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=== History ===
 
=== History ===
According to local legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was built during the time of the Buddha and the area around the pagoda, modern Yangon (Rangoon), has been settled since then. Whatever the truth of the legend, it is certain that a Mon village named Dagon has existed at the site since the 6th century A.D. It was renamed Yangon (the 'end of strife') by the Shwebo based King Alaungpaya when he captured it from rebel Mon leaders in 1755 after which its importance as a port city began to grow. However, the city gained in importance only after the British occupied it during the Second Burmese War in 1852, after which it became the capital of British Burma and the trading and commercial center of Burma. The British called the city Rangoon, which was an anglicised form of "Yangon". The city grew rapidly during the colonial period, which left a legacy of solid 19th-century colonial architecture. Burma attained independence in 1948, but its true 'modern' period begins with the 1962 military coup and the institution of an isolationist Socialist regime in 1964, resulting in the steady decay of the city and its infrastructure.
+
According to local legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was built during the time of the Buddha and the area around the pagoda, modern Yangon has been settled since then. Whatever the truth of the legend, it is certain that a Mon village named Dagon has existed at the site since the 6th century A.D. It was renamed Yangon (the 'end of strife') by the Shwebo based King Alaungpaya when he captured it from rebel Mon leaders in 1755 after which its importance as a port city began to grow. However, the city gained in importance only after the British occupied it during the Second Burmese War in 1852, after which it became the capital of British Burma and the trading and commercial center of Burma. The British called the city Rangoon, which was an anglicised form of "Yangon". The city grew rapidly during the colonial period, which left a legacy of solid 19th-century colonial architecture. Burma attained independence in 1948, but its true 'modern' period begins with the 1962 military coup and the institution of an isolationist Socialist regime in 1964, resulting in the steady decay of the city and its infrastructure.
 
{{infobox|Yangon or Rangoon?|Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD promote usage of Rangoon instead of Yangon, as a sign of support for the democracy movement. Many Western governments, including that of the United States, maintain usage of Rangoon as a sign of their rejection of the legitimacy of the current government.}}
 
{{infobox|Yangon or Rangoon?|Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD promote usage of Rangoon instead of Yangon, as a sign of support for the democracy movement. Many Western governments, including that of the United States, maintain usage of Rangoon as a sign of their rejection of the legitimacy of the current government.}}
  
In 1988, Rangoon was the site of peaceful pro-democracy protests, in which thousands, including monks and students were gunned down. In 1989, the city was renamed to its original Burmese name, Yangon, by the military junta. In 2006, the capital was moved to [[Naypyidaw]] but today Yangon remains the business, cultural, and intellectual capital of modern Burma. In 2007, Yangon again became the center for demonstrations against the military government.
+
In 1988, Yangon was the site of peaceful pro-democracy protests, in which thousands, including monks and students were gunned down. In 1989, the city was renamed to its original Burmese name, Yangon, by the military junta. In 2006, the capital was moved to [[Naypyidaw]] but today Yangon remains the business, cultural, and intellectual capital of modern Burma. In 2007, Yangon again became the center for demonstrations against the military government.
  
 
[[Image:Yangoncolonial.jpg|thumb|300px|Tree-lined broad streets featuring colonial architecture]]
 
[[Image:Yangoncolonial.jpg|thumb|300px|Tree-lined broad streets featuring colonial architecture]]
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=== People ===
 
=== People ===
  
Since the 17th century, Yangon has been a cosmopolitan city with a polyglot mixture of peoples. Portuguese fortune hunters, Dutch businessmen, Englishmen of all sorts, Chinese seeking refuge from the upheavals in the Yunnan, and many many Indians who arrived in several waves during colonial times. Most of these people are now gone and Yangon is now a predominantly Bamar city with a large Indian minority and a growing Chinese minority. Still, there are traces of the old Rangoon still visible, whether it is in the crowded Indian dominated parts of Anwaratha Street, or in the occasional Anglo-Burmese or Anglo-Indian who walks up and says hello. In some ways, the biggest change in modern Rangoon is the loss of the Indians, who arrived with the British as soldiers and laborers (though Indian traders have always been a part of the Burmese landscape) and then left in two large waves of migration (during the Japanese occupation and again, in 1963, when they were forced to leave by Ne Win's government). Ethnic groups such as the Shan and Kayen are also present. ''Kabya'', or persons of mixed heritage, are common in Yangon.
+
Since the 17th century, Yangon has been a cosmopolitan city with a polyglot mixture of peoples. Portuguese fortune hunters, Dutch businessmen, Englishmen of all sorts, Chinese seeking refuge from the upheavals in the Yunnan, and many many Indians who arrived in several waves during colonial times. Most of these people are now gone and Yangon is now a predominantly Bamar city with a large Indian minority and a growing Chinese minority. Still, there are traces of the old Yangon still visible, whether it is in the crowded Indian dominated parts of Anwaratha Street, or in the occasional Anglo-Burmese or Anglo-Indian who walks up and says hello. In some ways, the biggest change in modern Yangon is the loss of the Indians, who arrived with the British as soldiers and laborers (though Indian traders have always been a part of the Burmese landscape) and then left in two large waves of migration (during the Japanese occupation and again, in 1963, when they were forced to leave by Ne Win's government). Ethnic groups such as the Shan and Kayen are also present. ''Kabya'', or persons of mixed heritage, are common in Yangon.
  
 
=== Climate ===
 
=== Climate ===
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===By boat===
 
===By boat===
  
A hundred and fifty years ago, boats were the way to get to places from Rangoon and IWT (Inland Water Transport) passenger ferries still ply the major rivers. Yangon to [[Mandalay]] takes 5 days with a change at [[Pyay]] (3 days) and the return trip (downriver) takes three days. A luxury ferry (the Delta Queen) recalls the days of yore on the Yangon-[[Pathein]] route (about 20 hours, US$170/person). The IWT ferry to Pathein takes 15 hours for the over-night trip (US$35/10).
+
A hundred and fifty years ago, boats were the way to get to places from Yangon and IWT (Inland Water Transport) passenger ferries still ply the major rivers. Yangon to [[Mandalay]] takes 5 days with a change at [[Pyay]] (3 days) and the return trip (downriver) takes three days. A luxury ferry (the Delta Queen) recalls the days of yore on the Yangon-[[Pathein]] route (about 20 hours, US$170/person). The IWT ferry to Pathein takes 15 hours for the over-night trip (US$35/10).
  
 
===By bus===
 
===By bus===
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*'''Statue of ''Wa Thon Da Ray''''' The statue of ''Wa Thon Da Ray'', the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the Southern Walkway. ''Wa Thon Da Ray'' is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honor.
 
*'''Statue of ''Wa Thon Da Ray''''' The statue of ''Wa Thon Da Ray'', the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the Southern Walkway. ''Wa Thon Da Ray'' is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honor.
 
*'''The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion''', a little before the Western Walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the Pagoda complex.
 
*'''The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion''', a little before the Western Walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the Pagoda complex.
*'''Maha Ganda Bell''' Known locally as the Singu Min Bell (after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon), the Maha Ganda bell was cast  between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tons. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825) but dropped it into the Rangoon River instead. The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese shoved some bamboo rafts and, lo behold, powered by rafts or by divine right, the bell floated to the surface and was returned to the pagoda! Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa (spectacular at night) and a panoramic view of the city.
+
*'''Maha Ganda Bell''' Known locally as the Singu Min Bell (after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon), the Maha Ganda bell was cast  between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tons. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825) but dropped it into the Yangon River instead. The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese shoved some bamboo rafts and, lo behold, powered by rafts or by divine right, the bell floated to the surface and was returned to the pagoda! Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa (spectacular at night) and a panoramic view of the city.
 
*'''Naungdawgyi pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung''' Left of the Northern walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. (Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform.) Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing. The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!
 
