Yangon is the former capital of Myanmar and is generally the first stop for many who visit this remarkable country. It’s got all the excitement and chaos of a big city yet is still quite juvenile compared with other Southeast Asian capitals like Bangkok or Phnom Penh.
Yangon is extremely lively and you’ll find yourself looking in awe at a city that’s trying to catch up with modernisation, yet still holds practices from the 21st century. Street vendors replace shops, market stalls replace supermarkets and street food replaces fast food. It is a city that will fascinate you in more ways than you will expect.
Most nationalities will need a visa to get into Myanmar, which you can obtain via the Official Government Website, and this 28-day visa does allow exit via land.
It is very easy to fly directly into Yangon. Many airlines, including budget airline Air Asia will get you there directly from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. The airport is located about 30 minutes from town and the easiest way to get to the centre of town is to grab a taxi for 6000 kyat. There is a bus route, which is a little more complicated but will only set you back 200 kyat. You need to walk about 30 mins from the airport towards Pyay Road and then take bus number 51, which will take about 1 hour to reach the city centre.
The main overland route into Myanmar from Thailand is at Mae Sot. You can get the bus from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Yangon via this route for around 1500 baht, but it is a lengthy 14 hours plus border crossing. We suggest staying a night in Myawaddy or Hpa-An on the Burmese border before making your way to Yangon by bus.
Not to miss
Explore Yangon’s Colonial History
Uncharted Horizons Myanmar
The Yangon Circular Train
Other attractions & sights
Try Yangon’s famous Street Food
You don’t need to walk too far before an enticing waft of tasty aromas drifts in your direction. Yangon is famous for street food, and it’s everywhere. Go on your own street food tour. Be adventurous and taste some street side chow. For as little as 50c you can sit down at one of the small noodle stands and grab yourself a bowl of tofu spicy noodles and chat with the street vendors.
Visit a Tea House
The Burmese love their tea, and a visit to Yangon wouldn’t be complete without stopping into one of the many tea houses that are tucked away in the city’s side streets. Short stools, little tables and old china will give you a look into an old tradition that has stood the test of time.
Take a stroll around Yangon's lakes
Yangon has 2 famous lakes, Kandawgyi Lake and Inya Lake, both located not too far from the city centre. Kandawgyi Lake is located 1.5 kilometres from the city centre and is surrounded by a beautiful park with many nice cafes and restaurants, some which have great views of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Inya Lake is a little further north and is where you will find Aung San Suu Kyi’s House where she spent most of her time under house arrest.
Drug Elimination Museum
As far as museums go, this one is far by the most unique we’ve come across. Zombies demonstrate what being on drugs is like and you learn about the history of drug trafficking in Myanmar as well as the steps taken to eradicate it. The entrance fee is only $3 so it’s worth a few hours just for some interesting, perhaps surprising, information.
Do some shopping
Visiting the local markets in Yangon is an experience in itself. The markets are brimming with activity, with vendors selling anything from handicrafts to food to jewellery and souvenirs. The oldest and best-known market is the Bogyoke Aung San Market, which has been serving Yangon’s locals for over 70 years. There is also Theingyi Zay Market and Anawrahta Road Night Market.
If you’re looking to shop for a cause Pomelo is a great social enterprise that trains underprivileged children, people living in poverty and HIV sufferers to make very good quality and well priced gifts.
Eat for a cause
Visit Yangon’s lesser known Pagodas
There are about 12 Buddhist temples in Yangon, not including the world famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Spend some time exploring these religious shrines that much of Myanmar is famous for. Some of the temples include Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha, Nga Htat Gyi, Baungdawgyoke Pagoda and Sule Pagoda.
Food & drink
Street food is everywhere in Yangon and you can find good cheap food on every corner. Things like noodles, curries, samosas and spring rolls line most curbs, and there is an abundance of fruit for dessert. Whatever the season, you’ll find it. If you’re not entirely game enough to try the street food however, there are many restaurants located throughout the centre of town. Most are quite discreet though and you need to look hard at the signs to find them. A popular street for food is 19th street; here you can find many restaurants and bars.
With 19th Street being the Khao San Road of Yangon this is also the place where you will find cheap alcohol. Bars and restaurants compete for customers, selling 80c Mojitos and offering free snacks. If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket try the Strand Hotel for a cocktail that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the shoes of a character from George Orwell’s Burmese Days. In town on a Tuesday night? Pop into the Pansodan Art Gallery where you’ll feel like you’re in a 1920’s Parisian art studio.
There are many guesthouses and hotels located throughout Yangon for as little as $20 USD a night. Most hotels charge in USD and then convert to kyat when you arrive. They accept both currencies. Hostels aren’t as common in Myanmar but you can find a few in Yangon, including top picks Agga Youth Hostel and Pickled Tea Hostel. The centre of Yangon would be classified as nearby the Sule Pagoda, but many hostels are located nearby 19th street, nicknamed the Khao San Road of Yangon, although nowhere near as animated.
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