or 80 cent cocktail
This is like an early version of Khaosan Road. There’s plenty and cheap alcohol and all the backpackers are there because it’s pretty much the only place that has some life in the evening. But even with that there are about 92% Asian people and only few white ones. Funnily I walked into the same place as Nick, the guy I shared the taxi with in the morning and we could exchange our stories from the day.
What to do if you want to be in a clean and cool space
Since there’s a lot of dust on the roads and the heat makes you feel sticky you might be looking for something modern and familiar. Junction City mall is your answer. They have many big name shops, international restaurants and a good supermarket. Ah yes, there are hardly any supermarkets in Myanmar… Only a small corner shop once in a while.
Go to an internet cafe (also to cool off and hide from the sun)
Since I didn’t bring my laptop this time but had to do some work for the launch of my second paranormal romance novel (Heart of Power: Rise of the Siren) I badly needed a computer. It was quite a journey to find an internet café (I wasn’t even sure they existed) and everybody sent me somewhere else. In the end, I found one quite near my hostel and was very surprised when I opened the door. SG Cyber Café had the most modern equipment and nice A/C. It was funny to work between all the gamers at 1200 kyat/hour.
My impression on Yangon
Even though I knew there wouldn’t be many tourists I was surprised to find myself among only Asians for about 95 % of the time. It was nice that almost everyone still wears tradotional dresses and lots of people paint their faces with the yellow powder to protect themselves from the sun. It’s really still an Asia from earlier times where everyone has their little street vendor stall or a shop that is filled to the brim with goods that need to be sold. The colonial houses still had some of their beauty but on the other hand they looked really run down and I was a bit afraid that it will all be black and broken from the car exhausts in a few years. So, due to the crazy traffic, you really can’t call the downtown area nice. However watching the people going about their daily business (for example spitting red root juice to the ground after chewing on it – at first I thought someone had been bleeding) is definitely worth an experience and if you like gold or pagodas you can’t miss Yangon.
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I hope you enjoyed These Yangon tips. What are your recommendations in case you have been to Yangon?