*'''Naungdawgyi pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung''' Left of the Northern walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. (Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform.) Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing. The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!
 
*'''Dhammazedi inscription''', A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.
 
*'''Dhammazedi inscription''', A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.
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* '''Zoological Gardens''', first opened by the British in 1906, contains Myanmar's most expansive collection of wild animals. During public holidays, the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus are performed for visitors. Open 08:00-18:00.
 
* '''Zoological Gardens''', first opened by the British in 1906, contains Myanmar's most expansive collection of wild animals. During public holidays, the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus are performed for visitors. Open 08:00-18:00.
  
* '''Mahabandoola Garden''', located in the cantonment, is known for its rose gardens. Inside the gardens is the Independence Monument, built to signify Myanmar's independence. The garden offers a great view of the City Hall, and colonial buildings of the British Rangoon.
+
* '''Mahabandoola Garden''', located in the cantonment, is known for its rose gardens. Inside the gardens is the Independence Monument, built to signify Myanmar's independence. The garden offers a great view of the City Hall, and colonial buildings of the British.
 
[[Image:Yangonindependence.jpg|thumb|Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden]]
 
[[Image:Yangonindependence.jpg|thumb|Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden]]
  
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== Do ==
 
== Do ==
  
* '''The Circular Train''' is a fascinating way to get a glimpse of daily life in Yangon. A ticket costs US$1 (you must show your passport) and is available at the Station Masters office. Foreigners must sit in the conductor's carriage.  The station itself, in true British colonial style, is a grand building that combines functional Western styles with Burmese architectural elements (layered ornamental roof). Vendors, vegetable sellers, monks, commuters, all use the train which passes through the many villages that surround Rangoon. The scenery changes from urban to rural fairly quickly and villages with ponds, kids, and cows passing by. The entire journey takes three hours.
+
* '''The Circular Train''' is a fascinating way to get a glimpse of daily life in Yangon. A ticket costs US$1 (you must show your passport) and is available at the Station Masters office. Foreigners must sit in the conductor's carriage.  The station itself, in true British colonial style, is a grand building that combines functional Western styles with Burmese architectural elements (layered ornamental roof). Vendors, vegetable sellers, monks, commuters, all use the train which passes through the many villages that surround Yangon. The scenery changes from urban to rural fairly quickly and villages with ponds, kids, and cows passing by. The entire journey takes three hours.
  
 
* '''The Dallah Ferry''' - to Dallah, a small village across the river from Yangon, is an interesting ferry ride, particularly if you won't have the opportunity to catch a local ferry elsewhere in Burma. The ride is brief but filled with all the craziness of a Burmese ferry: you can buy freshly sliced watermelon, cheroots and cigarettes, tea, all kinds of interesting looking food, various knick-knacks from the many vendors who pack the ferry. The ferry has no seats but small plastic chairs (kid-sized!) are available for rent for 5 kyat (odds are that the chair rental agent won't take your money) and larger deck chairs for 15-20 kyat. The ferry ride seems more like a floating market than a means of transportation! Combine the ride with a trip to Thante (see '''Get out''' below) for a half or full day trip. There is a pagoda (what else) at Dallah worth a visit but otherwise the village is not really a destination. The Dallah ferry leaves from the Pansodan Road Jetty across from The Strand Hotel. Tickets are US$1 from a window reserved for foreigners (locals pay 30 kyat) and you may be required to show your passport.
 
* '''The Dallah Ferry''' - to Dallah, a small village across the river from Yangon, is an interesting ferry ride, particularly if you won't have the opportunity to catch a local ferry elsewhere in Burma. The ride is brief but filled with all the craziness of a Burmese ferry: you can buy freshly sliced watermelon, cheroots and cigarettes, tea, all kinds of interesting looking food, various knick-knacks from the many vendors who pack the ferry. The ferry has no seats but small plastic chairs (kid-sized!) are available for rent for 5 kyat (odds are that the chair rental agent won't take your money) and larger deck chairs for 15-20 kyat. The ferry ride seems more like a floating market than a means of transportation! Combine the ride with a trip to Thante (see '''Get out''' below) for a half or full day trip. There is a pagoda (what else) at Dallah worth a visit but otherwise the village is not really a destination. The Dallah ferry leaves from the Pansodan Road Jetty across from The Strand Hotel. Tickets are US$1 from a window reserved for foreigners (locals pay 30 kyat) and you may be required to show your passport.
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Yangon's tap water is unsafe to drink. Always buy bottled water. Yangon's warm and humid weather makes it imperative to carry water around.
 
Yangon's tap water is unsafe to drink. Always buy bottled water. Yangon's warm and humid weather makes it imperative to carry water around.
  
Tuberculosis and AIDS (known as "A-I-D Five" among locals) afflict a disproportionately high percentage of the people. However, HIV infection is not at the epidemic level (infection rates are much less than 1%). In addition, there is a risk of malaria, although it is more prevalent in rural areas.
+
Tuberculosis and AIDS (known as "A-I-D Five" among locals) afflict a disproportionately high percentage of the people. However, HIV infection is not at the epidemic level (infection rates are much less than 1%). In addition, there is a risk of dengue fever. Malaria is a risk in rural areas.
  
 
=== Medical care ===
 
=== Medical care ===

Revision as of 10:20, 21 March 2010

The Shwedagon Pagoda.

Yangon [1], formerly Rangoon, was the capital of Myanmar until it was superseded by Naypyidaw in November 2005. Today, with a population of over 5 million people, it remains the largest city and main economic hub of Myanmar.

Contents

Understand

The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese, and Indian influences, and is known for its colonial architecture, which although decaying, remains an almost unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital. New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s as the government began to allow private investment. However, Yangon continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its longyi-wearing pedestrians, its street vendors, and its pungent smells.

History

According to local legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was built during the time of the Buddha and the area around the pagoda, modern Yangon has been settled since then. Whatever the truth of the legend, it is certain that a Mon village named Dagon has existed at the site since the 6th century A.D. It was renamed Yangon (the 'end of strife') by the Shwebo based King Alaungpaya when he captured it from rebel Mon leaders in 1755 after which its importance as a port city began to grow. However, the city gained in importance only after the British occupied it during the Second Burmese War in 1852, after which it became the capital of British Burma and the trading and commercial center of Burma. The British called the city Rangoon, which was an anglicised form of "Yangon". The city grew rapidly during the colonial period, which left a legacy of solid 19th-century colonial architecture. Burma attained independence in 1948, but its true 'modern' period begins with the 1962 military coup and the institution of an isolationist Socialist regime in 1964, resulting in the steady decay of the city and its infrastructure.

Yangon or Rangoon?
Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD promote usage of Rangoon instead of Yangon, as a sign of support for the democracy movement. Many Western governments, including that of the United States, maintain usage of Rangoon as a sign of their rejection of the legitimacy of the current government.


In 1988, Yangon was the site of peaceful pro-democracy protests, in which thousands, including monks and students were gunned down. In 1989, the city was renamed to its original Burmese name, Yangon, by the military junta. In 2006, the capital was moved to Naypyidaw but today Yangon remains the business, cultural, and intellectual capital of modern Burma. In 2007, Yangon again became the center for demonstrations against the military government.

Tree-lined broad streets featuring colonial architecture

People

Since the 17th century, Yangon has been a cosmopolitan city with a polyglot mixture of peoples. Portuguese fortune hunters, Dutch businessmen, Englishmen of all sorts, Chinese seeking refuge from the upheavals in the Yunnan, and many many Indians who arrived in several waves during colonial times. Most of these people are now gone and Yangon is now a predominantly Bamar city with a large Indian minority and a growing Chinese minority. Still, there are traces of the old Yangon still visible, whether it is in the crowded Indian dominated parts of Anwaratha Street, or in the occasional Anglo-Burmese or Anglo-Indian who walks up and says hello. In some ways, the biggest change in modern Yangon is the loss of the Indians, who arrived with the British as soldiers and laborers (though Indian traders have always been a part of the Burmese landscape) and then left in two large waves of migration (during the Japanese occupation and again, in 1963, when they were forced to leave by Ne Win's government). Ethnic groups such as the Shan and Kayen are also present. Kabya, or persons of mixed heritage, are common in Yangon.

