Burma’s capital until 2005, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) is a common starting point for many trips through Burma. Although its largest and busiest city, Yangon has retained the sleepy charm of a provincial town, with its crumbling British colonial mansions standing beside shady parks and glittering gold pagodas.
Yangon is a melting pot of traditional and contemporary, where authentic Burmese culture melds with a colonial legacy still present decades after the departure of the British. Of course at the top of most visitors’ list is the awe-inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda, a striking expression of Burmese faith with streams of locals pouring in and out to pay their respects throughout the day.
Also known as the ‘Garden City of the East’, Yangon’s many parks and lakes are a hub of activity on the weekends, drawing families, couples and friends all from around the surrounding area. The Kandawgyi Nature Park is one of the largest, containing one of two major lakes in Yangon where the dazzling Karaweik Barge is located, a replica of the royal Barge.
Head to downtown Yangon and discover a unique blend of colonial charm and buzzing cosmopolitan life down its narrow alleys and humming streets. Explore the cultural districts of Little India and Chinatown as well as the Sule Pagoda, an octagonal 2,000 year old gilded stupa in the heart of downtown. The large covered Bogyoke Aung San Market (often referred to as Scott’s Market) is a great place to get a taste of local life, whilst picking up a few traditional Burmese handicrafts along the way.
Much of Yangon can be easily explore on foot, which is often a better option due to the city’s somewhat unpredictable traffic, however another option is the Yangon Circle Train. This train slowly travels in a ring around the city, offering a great insight into local life in the city. Other highlights include discovering the city’s burgeoning art scene in a number of shops and museums, the barbecue stalls and beer stations of 19th Street and the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple, home to a 65 meter long reclining Buddha Image.