15 Fun Things to Do in Yangon, Myanmar
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The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is one of the countries that make up the Southeast Asian region. This tropical country is one of the lesser-known tourist spots in the world. It was only in 2012 when the influx of tourists reached over a million, and, until now, the country is still making a name for itself in the tourism scene.
Because of the late introduction to the international tourism industry, Myanmar is one of the few countries whose culture and traditions remain untouched by modernity, even in its most populated city and former capital, Yangon. It has a unique blend of Chinese and Indian culture, and below are just some of the fun things you can do in this country.
1. Marvel at the 25-centuries-old Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most iconic structures in Myanmar. It boasts of Burmese architecture and culture, and was first constructed 2,500 years ago. This pagoda enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair, and is considered the most sacred pagoda of the locals. Aside from being a place of worship, Shwedagon Pagoda also houses an exhibit that honors those who built it.
2. Count the sides of the unique Sule Pagoda
If the Shwedagon Pagoda showcases the ancient, Sule Pagoda houses contemporary Burmese architecture, ideology, and arts. The most distinguishing feature of Sule Pagoda is that it is octagonal in shape, down from its wide base and up to its needlepoint tip. The best thing about this place of worship, however, is its bright golden color, which is more visible at night when it is spotlighted and glows its very beautiful golden hue, right in the heart of Yangon.
3. Decipher the symbols on the Chaukhtatgyi Paya
The Burmese are very devout to the dominant religion in the country, the Theravada Buddhism. This is why there are several pagodas or stupas, pilgrimage sites, and… giant reclining Buddha images! The Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a giant statue of Buddha that is 30 meters tall and more than 60 meters in length. It is mostly made of metal, and is generously designed with diamonds. On the feet of the image are Buddhist symbols that are intricately engraved.
4. Talk with monks-in-training in the Kalaywa Monastery
You’ve probably watched several martial arts movies and saw how the main characters train with monks. In Myanmar, those places of training are called monasteries, and you will be amazed to see how much dedication is poured onto the study of the Buddhist Scriptures. The Kalaywa Monastery is one of the most known monastic school in Myanmar, and is a great place to start your immersion in Burmese traditions.
5. Binge shop in Bogyoke Aung San Market
Aside from oil and tourism, gemstones are also a major contributor to Myanmar’s GDP. Bogyoke Aung San Market, or simply Bogyoke Market, is a huge bazaar that is known for selling a variety of gemstones, jewelry, clothes, and handicrafts. Bring out your inner haggling expertise and bring home a bag of authentic souvenirs.
6. Be bejeweled in Myanmar Gems Museum and Mart
Since gemstones are a major produce in Myanmar, there is more than gem market. The Myanmar Gems Museum and market is another great gem market to be dazzled in. The museum and mart is located on the third floor of the building in 66 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Yangon. The other floors house a variety of stalls ranging from food to clothing. Nearby is the Kaba Aye Pagoda, or the World Peace Pagoda, that you might also want to visit.
7. Appreciate Burmese culture National Museum of Myanmar
The National Museum of Myanmar is located in 66/74 Pyay Road, Yangon 11191. It has a total of 14 art galleries that are housed in separate halls. The art galleries exhibit the entire spectrum of Burmese folk art, calligraphy, religion, and history through timelines.
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8. Go on a food trip in Chinatown
Going to a city without going on a food trip is a violation of my principles as a foodie. There is no way you should go to Yangon without checking out the local Chinatown. Food carts, stalls, grills, lights, drinks, and locals abound here. It gets busier at night so be prepared.
9. Take a ride in the Yangon Circular Railway
The railway is one of the most preferred mode of transportation of locals because its loop system connects a lot of small towns to the urban Yangon at an affordable price. The loop is more than 45 kilometers in length, connects 39 stations from Yangon Central to Pazundaung Township in the south. It takes just 3 hours to complete a loop. If you want to see Yangon life silently by the window, riding the railway might prove as a unique and effective tour experience for you.
10. Offer a prayer in the Botataung Pagoda
The Botataung Pagoda is both an old and new pagoda: it was built around the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda, making it one of the oldest, but since it was completely destroyed during the Second World War, it was rebuilt, making it one of the youngest pagodas as well. The Botataung Pagoda is hollow inside and its interior walls are mostly lined with gold.
11. Pamper yourself in Taw Win Centre
Taw Win Centre is a shopping mall that is located in 45 Pyay Road, Yangon, just nearby the National Museum. Aside from restaurants and cafes, this shopping mall also has clothing stores, beauty shops, and spas. This mall is air-conditioned and you can spend a great deal of time here by window shopping or grabbing a bite.
12. Shop until you drop at the Myanmar Plaza Shopping Center
Myanmar Plaza Shopping Centre is one of the largest malls in Yangon, and is the first international shopping center in the city. It was opened only recently in late 2015, but there are a variety of brands that have been introduced to Myanmar for the first time. Some of these brands that might sound familiar to you are the Australian Gloria Jean’s Coffee, Swiss jewelry Chopard, and the Italian clothesline Zegna.
13. Hang out in the People’s Square and Park
If you have a whole day ahead of you but you’re unsure where to spend it, consider hanging out in People’s Square and Park, which is just located near the Shwedagon Pagoda. In the park are beautiful gardens, trees for shade, and a lake with swan boats like the ones in Baguio City’s Burnham Lake. There are also restaurants around the park area. Try to spot the fountain with elephants.
14. Maha Bandula Park
If the People’s Square and Park is located near the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Maha Bandula Park, which is right in the middle of downtown, is located near Sule Pagoda. The park is sometimes called Maha Bandula Garden as well, and is a favorite hangout place by the locals. The Independence Monument, a 50-meter tall obelisk, can be seen here.
15. Have a walking tour in the heart of the city
As a veteran traveler, I can say for sure that nothing beats a quiet, afternoon walking tour in a city. It doesn’t matter how big or small the place is—walking around will give you the best view of the culture. Seeing locals, watching public transportation in the streets, and seeing residential buildings away from your hotel. In Myanmar, one of the best places to start a walking tour is in front of the Yangon City Hall. Nearby landmarks include the Sule Pagoda, the Maha Bandula Park, and other establishments that will give you an authentic feeling of being a local.
Yangon Travel Tips:
- Myanmar requires most nationalities to secure a travel visa before visiting. However, if you’re from the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, or Indonesia, you are allowed to visit Myanmar even without a visa for up to 14 days! Meanwhile, Singaporean passport holders can visit Myanmar for 30 days.
- Pagodas in Myanmar have a dress code that need to be observed at all times. Both men and women should wear pants that cover the knees and legs, and all upper clothing should cover shoulders, and be long enough to cover the elbows. You also need to remove your shoes and socks when entering a pagoda. If you are travelling with your partner, avoid public display of affection as not to offend the locals.
- Banks are open from Mondays to Fridays from 9AM to 4PM. Commercial establishments are open 7 days a week, but some are closed on Mondays.
- Myanmar is a tropical country, so if you plan to have a walking tour, avoid the months of June to October, when the country experiences heavy rainfall. The months of March to May is the hottest, while November to February are the coolest.
- Wi-Fi is available in most cafes and hotels, but the Internet speed is slow. Some websites are restricted by the government, but most social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are allowed.