Formerly Rangoon, the Burmese capital is dominated by Shwedagon Pagoda, which can be seen for miles around. The city still has more colonial buildings than high-rises, but before this changes, make Yangon your base for exploring this country of wonder.
Best of Yangon
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
The splendour of this golden holy site is hard to put into words or even on film. Sacred as it is beautiful, the pagoda housing four relics of Buddha is believed to be 2,600 years old.
2. Kandawgyi Lake
Bounded by the zoo and a park, the “great royal lake” was created during the British period as a water supply. Along its serene shores floats the grand Karaweik, a replica of the Pyigyimon royal barge that now houses a buffet restaurant.
3. Bogyoke Market
Previously called Scott Market, this covered shopping area has over 2,000 shops. Burmese souvenirs, garments and gems are the main buys at this 70-year old establishment.
4. Downtown Yangon
Said to have Southeast Asia’s largest collection of colonial buildings still in existence, downtown Yangon makes for a lovely walk. Starting from Sule Pagoda, admire the stately High Court, City Hall, and the Strand Hotel along the Yangon River, visiting pagodas and markets along the way.
5. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Only a few hours away from Yangon, the Golden Rock is a popular pilgrimage site and the pride of Mon State. Buddhists believe that a strand of Buddha’s hair keeps the gilded rock and the pagoda atop it from rolling off the cliff.
6. Htauk Kyant War Memorial Cemetery
Stop by the final resting place of Allied soldiers to honour those who fell in World War II. The memorial park has over 6,000 graves and the names of 27,000 soldiers from the Commonwealth countries, including recipients of the Victoria Cross.
7. Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda
The impressive 65-metre-long reclining Buddha in golden robes is famous for the 108 lakshanas (auspicious characteristics) on its feet and its peaceful expression, an interesting contrast to the serious countenance of the huge sitting Buddha at Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda across the street.
For centuries, lacquerware has been a part of Burmese daily life in the form of boxes for manuscripts, vessels for monks and containers for the average man’s betel nut. The best Burmese lacquerware, with its fine craftsmanship and the long production time, can command high prices, but there are sizes and designs to suit everyone’s taste and budget.
9. Precious stones
Myanmar’s rubies and jade fetch astronomical prices in the international market for their high quality and beautiful hues. Have your purchases checked at a gem lab, as heated gems are common and cannot be spotted by the untrained eye.
A must-try in Myanmar is the rice noodle in catfish broth, the all-day breakfast considered the national dish by its citizens. This flavourful dish is sold on the roadside and comes with a soup of lemongrass, onion, ginger and various spices.
A snack made of sticky rice, topped with peanuts, sesame seeds, ginger and coconut shavings.