Yangon travel tips — 5 things to keep in mind when exploring the city

Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital, is shockingly lacking of significant tourism features, with the exception of the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda. What the city lacks in apparent areas of interest, it more than makes up for in all-around charm. Often, the greatest way to experience the city is to simply go outside your door and roam. Rather than having to worry about seeing all of a city’s top tourist attractions, you’ll be able to just enjoy Yangon without the burden of trying to “see it all.” Here are five things to remember while touring the city.

Yangon City
Yangon City

 

Yangon market
Yangon market

Keep an Open Mind

photo credit: Myanmar (Burma) via photopin (license)Photo Dietmar Temps

One of the most enjoyable and thrilling aspects of visiting Yangon is strolling the city without a must-see or must-do list. Only a few years ago, Yangon was one of Southeast Asia’s most relaxed towns, with few automobiles on the streets, no high-rise buildings, and no neon signs. The first thing you’ll notice today is how much it’s changing. This sleeping beauty is transforming into a typical Asian cosmopolitan city, complete with vehicles, traffic congestion, and development. Nonetheless, Yangon has retained its own charm, and the easiest way to appreciate the city is just to follow the wind.

Visit Downtown

photo credit: Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China, Pansodan Lan, Yangon via photopin (license). Photo Pigalle

Though the vastness of downtown makes it impossible to view everything at once, a stroll around the city center is worthwhile. Leave the major highways and traverse the smaller streets, where the sidewalks are lined with vendors selling tropical fruits and tea house seats and tables. You should sample the local speciality, Burmese tea, which is a strong black tea with loads of sweetened milk. People may stroll by and welcome you with a grin or a nod while you are enjoying your beverage, or a student may approach you seeking to improve his or her English. Take in the stunning colonial-style structures found downtown, and you’ll understand why many visitors have dubbed Yangon the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. Take a stroll around Chinatown and Little India to get a sense of the local culture. They are only a few streets away, both congested and full with tiny stores and restaurants, yet they have entirely different vibes: different scents, sights, and noises.

Yangon downtown
Yangon Downtown

Keep an Eye on Local Events

Burmese girls perform traditional dance during closing ceremony of Myanmar New Year Water Festival in Yangon, Myanmar
Burmese girls perform traditional dance during closing ceremony of Myanmar New Year Water Festival in Yangon, Myanmar

To find out what’s going on in the city, pick up a copy of one of the English-language weeklies or dailies, or buy a copy of The Irrawaddy, the premier monthly political magazine. It will keep you up to speed on all of the problems that the country is facing as it makes the tough journey to democracy.

Be Wary of Traffic

be-wary-traffic-yangon-walking-guide-myanmar-travel-trip-ideas-guide-2
Photo James Seith

Nowadays, traffic is congested, and most individuals have recently obtained their driver’s license. However, Yagonians drive the way other companies are conducted, which is patiently and quietly. Rarely will you hear a horn, witness motorists change lanes, or cut other drivers off. When you wish to cross the street, it won’t take long for someone to come to a halt and allow you to do so. In some Asian cities, you could have to wait for days. The brave visitor should visit 19th Street at night, when the street is blocked to traffic and packed with eateries. The sidewalk and road are clogged with chairs, tables, and barbecues, and the wonderful aroma of freshly grilled meat, fish, and vegetables wafts through the air. Enjoy your meal with a cool Myanmar beer or white wine. A German founded and still runs the local vineyard.

See The Shwedagon Pagoda

photo credit: Shwedagon Pagoda via photopin (license). Photo Elizabeth Haslam
No matter how many times you’ve been to Yangon, a visit to the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda is unquestionably the highlight of every vacation. You might easily spend hours here, since it is crowded from sunrise to sunset with people worshiping, thinking, eating, and conversing. Find a shady location in the temple or pavilion and people-watch while listening to the bells chime. With the exception of new ATMs spread around, almost little has changed here.

 

photo credit: Myanmar June 2015 via photopin (license). Photo Remko Tanis
Photo credit: Myanmar June 2015 via photopin (license). Photo Remko Tanis

 

photo credit: A Little Latter via photopin (license). Photo by Michael Coghlan

 

photo credit: via photopin (license). Photo Steven McPhillips
photo credit: Stupa-21 via photopin (license)

 

Two young monks pray in front of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
Photo credit: Martha de Jong-Lantink

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