Climate

The climate is monsoonal, with three distinct seasons: a rainy season from June to October, a cooler and drier "winter" from November to February, and a hot dry season from March to May.

The winter season from November to January is markedly less humid and cooler than the remaining months, and hence sees the greatest number of visitors. Nevertheless, major festivals occur throughout the year, notably Thingyan (the water festival, equivalent to the Thai festival of Songkran), in April. (Festivals are keyed to the lunar cycle, specifically to the full-moon days of each lunar month, and therefore fall on different days each year of the Western, solar-based, calendar).

Get in

By plane

Yangon International Airport (Mingladon) (RGN) is located approximately 30 minutes north of the city centre. Currently undergoing a major upgrade and renovation of existing facilities, it contains both international and domestic terminals. There is no accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the airport. The easiest way to get to and from the airport to the city is by taxi (US$6) but it is also possible to get a pickup or public bus from outside the airport (both can be very crowded!) for under 50 kyat.

International: There are direct flights to RGN from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Gaya, Kolkata, Kunming, Guangzhou and Taipei. International Airlines servicing RGN include Thai Airways, Bangkok Air [2], Malaysia Airlines[3], AirAsia [4], Korean Airlines, Silk Air and Air India. Coffee, tea and very basic snacks (packaged biscuits and single serving cakes) are available inside the security area. Arriving passengers should not change money at the airport because the official exchange rate bears no resemblance to the black market rate. It is easy to convert at the black market rate in the city (or anywhere in the country) and travelers don't need kyat because they must pay for their (pre-paid) taxis in US$. There is a US$10 international departures fee, payable in foreign currency. (A new international terminal opened in the summer of 2007)

Domestic: The domestic terminal is old and tired looking. Facilities are minimal (coffee, tea, and basic packaged snacks are available) but, as a consequence, check-in is simple and quick and bags arrive quickly from arriving aircraft. Ancient buses ferry passengers to their aircraft. Pre-paid taxis are available, pay at the taxi counter inside the baggage claim area, but it is easier and cheaper to exit the terminal and negotiate directly with the Taxi Czar who controls the taxi trade at Mingladon. Try not to allow porters to carry your luggage, as they will demand specified tips and hassle you. This is especially a problem in the domestic terminal as there is no customs to pass through with your bags. If a porter has not attached himself to a hapless tourist, he may take random bags off the luggage cart, hoping someone will follow him.

By train

There are several train lines that connect Yangon to the rest of Burma. Several trains daily connect Yangon to Mandalay via Bago with connections to Bagan and the Inle Lake area at Thazi. Because of a bizarre timetable change in 2006 (apparently to ensure that trains arrive at a reasonable hour at Pyinmana, the station for the new capital), most trains leave early in the morning (2, 3AM) and arrive late at night. Yangon-Mandalay fares for a sleeper are US$35-50, for a seat are US$30-40 on First Class and US$10-15 on Second Class. There is also a direct train line between Yangon and Bagan (US$35/13) but trains take almost 24 hours for a bumpy journey and the change at Thazi is a better bet.

The oldest line in Burma is the Yangon-Pyay line and it shows its age. But, the nine hour journey (US$15/6) along the Irrawaddy basin is well worth it. The Mawlamyine line is equally bumpy and the 10 hours (US$17/11) is almost twice what it takes by road. Trains also run to Pathein in the Irrawaddy delta but are very slow and the bus is a better alternative.

By boat

A hundred and fifty years ago, boats were the way to get to places from Yangon and IWT (Inland Water Transport) passenger ferries still ply the major rivers. Yangon to Mandalay takes 5 days with a change at Pyay (3 days) and the return trip (downriver) takes three days. A luxury ferry (the Delta Queen) recalls the days of yore on the Yangon-Pathein route (about 20 hours, US$170/person). The IWT ferry to Pathein takes 15 hours for the over-night trip (US$35/10).

By bus

(Recent travelers, please update bus fares!)

Most buses depart from the Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal, a bit out of the city and beyond the airport, on the Pyay Road. Buses for the Irrawaddy delta region, however, depart from the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal across the Bayintnaung Bridge. Buses to Mandalay, K11,000 (15 hours) and Bagan (14 hours, 20,000 kyat) depart in the evening. Tickets on AC buses with reclining seats are about 18,000 kyat (seats in the last row do not recline). Buses to Kyaiktiyo (Kinpun) leave in the mornings (4.5 hours, 6000 kyat). Buses for Mawlamyine (6 hours via the new bridge) leave in the mornings and late nights (8000 kyat). Buses to Sittwe and Thandwe (Ngapali Beach) are also available but the road is bad and the journey long.

Thanks to the new bridge and upgraded road, buses to Pathein take less than 4 hours and the journey is comfortable. Add 45 minutes by taxi to get to the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal though. 6000 kyat.

Get around

By taxi

The easiest way to get around is by taxi. Plenty of old white Toyota Corolla taxis ply the streets and will pull over if you stick your hand out. Genuine taxis have red license plates, carry a laminated green slip and a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car but all taxis are reliable. Be warned though that around lunch time and late at night it may be hard to hail one. Taxis are always available outside the bigger hotels, on Sule Pagoda Road outside Cafe Aroma, and, during the day, outside the Southern entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Away from the city center, for example near the budget hotels in Pazundaung Township, you may have to wait a bit before a taxi shows up and it may be easier to ask your hotel to call one for you. If you're traveling in the wee hours (for example, to catch a 4AM train or flight), arrange one with your hotel the previous evening. You will always, at all hours, find a taxi outside the Central Hotel on Bogoyoke Aung San Road.

It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip but, other than tacking on an informal tourist surcharge, you'll rarely be cheated. Approximate fares (expect a 20% increase after the recent fuel price hikes) are: downtown to airport 4000 kyat to 6000 kyat; downtown to Shwedagon Pagoda 1500-2000 kyat; downtown to Pazundaung Township 1000 kyat; downtown to Kandawgyi Lake area 2000 kyat; downtown to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal 5000-6000 kyat; downtown to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal 4000 kyat. Expect to pay more, sometimes twice as much, when it rains and late at nights.

Most taxis will be only to happy to negotiate an hourly (3000 kyat) or daily (US$20-30) or longer rate. Taxis will take you anywhere and you can, in theory, hail a cab and negotiate a trip to Pathein or Bago or other destinations at a much lower price than through a travel agency. See the Get out section below for sample fares.

(Note: There is a plan in place to introduce meters in Yangon taxis in 2008. As of March 2010, these have been implemented into a large portion of Taxis but are rarely used.)

A view of Yangon and the Yangon River

By train

While Yangon's circular train is not particularly useful for getting to tourist sights, it is a 'sight' by itself. US$1 (passport required).

By trishaw

Trishaws are scarce in the downtown area (and not permitted before 10AM) but more readily available in the surrounding townships. Negotiate fares in advance but 100-200 kyat for a short ten minute ride, while higher than what locals would pay, is appropriate.

By bus

As you would expect, Yangon has an extensive and chaotically crowded bus system. Most are privately run and will not move until enough people are falling off the sides of the bus. Buses are cheap, a long ride rarely costs more than 200 kyats and they go everywhere. Most routes originate and terminate on the eastern side of the Sule Pagoda so head there if looking for a bus to the airport or to the Shwedagon Pagoda.

By boat

A ferry crosses the river to Dallah (see the Get out section below) from the Pansodan Street Jetty.

