Myanmar: Loving Yangon
Lower your expectations and be surprised. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my trip in Yangon, Myanmar.
Though I did some research before the trip, I still thought that there’s nothing more about the city aside from the pagodas. I was wrong.
I must admit, I fell in love with Yangon. Its majestic pagodas, gold plated stupas, the mix of modern buildings and British colonial buildings, the weather, the food, the bars where you can dance or just chill, its people — everything.
Once you arrived in the airport, make sure to exchange your currencies to Myanmar kyat.
Buy a local SIM card. You’ll never regret it. There are three telco companies in Myanmar: MPT, Ooredoo, and Telenor. I purchased Ooredoo SIM for 6,500 kyats or less than USD5 with 5GB data package consumable for one month and with call and text bundle. Having a local SIM is very useful for you to book Grab or Uber or other transport network vehicles (TNVs). Grab is more popular in Yangon.
You can reserve your TNVs booking once you’re in downtown since there are taxis at fixed rate in the airport. So before getting out of the airport, find the taxi booth inside the airport and book a taxi going to your destination. Taxi rate to downtown is at 10,000 or 11,000 kyats.
If you want a lavish stay in Yangon, the city got well-known hotel brands like Shangri-la (hotel info), Novotel, Melia (hotel info), Pan Pacific (hotel info), and Lotte, among others. Or stay at The Strand, which is one of the most famous hotels in the city built in 1901.
But if you want to experience a stay in a century-old building with clean room, free Burmese breakfast, excellent service, and accommodating staff, book your stay at The SAT Hostel (hostel info) in the center of Chinatown in Yangon.
It’s good to try a place’s public transportation like bus or train. But I suggest that you use Grab when touring around Yangon because it’s more reliable, especially if you’re following an itinerary. Second, the rate is fixed. Getting to one tourist spot to another within downtown Yangon will cost you around 2,000 to 5,000 kyats per trip. Lucky for you if you’re not travelling alone as you can share the expenses.
As they say, you’ve never been to Yangon if you don’t visit the Shwedagon [‘shwe-da-gon] Pagoda.
But before going to Shwedagon Pagoda, visit Botataung [‘bo-ta-tong] Pagoda which enshrines a sacred hair of Buddha. This pagoda has been built over 2,500 years ago.
Entrance fee for Botataung Pagoda is 6,000 kyats.
After Botataung Pagoda, book your TNV to Sule [‘su-le] Pagoda.
Sule Pagoda is also believed to be over 2,000 years old. It also houses a hair of Buddha.
Entrance fee for Sule Pagoda is 4,000 kyats.
Nearby attractions in Sule Pagoda are Maha Bandoola Park as well as Yangon City Hall and the red High Court Building which are iconic colonial-era buildings in the city.
If you’ve been to Bangkok’s reclining Buddha, Yangon also has a giant reclining Buddha in Chauk Htat Gyi [‘chok-tat-ji] Pagoda.
Take a break in Kandawgyi [‘kan-doh-ji] Park. There are lot of restaurants in Kandawgyi Park where you can have lunch and have a good view of Kandawgyi Lake.
Save the best for the last — for Shwedagon Pagoda.
It is the most sacred pagoda in Yangon.
Even pagodas in Yangon almost look the same, each has some feature to awe you.
The gold plated Shwedagon Pagoda is such a majestic view and every design in structures in Shwedagon will show you how truly rich is Myanmar.
The over 2,500-year old pagoda has stupa covered with more than 4,500 diamonds — of which, the largest is a 72 carat diamond.
Entrance fee for Shwedagon Pagoda is 10,000 kyats.
Dress code: When entering any pagoda, they require visitors to wear trousers or ankle-length skirts and elbow-length sleeves. Visitors are expected to be barefooted when entering all pagodas.
Before my trip, I read that knee-length skirt or dress will do inside the pagodas, so I was wearing a knee-length dress during my Yangon trip. However, the length of my dress still didn’t pass the pagoda guards, so I was given longyi [‘lon-ji] — a cloth widely worn in Myanmar. So, I got different longyis in my pagoda tour in Yangon! Perfect for photo opps!
Nightlife in Yangon
I underestimated Yangon’s nightlife. So I was really surprised when I discovered these places to enjoy the night with great food, good view of Shwedagon Pagoda, affordable drinks, and where I could dance and have fun, or just chill.
Barbecue night along 19th Street in Yangon’s Chinatown
Sumptuous dinner with Shwedagon Pagoda view in a rooftop bar of Vista Bar at 168 West Shwegondaing Rd.
Dance and drink at 7 Joint Bar & Grill at the corner of 47th Street and Road of Yangon
Chill at the rooftop of Eclipse Bar & Restaurant in Myanmar Plaza
If you’re thinking to visit Myanmar, you don’t have to hesitate. Go and book that flight!