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Yangon – a growing mega-city that retains its classical charm
There can be few more pleasant urban experiences in Southeast Asia than strolling peacefully through Kandawgyi Lake, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, whilst gazing up at the majesty of the golden Shwedagon Pagoda. While the 21st Century Asian development boom has definitely reached Yangon, with impressive new buildings rising all across the city, Myanmar’s former capital somehow manages to retain a traditional charm that is absent from many other Southeast Asian mega-cities. Yangon is one of the region’s major urban centers; home to approximately seven million people and Myanmar’s center of commerce, this is a vast, sprawling metropolis with traffic-clogged streets and a skyline that seems to get higher every day. But with the Shwedagon’s golden spires constantly shining down over the city and cultural curiosities around every corner, from gleaming Buddhist temples to beautiful colonial buildings, there is something utterly charming about Yangon that inspires further exploration. Book now at Best Western’s hotels in Yangon and discover everything this city has to offer.
Read More about Yangon
No trip to Yangon would be complete without a visit to the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda. The gleaming golden spires dominate the Yangon skyline and draw hundreds of local worshippers and international visitors each day. Myanmar's most sacred and iconic landmark, the Shwedagon Pagoda is reputed to be more than 2,500 years old, which would make it the world's oldest Buddhist stupa. It is also believed to house strands of Buddha's hair and other holy relics, while its design incorporates more than 4,500 diamonds. All of which makes the Shwedagon Pagoda a hugely important historical and religious site, and plans are in place to inscribe it on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Kandawgyi Park, Lake and Yangon Zoological Gardens
A green oasis in the heart of Yangon, Kandawgyi Park is a popular place for locals to come and relax, strolling around Kandawgyi Lake and enjoying a picnic on the grass. It is a truly charming sight to see local couples walking together, the men dressed in traditional "longyis" and holding umbrellas to shade their partners from the hot sun. The lake itself is exquisite as it houses the spectacular golden Karaweik barge and can be partially crossed via low wooden walkways. On the south side of the park lies the Yangon Zoological Gardens, which is over a century old and now attracts more than two million visitors every year.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Visitors seeking souvenirs or wanting to experience another aspect of Burmese culture can head to Bogyoke Aung San Market, a local bazaar that bustles with life. Formerly known as Scott Market, this trading hub is located in a colonial-style building in downtown Yangon and houses a vast selection of stores and stalls, selling everything from traditional Burmese "longyis" and other clothing to handicrafts, antiques, jewellery and works of art. A series of food stalls are also positioned close to the market, providing the perfect place for hungry shoppers to relax and enjoy Yangon’s famous street food. Guests should note that the market is closed on Mondays.
National Museum of Myanmar
Housed in a vast five-story building, the National Museum of Myanmar features an extensive collection of exhibits, artifacts and artworks that trace the history of the country and its people. While the museum dates back to the 1950s, it moved to the existing site in 1996 to accommodate an expanding collection of treasures. These range from prehistoric fossils and Stone Age weapons to items related to the Bagan period and a large section dedicated to the reign of King Thibaw, the country's last Burmese sovereign. This area includes the king’s eight-meter-high, jewel-encrusted throne, which is worth the entrance fee alone.
Rising from a busy intersection in downtown Yangon, the Sule Pagoda is a soaring golden stupa which is said to date back to a similar time as the Shwedagon Pagoda, making it approximately 2,500 years old. Nestled between the traffic-filled streets, this 44-meter-high octagonal landmark reflects the contrast between ancient and modern Myanmar. It can be accessed daily for a US$3 entrance fee, while foreign visitors are asked to make a small donation. Guides can be hired to provide a deeper insight into the pagoda. Along with Shwedagon Pagoda, the Sule Pagoda is a must-visit site for anyone interested in the country’s Buddhist heritage.
Nestled among the bustling streets of downtown Yangon, curious visitors can choose to explore the city's vibrant and colorful Chinatown area. "Tayote Tan" as it is known locally, is broadly situated between Anawrahta and Maha Bandula roads, west of the Sule Pagoda, in one of the city's oldest districts. Bright and busy, Chinatown delights the senses with its collection of steaming street food stalls, traditional Chinese shops and colorful temples. It is also worth visiting this area during the major Chinese festivals, especially Lunar New Year, when red lanterns adorn the streets and the atmosphere becomes livelier than ever.
U Thant House
The United Nations Secretary General from 1961 to 1971, U Thant was one of Myanmar's most highly respected international diplomats. In 2012, work commenced to transform the shell of his former home in Yangon into a museum to showcase his life and achievements, and two years later in 2014, this exquisitely restored colonial-style house was opened to the public. The building now features a large and interesting collection of exhibits relating to U Thant, including photographs with global figures such as John Lennon and letters to Kennedy and Khruschev aimed at diffusing the Cuban Missile Crisis. There is also the chance to listen to U Thant's speeches.
The largest lake in Yangon, Inya is a popular place for citizens to come and relax. Created as a reservoir by the British in the 1880s (and formerly named Lake Victoria after the British monarch), Inya Lake is located 10km north of the city’s downtown area, close to the University of Yangon and US Embassy. It is also the location of Aung San Suu Kyi's home, where she spent so many years under house arrest. The park surrounding the lake is a pleasant place for a stroll, although the unshaded footpaths can get hot during the day so guests are advised to copy the locals and take an umbrella.
Things to do in Yangon
Neighborhoods to Explore
- Mayangon, for Inya Lake
Top Things to Do In Yangon
- Visit the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda
- Join the locals in a slow stroll around Kandawgyi Lake
- Take the circular train around the city’s suburbs
- Shop for traditional souvenirs at Bogyoke Market
- Experience the sights and sounds of Yangon’s Chinatown
- Inspired by the Shwedagon? Then take a tour of the city’s many other temples
- Discover Yangon’s delightful colonial architecture
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