On foot

Distances in the downtown tourist area are not large and, provided you take it easy, you can walk almost anywhere. The sidewalks can be very crowded though, particularly on Anwaratha Road, so expect to be constantly bumped into and to have to negotiate your way across vendors selling everything from hot samosas and curry to screwdrivers to jeans. Also be aware that alot of the footpaths and sidewalks have large holes, mismatched pavers, or missing/unstable covers over drains. Walking on the footpath after dark can be treacherous, so either carry a torch or, like most locals, walk on the edge of the roadway which normally in a (marginally) better state of repair.

Other means

Foreigners on tourist visas are not permitted to self-drive in Myanmar. Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted within Yangon (although they are permitted elsewhere in the country).

See

Shwedagon Paya

Historical background

The Shwedagon Pagoda or Paya is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. The pagoda stands on the top of Singuttara Hill, and, according to legend, that spot has been sacred since the beginning of time, just before our present world was created. At that time, five lotus buds popped up on the hill, each bud signifying the five Buddhas who would appear in the world and guide it to Nirvana. Gautama, the Buddha as we know him, is the fourth of these five (Maitreya, the fifth, will announce the end of the world with his appearance) and, according to the legend, two brothers brought eight hairs of the Buddha to be enshrined in this sacred location, inaugurating the Shwedagon Pagoda. Whatever the truth of the legend, verifiable history records a pagoda at the site since the 6th Century AD. Built and rebuilt, guilded and reguilded, almost nothing in the pagoda is likely to be old, except whatever is hidden deep inside the stupa. An earthquake (18th century) destroyed the upper half of the pagoda spire and many buildings. The British used the platform and the temples to house their soldiers and armory and, allegedly, made off with anything of value. And Burmese Buddhists are inherently practical people who constantly build and rebuild pagodas for merit.

Today, the pagoda is a magical place that most visitors to Yangon come again and again. Unlike other religious sites, it has at once a spiritual as well as a secular feel about it. Children run up and down singing songs, monks sit on the steps chatting, young men cast amorous glances at women, women stand around gossiping, all while others are deep in prayer in front of whatever shrine has significance for them. A sort of religious version of Times Square, the Shwedagon captures the essence of both the informal nature as well as the strong ties that signify the relationship that the Burmese have with their Buddhism. There is no other pagoda like it in Burma and there is no other place like the Shwedagon Pagoda in the world and visitors to Burma end up spending a lot of their time there.

Practical information

  • Hours: 6:30AM to 10PM. The pagoda opens at 5AM but, technically, tourists are not allowed in till 6:30AM. It is unlikely, however, that an early arriving tourist will be turned away.
  • Entrance fee: US$5. Ticket booths are located at the Eastern and Southern Entrances. If you enter from another direction, the ticket agents will catch up with you sooner or later and collect the fee. It is easy to avoid handing the $5 fee to the government by simply asking for or buying a used sticker from another tourist as they leave the paya then going up one of the side entrances. If you get in at 5am and get out by 6am you'll probably escape paying the fee (but risk not being allowed in). Ticket agents will sometimes quote the price in US Dollars (as per the signage) or Kyat (either at the government rate, the black-market rate, or an inflated blackmarket rate). Best to have both available and pay whatever is cheapest - no point giving the government more than you need to. Tickets are valid for one day only (not a 24 hour period) and must be retained throughout your visit. Bring some sticky tape to help keep the sticker attached to your clothing (especially if it is a hot or wet day, like 2/3 of the days in Myanmar).
  • Guides: Guides, official and unofficial are available for US$5 (add a $1/1000kyat tip). The quality is variable but most guides are friendly and trying to make their way against the odds. The pagoda is vast and complex and, if you can afford the extra dollars, the company and practical information on what's going around you is well worth the expense.
  • Getting there: Taxi from downtown costs 1500 kyat to 2000 kyat (expect higher starting prices, especially if it has rained or is after dark - 3000 kyat or so, feel free to haggle). Taxis are available for the return trip at the bottom of the main entrance.
  • Food: The closest restaurant is at the intersection of the Shwedagon Pagoda Road and U Hlaung Bo Street (at the bottom of the Southern Walkway). There are some tea shops on a small roadway that describes a semicircle just below the top of the pagoda where you can get tea and biscuits. North of the pagoda, on Inya Road and outside the Savoy, are many places to eat, including a good fast food restaurant for pizza, coffee, and sandwiches. Bring water, the heat of the sun can get to you if you visit during the daytime. No food or water is available on the platform itself but water is available on the lower reaches of the walkway.
  • Disabled travelers: A road on the Southern side leads halfway up the Singuttara Hill and an elevator can take you the rest of the way. Alternatively, if not in a wheelchair, head for the Western entrance from where escalators are available all the way to the top. The escalators are free for foreigners (or rather, included in the price of the ticket).
  • Dress code: Dress reasonably and keep your legs covered (long skirts, halfway between knee and ankle, are fine; shorts, on men or women, are not). Longyi are available at the ticket booth if you arrive overly uncovered.
  • Shoes: As with nearly all Buddhist monuments, footwear is not permitted. With the Shwedagon Paya, almost all visitors (and all locals) remove their footwear at the gates before even setting foot inside the complex. There are places to leave your shoes at the bottom of every walkway for a nominal fee (5 kyat) but that can be a problem if, say, you enter using the Eastern walkway and wish to leave by the Northern. Carry a plastic shopping bag, pop your shoes into that bag, and carry it around with you while on the walkways and platforms. That is the Burmese way!

Things to see at the Shwedagon

  • Walkways to the pagoda Four covered walkways lead up to the pagoda from the plains surrounding the hills. The Eastern walkway is the most interesting, crowded as it is with vendors selling items for pilgrims (candles, flowers, gold leaf, stones and other paraphernalia of Burmese Buddhist worship) and souvenirs for domestic (and international) tourists (buddhas, lacquerware, and thanaka). Nothing tacky is for sale, so do stop and take a look. The other walkways are less interesting but the Western walkway has escalators and the Southern has an elevator. Walking up the Eastern walkway to the top and allowing the beauty of the pagoda itself emerge remains the best way to get up the hill!
  • The pagoda platform The pagoda itself exists as a religious place without pomp and circumstance and is one of the best places in the world to sit and people watch. Find a comfortable step, seat yourself, and look around. Children run up and down, perhaps singing and shouting with abandon. Women cluster in groups gossiping. Couples, young and old stroll up and down. Burgundy robed monks are everywhere. Here and there, at the many shrines that dot the platform and sit around the stupa, people pray, seriously and silently. Bells ring. There is no awe here, only life, religious and secular life. Sit there long enough and someone will stop to chat with you, to ask questions, to exchange information.
  • Day shrines There are eight shrines, one for each day of the week (in the Burmese calendar, Wednesday is divided into two parts), dotted around the eight corners of the stupa (the stupa is octagonal), and most Burmese pray at their day shrine when visiting a pagoda. If you can figure out the day of the week when you were born, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrine corresponding to that day. Starting from the Southern entrance, and going clockwise, the eight planetary posts are: Mercury (Wednesday morning, before noon), Saturn (Saturday), Jupiter (Thursday), Rahu (no planet, Wednesday afternoon), Venus (Friday), Sun (Sunday), Moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday). Each shrine also has a beast associated with it, the most interesting one being the Gahlon, a mythical half-bird half-beast said to guard Mount Meru (the shrine for Sunday).
  • Statue of Wa Thon Da Ray The statue of Wa Thon Da Ray, the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the Southern Walkway. Wa Thon Da Ray is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honor.
  • The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion, a little before the Western Walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the Pagoda complex.
  • Maha Ganda Bell Known locally as the Singu Min Bell (after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon), the Maha Ganda bell was cast between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tons. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825) but dropped it into the Yangon River instead. The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese shoved some bamboo rafts and, lo behold, powered by rafts or by divine right, the bell floated to the surface and was returned to the pagoda! Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa (spectacular at night) and a panoramic view of the city.
  • Naungdawgyi pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung Left of the Northern walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. (Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform.) Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing. The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!
  • Dhammazedi inscription, A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.

