The Shwedagon Pagoda is certainly one of the more beautiful temples that exists. There, you can see the customs of Buddhists prayers and offerings of water and flowers. It's the most sacred temple for the Burmese because it houses the relics of four Buddhas: Kakhusanda's staff, Konagamana's water filter, a piece of the Kaspassa's, and eight hairs of Gautama.
The stupa is 100 meters tall and is covered with gold leaf. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering and prayers are performed while circling counterclockwise. At night, it's a spectacle to see, full of the faithful praying and chanting and the smell of incense.
This pagoda is very near the Shwedagon Pagoda. Inside, there is a huge reclining Buddha measuring about 70 meters long and taller than a six-story building. The pagoda was built in 1907 on behalf of the merchant Sir-Phoe Tha and was restored in 1970 with donations from the faithful. It's a must-visit in Yangon.
This is one of the most sacred pagodas for Buddhists, as it houses relics of Buddha's body and hair. If you are a tourist with a camera you must pay to go in, but you will not take pictures, and nobody controls what you do once inside. You may see Buddhists praying in a crowd in the both areas where the relics of the Buddha are located, and also attended a ceremony of release of hundreds of birds in cages of wood.
When travelling the Mahabandoola Road to Sule Pagoda Road you pay $ 2 to enter and $ 1 more for pictures. This sleek and small pagoda is in downtown Yangon. Its old name, Kyaik A-thote, suggests that it was built by some king mon, since the word for pagoda was mon "Kyaik". Because it is in the center of the city, Sule pagoda itself is the heart of Yangon, where the main arteries and neighborhoods begin. Shoes must be removed when you enter and the same goes for any other temples, pagodas and houses. It is important to remember that no one should ever sit with your feet pointing towards the stupa, and rudeness is a serious lack of respect!
Yangon's Chinatown is near the city centre. It's an outdoor market full of stalls selling everything imaginable. The smell of many species is special, it's quite an experience. There are stalls with ducks hanging in the windows, stalls with all kinds of Asian fruits, a myriad of small restaurants where the specialty is fried fish, and much more. It's best to shop slowly when its dusk because at nightfall everything is full of light and life is bursting. I loved it, and this was the end of my journey through a unique and unrepeatable country called Myanmar (Burma), a country that I recommend to everyone with all my heart.
We got here on a steamy night, in the monsoon season. It was my second trip to Southeast Asia, and I found a lot of surprising details. Yangon is not like other cities in the area ... it's not an old city, and became the capital in 1885, when the British completed their conquest in the north of the country and Mandalay, the old capital fell. The streets have old colonial buildings, with moss and mildew. You'll see people eating at any time, and there are night markets where fish and meat are offered in large baskets with candles to light things up, because the electricity goes out every few minutes. The streets are very dark, lacking street lighting, but are full of people. In a country ruled by the iron fist of a military junta, and economically blockaded by others, except China, it's interesting to see so much life. In the background you can see the Golden Pagoda, home to many Burmese who are left to pray for a better life in the next cycle after their death...
Yangon airport has two terminals, one beside the other. If you are making domestic flights in Myanmar you must use the domestic terminal. It is where companies like Air KBZ, Air Myanmar, Air Bagan and Air Mandalay are located. The ride from the city center costs 5,000 - 8,000 kyats, and it depends on whether you haggle, and it is 45 minutes away. The maximum weight is 15 kilos for luggage, and at least we were charged an additional fee of 1,000 kyat. There is a café and is pretty quiet. It's funny warning system, with a person showing a sign with the flight, so careful not to get confused.
Although Yangon is a very interesting city, I like cities which retain part of their past, although, as in the case of Yangon, this legacy has not been restored in 60 years. The main colonial era buildings are spread near the river, where they were customs and colonial buildings where officials worked in what was then a thriving commercial metropolis for its navigable river. Some buildings in the main square are next to each other like the clock tower, and you should visit Aung San market.
There is a bus that goes from Taunggy to Yangon. You can take this bus along Inle Lake at the intersection of the road to Yangon Taunggy Nyaungshwe road. Locals have come to call that point "junction". The pick-up leading to the intersection Nyaungshwe costs about 200 kyat ($ 0.2). The bus to Yangon costed 15,000 kyat (about $ 15) in March 2009. The price lowers in Bago. Take the bus at the intersection at 12 h. And the arrival in Bago is at 5am and then you arrive in Yangon two hours later. The first half of the trip is horrible, with lots of curves and a road in very poor condition. You pass through roads that are undergoing construction. You will probably hit some of these unstable parts of the road. On the bus, you will receive a bottle of water and a dental kit to clean your teeth. As in almost all buses in Myanmar you must be prepared to withstand the high volume of video clips that are put. They are funny western music songs from Meat Loaf to Cat Stevens.
The truth is that it is one of the most frustrating experiences, but you have to jump through hoops to make your trip to Myanmar. In August 2011, after reaching the city, I had a lot of trouble. Switching to Kyats can not be done in exchange offices, but only on the black market, where you multiply by several times the value of euros or dollars. The problem is that we have moved from the 1000 kyat per dollar to about 760 kyat. You have to be careful, because some of the money is not real. So it is better to change at Bayoke market, which is a wide street near the Sule Pagoda (about 500 meters). Do not confuse it with the little shops that are below the pagoda. We did it in a jewelry store, which is at the end where the exchange you get is better and safer, but as always, you have to watch out. Still, you meet nice people, don´t be afraid. At the end of the day, in Madrid and I wanted to exchange euros for dollars with 15% commission, so the problem is not the Burmese, it´s pretty much the same anywhere.
The centre of Yangon is not a square, but the confluence of four streets. In the middle, there is the Sule Pagoda which isn't round, but octagonal plan that is transmitted to the pagoda. This is also kilometre zero for all the roads leaving towards the north of the country. Also in this plaza is the City Hall and the Monument of Independence. It has devilish traffic and luckily you aren't allowed to ride by motorcycle in the circular, if not, it would be really crazy.
This is a park that is very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is popular with couples who like to hang out under the shady tress in the sweltering sun of Yangon. You can rent small boats to cross the lake.
Zaw Hein Agency arranged the trip to Myanmar. This entailed 5 people arriving on flights leaving on different days and at different times. They arranged everything from internal flights, hotels, transfers, guides, the boat trip from Bagan to Manadalay ... Everything! And when we told her we wanted to do an over-land drive, she recommended we fly since it was the end of the rainy season and some areas were flooded (good recommendation). She organized everything flawlessly. Very friendly. I always give the email of this travel company when friends ask me about Myanmar.
Do you have the chance to go visit Yangon? Lucky you! Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and the former capital of the country. This city is in the beautiful country of Burma. The country is to the west of Thailand, east of Bangladesh and to the south of the Republic of China.
There are thousands of things to do in Yangon. Of the many places to visit in Yangon and one of the best attractions in all of Southeast Asia is the Shwedagon Pagoda, a Buddhist religious complex in the center of the city. This religious building is the most important thing in Yangon, although there are many more buildings to see, such as the Sule Pagoda and Chaukhtatgyi.
One of the other main attractions in Yangon is the Cathedral of Santa Maria. This is a catholic cathedral that was built in 1895. A couple more religious buildings in Yangon include the pagodas Ngahtatgyi, and Botahtaung. However, there are still more things to see in Yangon like all the beautiful beaches in the south. Even after a long day of beaches there are still more things to do in Yangon like going out to bars and restaurants. Here you will find the Burmese enjoying local cuisine like fish and vegetables with many spices.
Still trying to figure out what to do in Yangon? Check out Minube to learn more about Yangon activities and Yangon attractions.