What To Do In Yangon, Myanmar
Yangon is the busiest city in Myanmar, and because of its status as the former capital city, it is bustling with culture, good food, and beautiful architecture. On our visit we worked closely with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to bring you a listing of the best attractions and cultural destinations in this historic city.
Just visiting Yangon is an experience in itself but there are a few key places that you must see during you visit to this culture rich city.
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda will always top the lists of any Yangon travel guide. It is unarguably the most important heritage sites in Yangon. It towers over the city at height of 110 meters and glistens in the sunlight with the reflections from hundreds of gold plates lining the exterior. We learned that people constantly offer jewelry and gold to be attached to the umbrella that tops the pagoda. We even watched as a couple donated $600 for a new gold plate.
Locals frequent the pagoda to pray and pay homage to the animal corresponding to the day of the week on which they were born. We both performed the ritual of offering flowers and dousing water on our animal shrines. Eric was born on a monday so he paid a visit to the tiger and Evanne was born on a Wednesday morning so she paid homage to the elephant without tusks.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is a must-see destination in Yangon. Go early, it is less crowded in the morning, traffic was already bad at 11 a.m. The entrance fee is 8000 kyat or $5USD and the hours are 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
2. Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market)
The Bogyoke Aung San Market, formerly know as Scott Market, is a busy sprawling market offering everything from food, handicrafts, and antiques to expensive jewelry and black market currency exchanges.
The market was constructed in 1926 and has authentic colonial styling with cobblestone streets. We had some amazing food at the small food stalls and spent over an hour exploring the endless rows of touristy and authentic goods. Prices will be high here so feel free to haggle as much as you please.
Be careful buying jewelry, make sure you can identify real jade. Also, don’t be alarmed if the food stall owners start bidding or yelling for you to sit at their tables, just choose a table and sit quickly.
3. People’s Square and Park
Peoples Park is a large park surrounding the Shwedagon Pagoda with ponds, trails and gardens. There is a large marble square near the center of the park with fountains and short grass for picnicking.
We visited the park at night and caught a laser light show to music at the central fountains. There was a big crowd gathered on the hill that faces the fountains made up of locals of all ages. We also caught some traditional dancers and musicians putting on a show.
This park is a great place to wander and escape the busy traffic atmosphere of the downtown areas. The entry fee is 300 Kyat (.30 USD) and there are modern restaurants and a small shopping mall near the main entrance.
4. Maha Bandula Park
Maha Bandula Park, also known as Maha Bandula Garden, sits in the center of downtown Yangon and houses the Independence Monument that commemorates the Burmese independence from the British in 1948.
The park is bordered by many historic buildings including Yangon City Hall, the Sule Pagoda and The High Court. You will often see young locals taking photos here and it is a popular site for television filming.
5. Walk around downtown to see the colonial architecture
We spent the better part of an hour walking through the downtown areas staring in awe at the colonial structures and sections of historic urban decay. We took a stroll from the Sule Pagoda snaking along Maha Bandula Road and Merchant road to take in as much of the city views as we could.
Take your time and dont be afraid to ask for directions if you get lost, everyone seemed to be willing to help out. Be sure to bring your camera, you will get some good shots on the city streets.
6. Strand Hotel
At the end of our stroll through the downtown areas we popped into the historic Strand Hotel to rest and look at the classic colonial architecture. The Strand Hotel is one of the few five star grand colonial hotels surviving in SE Asia.
The Strand Cafe offers lunch and tea in the afternoon and has an interesting art gallery attached to the hotel. For more info on The Strand Hotel visit their website.
7. Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Saint Mary’s Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Myanmar and the exterior is completely finished in bright red brick. It has survived a major earthquake, several bombings and a typhoon. The amazing vaulted ceilings are completely tiled and the church features enormous stained glass windows on all sides.
When we visited the interior was closed for the day, but we walked around the property and gazed inside through the large open windows. Check for any closings and more info on their website.
8. Kandawgyi Park
Kandawgyi Park is a calm area in the center of an otherwise hectic portion of downtown Yangon. It sits beside Kandawgyi lake and includes restaurants, shady areas, and a large boardwalk.
The famous Karaweik restaurant/conference hall sits on the west side of the park and resembles a Burmese royal barge. The boardwalk is a great place to take in the views of the Shwedagon Pagoda shimmering over the water in the distance.
There is a small fee to enter the park areas, no more than 300 Kyat, and a camera fee.
9. Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Giant Reclining Buddha)
The Chaukhtatgyi Paya was originally built in 1907 and renovated to become the current image in 1966. It is 65 meters long and is completely housed under a roof structure. It is supposedly the second largest reclining Buddha in the world
It is not as busy as the Shwedagon Pagoda during the day and we saw few tourists during our visit.