Other religious sites

Sule Paya in the center of downtown Yangon
  • Sule Paya (Sule Pagoda), incongruously serving as a traffic island in the middle of the busiest intersection in downtown Yangon, Sule Paya is a 46 m octagonal-shaped stupa that, according to the local story, was built 2000 years ago to house a strand of the Buddha's hair. Whether or not it has a strand of the Buddha's hair, the galleries of the pagoda are an oasis of calm from the chaotic traffic that passes around it all day long. Admission used to be free but recent reports suggest that a US$3 admission charge is now required. Shoes can be left at counters at any entrance but carry a plastic bag.
  • Botataung Paya A few blocks East of The Strand Hotel along the Yangon River lies the Botataung Pagoda. The original pagoda was destroyed by allied bombing during the Second World War but the site has a legendary history as long as that of the Shwedagon or the Sule Paya and is supposed to house more strands of the Buddha's hair brought to the site by a thousand soldiers (hence the name which means '1000 officers'). The rebuilt stupa is hollow inside - possibly the only hollow stupa in the world! - and many relics (not the hair though) are on display. While not spectacular like the Shwedagon, the river-front setting and the hollow stupa make it worth visiting.
  • Saint Mary's Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral. The cathedral's exterior is run-down, but its interior is exquisite.
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral built by the British. It is one of two cathedrals in Yangon, and has a beautiful interior.
  • Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, located at 85, 26th Street, is the only Jewish synagogue in Yangon. It is a colonial relic, built in 1893. Its interior is beautifully maintained.
  • Mailamu Paya, located in the outskirts of Yangon, is a large expanse of land on which larger-than-life and colourful statues depicting Buddha's lives are located. Mailamu Paya also showcases a pavilion on a man-made lake, and several zedis.
A statue of Buddha at the Mailamu Paya

Parks

  • Zoological Gardens, first opened by the British in 1906, contains Myanmar's most expansive collection of wild animals. During public holidays, the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus are performed for visitors. Open 08:00-18:00.
  • Mahabandoola Garden, located in the cantonment, is known for its rose gardens. Inside the gardens is the Independence Monument, built to signify Myanmar's independence. The garden offers a great view of the City Hall, and colonial buildings of the British.
Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden
  • People's Park, which occupies 130 acres, is located between Parliament and Shwedagon Paya and is known for its large concrete water fountain. Inside the park is a museum. The government collects entrance fees for tourists. Open 07:00-19:00.
  • Inya Lake, the largest lake in the city, recently renovated its shoreline. Some parts of Inya Lake's shorelines are accessible by foot, and are known for their gardens. Along Inya Lake's shorelines is the famous Inya Lake Hotel, now owned by Dusit, and the Yangon University (in a beautiful park-like atmosphere). Surrounding the lakeside are many villas owned by military leaders.
  • Kandawgyi Lake (formerly Victoria Lakes). A large oval-shaped lake northeast of the downtown area. It was recently renovated, and foreigners must pay a entrance fee. At its northwestern tip is Bogyoke Aung San Park, which is on Natmauk Road. The Lake is best known for its Karaweik (located at its southwestern tip), a replica of a traditional Burmese royal boat. There is also a boardwalk around the southern edge of the lake, affording a better view than that from the gardens. However the entry fee for the boardwalk alone is 2000k. Easier to walk along the free footpath beside the roadway and look through the fence. 300k (+500k camera fee, +1000k video camera fee).
  • Martyrs' Mausoleum is a memorial built to honour Aung San and 6 cabinet members who were assassinated. The mausoleum is on a hill, and is adjacent to Shwedagon Paya. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of Yangon.

Miscellaneous

  • Aung San's House, located at Natmauk Road (near the German embassy). This was the house were Aung San lived, with his wife and three children, short before he was assassinated. The house is still in original condition, with many interesting items on display. For instance Aung San's car, his library and his suit. Outside is the pond were his son Aung San Lin drowned. This accident was one of the reasons why the family moved. Entry US$3.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's House, located on University Avenue, is frequented by many tourists. However, the house is barricaded by a concrete wall and barbed wire, and has surveillance and security to prevent documentation. In addition, the government has blocked traffic to the right side of University Avenue. It has been reported that visitors who stand out (ie. non Burmese) have been sternly reprimanded my security forces when nearing the house.
  • Defence Services Museum, located at Shwedagon Pagoda Road. The tatmadaw (army) played a pivotal role in Burmese history. So it won't harm to know a little bit more about them (though the hard currency you pay at the entrance may very well contribute towards army repression.) The Defense Services Museum contains an interesting collection of weapons, armored cars and tanks. There even is a big hall with about ten fighter planes and helicopters on show. Hardly anybody ever visits this museum (for a number of obvious reasons), so you will probably be on your own and followed around by a government spook. Taking photos is prohibited, but can be arranged if you are willing to wheel and deal with a couple of stern-looking army officers. Entry US$5.
  • Martyrs' Mausoleum, near the south gate of Shwedagon. Contains the tombs of Queen Suphayalat, wife of Burma’s last king; nationalist and writer Thakin Kodaw Hmaing; former UN Secretary-General U Thant; and Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi. In 1983, the structure was bombed by North Korean agents attempting to assassinate the visiting South Korean president. He escaped, but 21 others were killed. The structure was completely rebuilt, and is now much less grand than the original.
  • National Museum, located at 26, Pansodan Street displays many Burmese historical artifacts, including regalia of the last Konbaung Dynasty. The museum is open 10:00-15:00, and is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Strand Hotel, located at 92, Strand Road, is the oldest and most famous hotel in Myanmar, built by the Sarkies brothers in 1901. It is a national landmark and was renovated in the 1990s after years of neglect by the socialist regime.

Do

  • The Circular Train is a fascinating way to get a glimpse of daily life in Yangon. A ticket costs US$1 (you must show your passport) and is available at the Station Masters office. Foreigners must sit in the conductor's carriage. The station itself, in true British colonial style, is a grand building that combines functional Western styles with Burmese architectural elements (layered ornamental roof). Vendors, vegetable sellers, monks, commuters, all use the train which passes through the many villages that surround Yangon. The scenery changes from urban to rural fairly quickly and villages with ponds, kids, and cows passing by. The entire journey takes three hours.
  • The Dallah Ferry - to Dallah, a small village across the river from Yangon, is an interesting ferry ride, particularly if you won't have the opportunity to catch a local ferry elsewhere in Burma. The ride is brief but filled with all the craziness of a Burmese ferry: you can buy freshly sliced watermelon, cheroots and cigarettes, tea, all kinds of interesting looking food, various knick-knacks from the many vendors who pack the ferry. The ferry has no seats but small plastic chairs (kid-sized!) are available for rent for 5 kyat (odds are that the chair rental agent won't take your money) and larger deck chairs for 15-20 kyat. The ferry ride seems more like a floating market than a means of transportation! Combine the ride with a trip to Thante (see Get out below) for a half or full day trip. There is a pagoda (what else) at Dallah worth a visit but otherwise the village is not really a destination. The Dallah ferry leaves from the Pansodan Road Jetty across from The Strand Hotel. Tickets are US$1 from a window reserved for foreigners (locals pay 30 kyat) and you may be required to show your passport.

Buy

Handicrafts, precious gems, clothes, collectibles, Yangon has it all! Shopping is fun in Yangon because of the variety of things available and because, unlike in neighboring India, the hard sell and hassle is missing. Bargaining is expected, although tourists will be charged significantly higher prices. Street vendors in downtown are not allowed to open shop until 18:00, by government mandate.

