As the nation’s former capital, its largest commercial hub and most populated city, Yangon should be a big stop for anyone venturing to Myanmar. This historic international city is changing drastically from the rest of the country but still holds much of what makes traveling in Myanmar adventurous and charming. Here are the top 10 things to see and do while visiting Yangon.
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is an obvious must. Just go. Be amazed by this 2,500 year-old Buddhist wonder of the world and icon of Myanmar. The best time to stop by is also the busiest—mornings and early evenings around sunrise and sunset. Beat the crowds. Get there a bit later in the morning, but not too late or you risk exposure to the hefty heat.
The fee for foreigners to enter the Shwedagon is approximately US$10 (as of December 1, 2017). Dress respectfully.
2. Yangon’s Circle Train
Yangon’s circle line loops commuters around the city and is an ideal way for tourists to see Yangon and its outskirts more genuinely. The entire journey takes roughly three hours, but it’s easy (and encouraged) to hop on and off at any of the 38 stations along the way to explore deeper.
Trains run at different times from dawn to dusk and usually depart from platform six or seven at the Yangon Central Railway Station. This is where tickets can also be purchased for less than US$1 each. The train doesn’t always go the same direction or do the full circular route, so it’s best to ask a staff member prior to boarding. Experience this rustic piece of Myanmar now, because major upgrades to the circuit are already underway.
3. People’s Park
Yangon’s People’s Park has something for every type of traveler. As one of the largest, best-kept green spaces in the city, People’s Park contains pleasant flower gardens, fountains, ponds and paths to discover. Patches of shade provide great picnic spots; you could also grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants or cafes in and around the park.
The Yangon Gallery, amusement parks, event venues and the Myanmar Culture Valley shopping complex are all close by as well. But, perhaps the most peculiar attraction is the swinging bridge draped high above the grass between three trees near the Ahlone Road entrance.
Foreigners have to pay a minimal fee of under US$1 for admittance.
4. Kandawgyi Park and Lake
Kandawgyi Lake and surrounding park is another Yangon must. Walk along its boardwalk for serene views and a reflective look at the magnificent Karaweik Palace. Near this floating royal restaurant are a number of other eateries, cafes and bars — some quite close to the water’s edge. Pop into Off the Beaten Track for a relaxing evening alongside friends in a quaint gazebo. Expect to pay a small park entrance fee of less than $US1.
5. Inya Lake
Inya Lake is a popular location for city dwellers to go for a bit of fresh air, some exercise, a picturesque sunset while sailing or simply to hang out together in a more peaceful locale. Several dining establishments border the exclusive shores of Inya. Head to the southwest side near the corner of Pyay and Inya Road to sample more affordable, local fare, such as fried Burmese snacks.
6. Nagar Glass Factory
Literally a hidden treasure trove, the not-so-abandoned Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon is littered with beautiful handcrafted glassware. The site still has traces of its former glory before being mostly destroyed in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar.
The glass factory’s current family of caretakers allows guests to go up and down paths lined with colorful glassy formations of all shapes and sizes. Each unique piece is for sale, and if a glass item happens to be dirty or unfinished, Nagar’s groundskeepers will clean and polish it.
7. 17th Street Banana Shop
There isn’t much else to do at this banana shop on 17th Street in downtown Yangon, other than admire the look and feel of the place. Bunches of various bananas can be seen dangling every which way off of old doors, worn walls and metal roofing. Sit on a plastic stool across the narrow road and sip some tea from a vendor while drinking in the sight. Be sure to take a photo of this gorgeously gritty nook of the city and then buy some bananas to support the long-standing business.
8. Yangon from Above
Yangon Yangon rooftop bar, situated at the top of Sakura Tower near Yangon’s ever-expanding city center, has some of the best panoramic views of the city. Sky Bistro just below on the 20th floor offers some of those same stunning views of Yangon in a restaurant setting. Both locations are frequented by foreigners and Yangonites alike. Yangon Yangon often hosts special events. At least pop in for a coffee or cocktail with a fantastic look at Myanmar’s premier cityscape.
Sakura Tower, 339 Bogyoke Aung San Road, +95 1 255 255
9. 19th Street and Chinatown
19th Street gives patrons a taste of Yangon’s nightlife, street food and markets all in one. This bustling street is located in the Chinatown district of Yangon and brims with an assortment of restaurants, dingy bars and stalls. Barbecue is the way to go here. Hit up Kosan Cafe for a low-cost night of drinking and fusion food or grab some brews with views of all the action at any number of 19th Street’s beer stations.
10. Yangon’s Downtown Architecture
Definitely stroll the streets of downtown Yangon to see some remarkable colonial buildings and religious structures in varying states of decay and splendor. Also, leave time to get lost down some lesser-known side streets. Be on the look out for lines of monks and chanting nuns meandering through neighborhoods early in the mornings collecting alms for a true glimpse of Myanmar’s generous culture.
Almost everywhere you turn in Yangon it’s like a vibrant scene set perfectly for a snapshot of Myanmar’s culture and the Burmese way of life. There are plenty of taxis and transit apps to help you get around Yangon but try hopping on a trishaw for a more personal encounter with the memorable city.