Introduction

Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is the biggest city in Myanmar. It used to be the capital of Myanmar for much of the 20th century, until 2005. Yangon has had many outside influences over the centuries – the British, Dutch, Indian, and Chinese are just some of the cultures that have left their mark on the city. Today, Yangon’s greatest influence are the increasing number of tourists and commercialism (malls and department stores are cropping up rapidly throughout the city).

There are a few hotels up to western standards in Yangon, but I would recommend staying in Chinatown because it’s in a central location, and there are plenty of inexpensive restaurants safe for tourists nearby. I stayed at the Best Western in Chinatown, which was pretty nice with excellent views of Yangon.
Yangon’s international airport (RGN) is the best way to get to Yangon (and Myanmar, in general) from most international destinations. The domestic flights go in and out of the domestic terminal, which is a separate building from the international terminal.
Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience with transportation within Yangon since I used a tour guide who made arrangements for us. That being said, most of the sites are within walking distance. The two exceptions are Botataung and Shwedagon Pagoda.

In case you’re wondering, the tour company arranged for us to have a tour guide and a separate driver.
If you’re into seafood, Yangon is the best place to have it in Myanmar (other places have it transported from Yangon).

In addition to Burmese food, Yangon has good Chinese food, especially in Chinatown, and excellent Thai food. If you want Thai food, I’d recommend the Green Elephant (read review here).
One word: HOT. It’s hot all year, but the local guides told me that the summer is especially intolerable where the temperatures can go beyond 40C, causing nose bleeds amongst the locals. It’s also very humid (much more so than Florida, if you’ve been there). Due to the harsh conditions, the high tourist season is during the winter while the summer is when tourism is pretty much dead (and actively working tourist guides are difficult to find).
Since it’s really hot in Yangon, it’s a good idea to have cold bottled water frequently. Sunscreen would also help, though, it’s so humid that you might sweat it out.

Mosquitoes weren’t an issue in Yangon, but upon entry into the country at Yangon airport, you may be denied entry if you pose a threat of spreading Zika (which they determine based on the country arrived from).

Please be careful with food also. There are plenty of restaurants with authentic foods that are safe with tourists, so don’t feel that you’ll miss out on authentic local foods if you’re into trying local cuisines. As a precaution, take some Imodium or, better yet, Cipro with you.

Sites

Hours: 6AM – 10 PM

Time to Spend: 45 min

Description:

This pagoda is said to hold a hair from the Buddha. What makes this pagoda unique is that the pagoda’s stupa is hollow and people can walk inside it. The inside of the pagoda stupa has the enshrined hair piece.

Verdict: Good to see
Cost: Free

Hours: 6AM – 10 PM

Time to Spend: 90 min

Description:

The city walk comprises of seeing Yangon’s government and commerce buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries built by foreigners from the UK and continental Europe as well as India and China. Some of these buildings are still in use, though many of the old commerce buildings have been repurposed into current government buildings.

Verdict: Do not miss
Cost: $2

Hours: 6AM – 10 PM

Time to Spend: 45 min

Description:

The Sule Pagoda is in the center of Yangon, next to the historic old government and commerce buildings. The centrality of it has been further emphasized because it’s the center of a roundabout.

Like Botataung, the Sule Pagoda also holds a Buddha hair relic.

Verdict: Good to see
Cost: $8

Hours: 6AM – 10 PM

Time to Spend: 1 – 2 hours

Description:

This is the largest pagoda in the city, and the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world.

It’s quite an impressive site whether inside the complex or outside, from downtown. The grounds of the pagoda are on a high enough elevation that it’s necessary to take an escalator and elevator to three of the four entrances.

The main stupa is a gold, 99ft tall structure with a gigantic diamond (60 carats?) at the pinnacle. The main stupa is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. If that wasn’t enough, there are smaller structures on the grounds, such as smaller shrines including one resembling the Mahabodhi Temple in India where the Buddha achieved enlightenment, a prayer hall, a bell pavilion, and more.

Be aware that the escalators are inside the entrance, so you have to go on it barefoot, and this can be a little painful.

Verdict: Do not miss
Cost: Free.

Hours: 6AM – 8 PM

Time to Spend: 30 min – 1 hr

Description:

The reclining Buddha is a common theme across the Buddhist world. Every country where Buddhism was big has at least one variation of the reclining Buddha, and this is one of Myanmar’s. Even though the theme is common, the depiction varies between the countries and sometimes the regions enough that it doesn’t feel like seeing the same thing.

The reclining Buddha at Chauk Hitat Gyi Pagoda is 65 meters long and is quite colorful. This is in contrast to other reclining Buddha depictions that are more ascetic. The soles of the Buddha’s feet have 108 images signifying the traits of the Buddha. There’s also a mural on the wall opposite the feet. Usually paintings or murals inside Buddhist temples depict the history of Buddhism or Buddhism in the context of the country, so it was fascinating to see this mural, which shows the followers of the Buddha.

Verdict: Good to see

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