A Chinatown side street

Although not as well known as Bangkok or Hong Kong, Yangon is an excellent place to have a shirt tailored. One can have a shirt with a traditional Burmese collar (mandarin collar) made for around US$6. 4-5 days should be sufficient for a shirt to be made.

  • Chinatown offers a wide selection of street vendors, where colonial coins, paintings, and other souvenirs can be easily bought. Open 15:00-21:00.
  • Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) is an excellent source to buy Burmese handicrafts, such as wood carvings or lacquerware. Beware, however, because some lacquerware is not traditionally-made, and will wear away quickly. The market is also known for its clothing and fabrics.
Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market)
  • Shwedagon Paya's entrance hallway offers many 1-room shops that sell Burmese antiquities, including papier mâché owls, wood-carved statues, and Buddhas.

There are several shopping malls in Yangon, such as the Dagon Centre and the FMI Centre. Many of the items sold are from Thailand and China, and usually have fixed prices.

Learn

Eat

Yangon has seen an explosion of restaurants in the last ten years and almost any type of international cuisine - eclectic Western, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Korean - is available. Local cuisine reflects the multi-ethnic nature of the city and the country and, along with Bamar food, there are a large number of Indian and Chinese restaurants as well as a few places specializing in Shan food. Fast food restaurants (usually with table service) serving burgers and pizza, and a few cafes complete the scene. Biryani, a rice and meat dish with roots in the Mughal Empire, is a specialty and there are many Biryani restaurants (dan-PAO-sain in Burmese) in the downtown area, specially along Anwaratha Road. The three main competing restaurant chains (all halal but vegetarian biryani is usually available) are Yuzana, KSS (Kyet Shar Soon), and Nilar.

Budget

  • 999 Shan Noodle Shop (No. 130, 34th Street) offers very good noodle dishes for around 1000 kyat.
  • Feel (No. 124, Pyihtaungsu Avenue, Dagon Township) offers a wide variety of Burmese curry dishes (~2000 kyat) displayed in the back. Salads and fries can be ordered easily.
  • Kyet Shar Soon Biriani (franchises in Mingalar Taung Nyunt, Pabedan, and Kyauktada Townships), established in 1947, offers a dish of halal Burmese-accented biryani for around 700 kyat.
  • Shwe Pu Zun, Tel. (01) 222305 or (01) 211709, 246-248, Anawrahta Road, Lanmadaw Tsp., ice cream and dessert shop known for its faluda (cold vermicelli drink).
  • YKKO (No. 286, Seikkanthar Street (Upper Block), Kyauktada Township), is a well-established restaurant that is known for its kyae-oh, a Burmese noodle soup.
  • Street vendors sell fries, such as samosa, onion balls, and other Indian snacks around Anwaratha Street between Sule Paya Road and Shwe Bontha Street in downtown Yangon. Under 200 kyat.
  • Nilar Biryani, 216 Anwaratha Road, Yangon, + 95 1 253131, [5]. An old and venerable Biryani restaurant serving ready made chicken, mutton, and vegetable biryani in seconds. Fast, delicious, and cheap!"
  • Golden City Chetty (Pagoda Road) offers Indian food at very reasonable prices.


Mid-range

  • Sandy's, 290 U Wizara Road (at the bottom of Kandawgyi Lake), +95 1 525 195. The location by the lake is awesome but Sandy's is probably the only place in all of Myanmar where you can get traditional Burmese upscale cuisine. It has an extensive menu and the servings are large so it is best to go in a group. The downside - you'll probably share the large restaurant space with a tour group or two.
  • Karaweik Buffet Restaurant, Kan Pat Street, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, (01) 290546, located on Kandawgyi Lake, a buffet restaurant inside the Karaweik, offers a wide selection of Asian dishes, and a 1-hour cultural show from 19:30 to 20:30. It is 7500 kyat/person. As a note, this restaurant is government-owned.
  • Sabai Sabai (Dhammazedi Road), the best Thai restaurant in town. Expect to pay about 7000 kyat/person for drinks, soup, starter and main. This clean and atmospheric place is a favourite amongst expats and businesspeople.
  • Cafe Aroma, Sule Pagoda Road (Opp. Traders Hotel). Decent coffee by Burmese standards, excellent shakes and fresh juices, and pizzas and hamburgers. An unusually laid back refuge from the heat or the rain!
  • New Delhi Restaurant, Anwaratha Road (Opp. Sunflower Hotel). A large Indian restaurant serving quick and good food. Very popular amongst the locals and you may share your table with local folk.
  • Cafe Dibar, 14/20 Than Lwin Road (across from the Savoy Hotel). A pizza, burger, and espresso cafe that serves Myanmar accented pizzas and burgers (don't expect beef) at a reasonable price.
  • Pizza Corner, 397 Shwe Bon Thar Street (off Bogoyoke Aung San Road a block west of Scott Market). Pizza and pasta at reasonable prices.
  • APK Kitchen Thai Food, 369 Shwe Bon Thar Street (next to Pizza Corner). Inexpensive but good Thai food in an inexpensive (bench seats) setting
  • Oriental House is a chain with branches in Yangon and at the airport. It is known for its Guangdong-style dim sum and Cantonese cuisine with .
  • Golden Duck ("Shwe Be") specialises in Chinese cuisine, and has several franchises in Yangon.

Splurge

  • Le Planteur Restaurant and Bar, 22 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, next to Golden Hill Tower is undeniably the best restaurant of Myanmar. It is specialized on Fine French cuisine with an Asian touch. The location of the restaurant (a former Australian Embassy) is spectacular, and the service is as impeccable as that of a top-notch restaurant in Paris. Tel: 95-1-541-997. [6].
  • Signature Garden Restaurant (Corner of Kaba Aye Pagoda Road & Kan Yeik Thar Road, Kandawgyi Relaxation Zone, Bahan Towhsip) is a fine dining restaurant in Yangon and feel the exprerience 2 Levels of Culinary Enlightenment.... the ambience of food, wine and celebration at Kandawgyi lake is elegantly expressed at Siganture Garden with comfort, sense of style and restaurant of distinction.
  • L'Opera (C62, D, U Tun Nyein Street,Mayangon Township, Yangon) is most certainly the best Italian restaurant in Yangon, and perhaps even the best restaurant in Yangon. In the relaxed garden atmosphere, one can order from a wide range of fresh and delicious courses and wines. Tel: 95-1-665 516. [7].

An interesting experience is to have High Tea at the Strand Hotel, on 92, Stand Road. High Tea is around US$15, astronomical for normal Burmese folk, but is served in the restaurant of one of the classic examples of the Colonial Hotel in Southeast Asia. One can choose from either Burmese or English high tea.

Drink

There are a number of nightclubs and evening venues located in Yangon. Nightclubs located in 5 star hotels include The Music Club (at the Parkroyal Hotel; entrance fee US$6, hotel guests free), Paddy O'Malley's (at the Sedona) and Pioneer (not at the Yuzana Garden Hotel anymore, it has moved to the east of the city centre). There are also stand-alone nightclubs (BME1 and BME2 in the North of the city). Local entertainment plazas that include Karaoke, fashion shows, bar and disco include Asia, JJ's and 225. Closing times are from 11PM to 3AM, and entrance usually costs between US$3-5. Beer is around US$1-2. Most upmarket discos and nightclubs are frequented by Burmese prostitutes.

Sleep

Accommodation in Yangon is relatively cheap and plentiful. Rooms are in abundance and, except in the height of the tourist season (December and January) and then too only in the popular backpacker hotels, advance reservations are almost never necessary. Tourists are expected to pay in US$ (bring only newer US$ banknotes in good condition with large portraits of the presidents), and will be charged significantly higher than locals. Be aware of the fact that many military generals are sharers in the hotels, and that many hotels are under a 30-year government lease. After the lease expires, the hotels are put under governmental control.

