Yangon has a bit of a bad reputation.
For most travellers, this is the first place visited whilst in Myanmar. It serves as the main international hub (although I do use that term lightly) for Myanmar and is often described as ‘just a big dirty city’.
Whilst I can definitely see how some could get that impression, I ended up being pleasantly surprised with the hustle and bustle of Yangon, and really enjoyed my time there.
You could comfortably see most of the sights in Yangon in two days, but if you find yourself with only a single day it is still possible to see quite a chunk of the city.
Also known as the ‘Golden Pagoda’, this massive stupa is arguably the most famous attraction in all of Yangon. On the day I visited it was incredibly overcast, which unfortunately meant that the incredible colour of the pagoda just didn’t translate in pictures, however, that didn’t stop me from persevering!
Standing a massive 99 metres tall, Schwedagon is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in all of Myanmar, and it was certainly a wonderful introduction to the land of many (many, many, many) pagodas.
During my time at this pagoda, I was honestly surprised at how few foreign tourists there were! I went into Myanmar fully aware of the genocide that was taking place (something I will discuss much more in depth in a later post) and as such, I had assumed that tourist numbers would be down, but I was still shocked by how much! I spent an hour at this pagoda, and in that time I only saw three other travellers!
Instead, the pagoda was full of Burmese people coming to pray, celebrate their religion….
…and to attend to repairs!
The entrance fee for Shwedagon is 8,000 kyats, which equates to approximately $8 USD. Also, if your legs are not adequately covered, you will be required to also rent a sarong.
Cool off with a coconut
The weather in Yangon is humid and hot – think Thailand weather but with a little less rain. It is important to keep hydrated, and what better way than with a fresh coconut? You can find stalls selling coconuts for between 500-1000 kyats at many locations across the city.
Kyay Thone Pagoda
This little known pagoda is far less grand and majestic than most, but it is also free to enter, full of locals, absent of travellers, and allows you to actually go inside one of the pagodas! It is located just across from Shwedagon pagoda and is well worth a visit.
Get on the ‘catspotting’ and ‘dogspotting’
The Reclining Buddha
Dating back to the 1950s, this fricking enormous structure is one of the largest Buddha images in all of Myanmar, and easily the most famous in Yangon. This Buddha measures an impressive 66m and is more colloquially referred to as ‘the big Buddha’ – for obvious reasons.
My favourite part of the Buddha were its feet. Inscribed with 108 markings, these feet are probably the most detailed part of the image.
While visiting the Buddha, make sure to keep your ‘catspotting’ eyes on – you may just come across some gorgeous kittens!
My friend Chelsea demonstrated how to get a cute picture with these kitties…
…meanwhile, in a rather ungraceful manner, I got a kitten paw stuck in my hair – resulting in this disaster of a shot!
Another pagoda! This one is located right in the middle of the city, and despite being much smaller than Shwedagon, this pagoda is actually much older, dating back potentially as far as 2600 years ago.
Entrance will set you back 2000 kyats, and it is best to keep your shoes in your bag rather than left at an entrance – some of the ‘friendly’ women working there will demand money in exchange for having kept your shoes safe.
Sure, the pagodas are gorgeous, but make sure you don’t overlook all the stunningly unassuming architecture that can be found all through the city.
Get a fancy ass cocktail
After a long day of pounding the pavement, what better way to cool down than with a delicious drink?
The Strand hotel is quite close to Sule pagoda, and is arguably the most iconic and well known hotel in Myanmar. Dating back to 1901, this timeless hotel boasts a cool, quiet and lovely bar with an extensive cocktail menu. The prices are expensive by Burmese standards, but if you only splurge on one drink during your time in Myanmar, make it this one.
Eat ALL of the noodles
To be honest, there isn’t much else in Myanmar to eat except noodles, but every once in a while you find a particularly delicious bowl.
This (really very strange) park is a local favourite for dinner, for dates and for watching the sunset. Depending on which entrance you enter through you may be charged a 20c entrance fee.
If you only have one day in Yangon, this a perfect place to see it off.
Getting to Yangon: International flights arrive from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong regularly
Shwe Yo Vintage Hostel: A really highly rated hostel, prices start at $15 AUD per night
Shwedagon Pagoda: One of the most important pagodas in Myanmar, make sure you dress appropriately
Taxis: The best way to get around the city, but be prepared to haggle
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Bring mosquito repellent with a heckuva lot of deet in it!