The budget hotels (under US$20) are mostly a bit away from the city center. The upside is that the hotels are quieter, downtown can be quite noisy, and you get a little more room for your dollar. You'll need a cab to get to the main sight, the Shwesdagon Pagoda anyway. The downside is that most restaurants are downtown, a long walk or cab ride away and choices outside downtown are limited, usually with the only choice being a restaurant attached to the hotel with indifferent cuisine and which may be closed if business is slow. Pazundaung and Botataung Townships seem to have the highest concentration of budget hotels. Some rooms, the cheaper ones, in many budget hotels have no windows at all and if you are claustrophobic, make sure you don't end up in one of those! There are a few budget hotels downtown but, except for a couple, are quite grungy.

Mid-priced hotels (US$20-50) are scattered about the city, with one set concentrated in the few blocks around Sule Pagoda and a second set just north of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Luxury hotels are concentrated around the Kandawgyi Lake or downtown.

Rates for hotels are usually quoted as single/double. The room is usually the same but you pay a little extra (about US$5-10) if two people share the room. Breakfast is always included and the quality and variety increases with the cost of the hotel. In a budget hotel, expect a banana, an egg, some bread, and coffee made from 'coffee mix' (a pre-packaged mix of coffee powder, milk powder and lots of sugar).

An important factor in choosing a hotel is the availability of electricity. Electric supply is controlled in Myanmar and every part of Yangon has a fixed schedule when electric power is available (usually about 24 hrs every 48 hrs or less). Mid-priced hotels usually have their own generators while budget hotels either do not or have a limited supply (lights will work till 11PM, fans may or may not work, AC never does even if fitted in the room unless state supplied electricity is available). Do ask when you book what the electricity situation is and, if there is no generator, what you can expect on the days that you are there.

Many budget and mid-range hotels have a restaurant on the premises. But there is no guarantee that it will be open, especially off-season.

Budget

  • Sunflower Hotel, 259/263 Anwaratha Road (Opp. New Delhi Restaurant), 95 1 240 014 (). Set on the busy intersection of Anwaratha Road and Shwe Bontha Street, a few minutes walk from Sule Pagoda and the railway station, the hotel has a great location but can be noisy. Less expensive rooms have no windows, and others are large and roomy with AC and satellite TV. Friendly and helpful Indian proprietors. US$8-15.
  • Motherland Inn 2, 433 Lower Pazundaung Road, Pazundaung Township, 95 1 291343, [8]. A popular backpacker hotel with private and shared baths. Free pickup from the airport. A bit of a ways from the city center (long walk or short taxi ride). Restaurant on premises. They also have a nice (and rarely advertised) $5 dorm. US$7-13.
  • Three Seasons Hotel, 83-85 52nd. Street, Botataung Township, +95 1 293 304 (fax: +95 1 297 946). Rooms with shared and private bath. Friendly Indian owners and a good place to stay if you plan on spending a few days in Yangon and need a place to call home. Closer to downtown than Motherland Inn 2 but still a bit of a schlep. US$7-20.
  • Garden Guest House, 441-445 Mahabandoola Street (West side of Sule Pagoda), +95 1 253779. Small rooms in dingy surroundings but with a great location and a great price! Worth it if your budget is tight and you're not fussy about decor US$5.
  • Ocean Pearl Inn, 215 Botataung Pagoda Road, Pazundaung Township, +95 1 297007 (), [9]. All rooms have attached bath and AC with hot water. Like all Pazundaung Township hotels, a little distant from downtown. US$10-15.

Mid-range

  • City Star Hotel, 169/171 Mahabandoola Garden Street (behind City Hall, near Sule Pagoda), +95 370920 (, fax: +95 1 381128), [10]. Clean, well kept, and comfortable rooms with TV, minibar, free coffee. $25 single, $30 double inc. breakfast.
  • Classique Inn, 53(B) Shwe Taung Kyar Street (Golden Valley Road), Bahan Township, +95 1 525557 (, fax: +95 1 503968), [11]. A small boutique hotel with well furnished rooms in the quiet area north of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Located in embassy district (about one mile from Shwe Dagon Pagoda) just a few doors down from Bahrain embassy. It is a cute, small, quiet hotel made with teak and decorated with traditional Burmese lacquerware. Only a couple of minutes away lies Bogalay Mohenga shop which sells great mohinga (perfect for breakfast). Classique Inn is owned by the wealthy family of a Ministry of Energy official. US$25-35.
  • May Shan Guest House, 115-117 Sule Pagoda Road (Next door to the Indian Airlines Office), +95 1 252986 (, fax: +95 1 252 968), [12]. Clean, well kept, and comfortable rooms right outside the Sule Pagoda. Unbeatable location but most rooms have no windows. US$15-25.
  • Panda Hotel, 205 Min Ye Kyaw Swa Road, Lanmadaw Township (corner of Wadan Street), +95 1 212850, +95 1 229360 (, fax: 95 1 212854), [13]. Comfortable, if faceless, modern business hotel right outside downtown. Broadband wireless internet access available in the lobby area. Offers great views of the city especially from the upper floors. All rooms have satellite TV,air conditioning and attached bathrooms. Website - www.myanmarpandahotel.com. US$25-38.
  • Thamada Hotel, 5 Alan Pya Phaya (Signal Pagoda) Road (Across from the Railway Station), +95-1-243 639. Clean and central, but basic, the Thamada offers a swimming pool at a price point that is hard to beat. Discounts are often available on Internet booking engines. US$25-35.
  • Winner Inn, 42 Than Lwin Road, Bahan Township (corner of Inya Road), +95 1 535205 (, fax: +95 1 524196), [14]. Close to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a quiet hotel favored by German tourists. All rooms with attached bath, AC, and satellite TV. Restaurant on the premises but, if it is not open, there is a bit of a walk to the nearest restaurants near the Savoy. Internet (2000 kyat/hr) available. US$20-25.
  • Central Hotel, 335-357 Bogoyoke Aung San Road (Next to Trader's Hotel), +95 1 241 001 (, fax: +95 1 248 003), [15]. This well located hotel provides near luxury facilities at midrange prices. Rooms are clean and big (don't expect a view though) with satellite tv and air-conditioning and it is one of the best places to change money in Yangon. The hotel has room service and a popular coffee shop and Chinese restaurant. US$30-35.
  • New Aye Yar Hotel, 170-175 Bo Aung Kyaw Street, Botataung Tsp (Two blocks west and one block south from Sule Pagoda), +95 1 256938 (, fax: +95 1 256576), [16]. Five minutes walk from Sule Pagoda and around the corner from the Strand, this well located hotel caters to business travelers. A small but good restaurant is on the premises, the hotel is centrally air conditioned, and all rooms have satellite tv. US$20-25.

Splurge

  • Dusit Inya Lake, No. 37, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, [17]. A Russian-built hotel alongside Inya Lake, the hotel offers 176 rooms overlooking the lake. From US$55.
  • Grand Plaza Park Royal, No. 33, Alan Pya Paya Road, [18]. A five star quality hotel, the Grand Plaza Park Royal offers 359 rooms. From US$45. Rooms on the Orchid floor (8th floor) are US$70, and include free laundry and food. The well known disco Music Club is in the basement.
  • Nikko Royal Lake, No. 40, Natmauk Road, [19]. A 10-storey hotel offering 310 guest rooms. Opposite of the hotel is the Kandawgyi Lake. From US$55.
  • Summit Parkview Hotel, 350 Ahlone Road, Tel: (95-1) 211888, 211966, Fax: (95-1) 227995, Fax Reservation: (95-1) 227990, (95-1) 227992, [20] Just west of Shwedagon Pagoda and with excellent views of that pagoda. Good restaurant and bar.
  • Sedona, No. 1, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, [21]. The Sedona, located near Inya Lake, is built using Burmese architecture and offers 366 rooms. From US$60.
  • Traders Hotel, No. 223, Sule Pagoda Road, [22]. The original upscale business hotel in Yangon. Swimming pool, all services, and an excellent restaurant. The location, at the intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Bogoyoke Aung San Road is hard to beat US$100+.
  • The Governor's Residence, 35 Taw Win Road, Dagon Township, +95 1 229860 (, fax: +95 1 228260), [23]. A renovated teak mansion, formerly the guest house for Kachin State officials, and located in one of Yangon's most exclusive neighbourhoods, the hotel offers 48 rooms and pleasant gardens. Swimming pool and several excellent restaurants on the premises. Close to Shwedagon Pagoda but one can walk to the downtown area as well.An Orient-Express hotel.US$ 170-190
  • Savoy Hotel, 129 Dhammazedi Road, +95-1 526289 526298 526305 (), [24]. Housed in an old colonial building with period furniture and decorations, the Savoy is one of the most charming hotels in Yangon. A short walk to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a swimming pool, and an excellent restaurant. Lower than quoted rates are often available on the Internet so book before you leave home. US$75-150.
  • The Strand, No. 92, Strand Road, [25]. A five-star colonial hotel built by the Sarkies Brothers in 1901. From US$450.
  • Yuzana Garden Hotel, No.44, Signal Pagoda Road, Mingalartaungnyunt Township, + 95 1- 248944 (, fax: 95 1- 240074), [26]. 37 rooms in a renovated colonial building. US$100-180.

Contact

Foreign missions

In case of emergency, always take precautions and register at the Embassy of your nationality.

  • Australian Embassy, No. 88, Strand Road, faces the Strand Hotel.
  • Bangladesh Embassy, No. 11B Thanlwin Road.
  • Cambodian Embassy, No. 25 New University Ave Road.
  • Canadian Embassy, The Australian Embassy can provide assistance.
  • Chinese Embassy, No. 1, Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road, is a clearly visible building with red paint.
  • French Embassy, No. 1, 102 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road, is near the outskirts of the city.
  • German Embassy, No. 32, Natmauk Road, is near the Kandawgyi Lake.
  • Indian Embassy, No. 545-547 Merchant Street.
  • Indonesian Embassy, No. 100 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road.
  • Israeli Embassy, No. 15 Kabaung Road.
  • Italian Embassy, No. 3 Inya Myaing Road.
  • Japanese Embassy, No. 100, Natmauk Road, is near the Kandawgyi Lake.
  • Korean Embassy, No. 97 University Ave Road.
  • Lao Embassy, A1 Diplomatic Quarters, Taw Win Street.
  • Malaysian Embassy, No. 82 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road.
  • Nepalese Embassy, No. 16 Natmauk Road.
  • Netherlands Embassy, The German Embassy can provide assistance.
  • New Zealand Embassy, The UK Embassy can provide assistance.
  • Pakistan Embassy, No. 4A Pyay Road.
  • Philippines Embassy, No. 50 Sayasan Street.
  • Singapore Embassy, No. 238 Dharma Zedi Street.
  • Sri Lankan Embassy, No. 34 Taw Win Street.
  • Swedish Embassy, The UK Embassy can provide assistance.
  • Swiss Embassy, The German Embassy can provide assistance.
  • Thailand Embassy, No. 94 Pyay Street.
  • U.K. Embassy, No. 80, Strand Road, adjacent to the Australian embassy.
  • U.S. Embassy, No. 581, Merchant Street. The lane leading to the Embassy is barricaded, although it is still accessible.
  • Vietnam Embassy, No. 72 Thanlwin Road.

Internet cafes

Internet cafes have proliferated in recent years and Yangon has quite a few that provide access at a reasonable speed for a reasonable price. Many hotels also provide internet services but these tend to be more expensive and slower than the public cafes. The cheapest rate is around 400 kyats per hour - there are plenty of places so shop around and save some cash.

  • Cyber Cafe II, (Sule Pagoda Road across from Traders Hotel). One of the best internet providers in all of Burma. Reasonably fast access. 1000 kyats / hr.
  • Tokyo Donuts, Anawrahta Road (Between Sule Pagoda Road and Phayre Street, on the Southern side of the road). 0900-2100. A donut shop with a dozen terminals inside. Accessible USB ports, Firefox, and seems popular with locals (always a good sign). 400 kyats / hr.

Stay safe

Despite all the poverty, Yangon is generally a very safe city; one of the safest big cities in the world. Most people, including single female travellers, will not have any problems roaming the streets alone at night, and carrying large sums of money around rarely poses a problem. Crimes against tourists are taken very seriously by the military government and punishment is often disproportionately severe. However, there have been isolated incidents involving tourists so it is best to take normal big-city precautions like avoiding lonely areas at night and always being cognizant of your valuables. As with everywhere else in the world, there is no substitute for common sense. The most common crime in Yangon is being short-changed by a money lender, so count your Kyat carefully when you exchange money. Be especially careful with the money changer around Sule Paya - they count the money right in front of your eyes, but will trick you while doing that.

Another concern, though this is very unlikely to happen, is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were a number of bomb incidents in 2005 - three bombs left in shopping malls caused numerous casualties in May, and in October, a smaller explosion occurred outside Traders Hotel. The perpetrators have not been identified and there have been no bombings since. In 2007, Yangon was the scene of numerous protests against the country's military junta and these protests were broken up by gunfire and by mass arrests. One Japanese photographer was killed. While it is unlikely that a tourist will be targeted by either the military or by protesters, events in a dictatorship tend to be unpredictable in how they evolve so, in the unlikely event that there are protests during your visit, be circumspect and avoid political rallies.

Prostitution and drug trafficking are illegal though there are plenty of prostitutes in Yangon, often in bars owned by senior officers of the Army. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.

Stay healthy

Yangon's tap water is unsafe to drink. Always buy bottled water. Yangon's warm and humid weather makes it imperative to carry water around.

Tuberculosis and AIDS (known as "A-I-D Five" among locals) afflict a disproportionately high percentage of the people. However, HIV infection is not at the epidemic level (infection rates are much less than 1%). In addition, there is a risk of dengue fever. Malaria is a risk in rural areas.

Medical care

Medical care is limited, but is most expedient at private medical clinics. Government hospitals are usually unreliable and require bribes. Do not seek medical care at the General Hospital (on Bogyoke Aung San Road, sandwiched between Bo Ywe Street and Lanmadaw Street); it is unsanitary and inefficient. Most guest houses and hotels will be able to provide you with the address of a private doctor with experience in treating foreigners. Be sure to take the proper vaccinations before you leave for your trip. Carry a small first-aid kit with you containing at least painkillers, band-aid, ORS and a loperamide-like medicine. Anti-malarial pills and DEET are recommended.

Toilets

Many hotels, shopping centres, and restaurants offer toilets. However, aside from hotels, expect "squat toilets" throughout the city. Try to avoid the need to use public toilets at regularly visited sites, such as pagodas and temples.

Get out

Allied War Cemetery and Memorial, Taukkyan
  • Bago (Pegu) - an important town with pagodas and monasteries located 60km north of Yangon and an easy day trip.
  • Pathein (Bassein) - famous for its paper umbrellas and stunning religious architecture, and an overnight boat ride away (or 4 hours by rented car, more by bus) to the west. From Pathein it's only a few hours by bus or pick-up truck on to the beaches of Chaungtha and Ngwe Saung.
  • Taukkyan - about an hour's drive (35km) from downtown Yangon, and site of the Taukkyan War Cemetery.
  • Thanlyin - once an important city on the Irrawaddy Delta, and gateway to Kyauktan (Syriam), a small island in the Yangon River, which is the site of the 4th century Ye Le Paya.
  • Twante - the most accessible delta town from Yangon, and makes for a nice half day or full day trip.



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