Things To Do When You are in Yangon
Things to do when you are in Yangon: Yangon is one of Myanmar’s most busy and exciting cities.
…And I think it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves; It’s a city that’s full of character, with so many interesting things to do, see, and eat.
This list of attractions doesn’t include everything there is to do in the city, but I think it’s a mixed-bag list of attractions and offers a good start, or place to begin exploring the city like Mandalay.
But like I mention in nearly all articles I write, it’s not so much about the famous things to do in any city, but it’s more about just experiencing the city, the life, the culture, the things that happen along the streets and within the nooks and crannies — Yangon is no different, and it’s a wonderful place to walk around on foot and see what there is to see (you’re bound to discover many things).
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
Without doubt, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important religious sites in Yangon, and all of Myanmar.
The golden chedi of the pagoda, which reaches a height of 99 meters, is visible throughout the city, and it shimmers in the sun with its incredibly golden surface. I could hardly even look at the pagoda without squinting my eyes, there was so much gold!
The Shwedagon Pagoda is a very well preserved heritage monument, and a sacred religious pilgrimage site for many Buddhist followers in Myanmar.
When you’re there, you’ll see people performing a series of rituals according to the day they were born, and people will also walk circumferences around the base of the pagoda.
A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the things you must do when you’re in Yangon.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Shwedagon Pagoda from downtown Yangon is to take a taxi. From downtown, we caught a taxi for 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily (but closed on certain holidays)
Price: 8,000 Kyats ($8.11)
2. Local fresh market
Probably my favorite way to experience a city, other than by eating, is through visiting a local fresh market – which is of course – directly related to eating. So in the end it all comes back to food.
But anyway, I think visiting a local fresh market in Yangon is one of the top things to do. You get to experience so much local life, and see what goes into the local food, which is a major part of life.
Back when I visited Yangon in 2011, I took the trip out to Thiri Mingalar market on the outskirts of town. It’s one of the largest wholesale distribution markets in the city, and it’s a great place to visit if you want an action packed market experience.
However, even within downtown Yangon there are plenty of fresh markets. One of the most notable is on Street 26, across the street from the Shri Kali Temple, known as Thein Gyi Market.
3. Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is not only a religious and historical pagoda landmark in Yangon, but it’s also a city navigational landmark as well; It seems that all roads in downtown Yangon eventually lead to the Sule Pagoda.
The area is also home to numerous government buildings and offices, and a center for bus and road transportation.
The Sule Pagoda is not only recognized and cherished for its long history, but in the more recent history of Myanmar, the pagoda has served as a strategic space for politics, rallies, and protests.
If you pay the entrance fee of $3, you’ll have the chance to enter the gates and see the pagoda up close. However, there’s not really much to see inside the pagoda (it’s not as impressive as the Shwedagon Pagoda), so I actually think it’s better to just see the Sule Pagoda from the outside and explore the area around it.
How to get there: If you’re in central downtown Yangon, you really cannot miss the Sule Pagoda, it’s the main roundabout intersection right in the middle of downtown
Open hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily
Price: $3 for entrance into the pagoda
4. Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San market, also commonly known by its former name of Scott Market, was built in 1926 under a design from the British colonial period.
On the outside of the market are a number of European looking cobblestone streets with shops housed and either side, and there’s also a large indoor section that’s setup more like a bazaar.
Honestly speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the market itself, it seems to me to be a little on the touristy side, and prices are little high as well. But that being said, it is a good place to come if you’re looking for jewelry (just use discretion), Burmese dresses and fabric, souvenirs, artwork, or handicrafts.
5. Kandawgyi Park – walk around, relax, have a drink
The downtown area of Yangon is chaotic, hectic, and there never seems to be a quiet or dull moment.
That’s quite the exact opposite from Kandawgyi Park, one of the lush green lake parks in Yangon.
There are a couple of different options to take when you visit Kandawgyi Park. On the east side of the park, there are a number of restaurants, including the Karaweik Palace, but also a few other lake-side relaxing restaurants where you can eat and have a drink (Ying and I ate at Malihku restaurant). The entrance price to this area is 300 Kyats ($.30).
The other section of Kandawgyi Park is the lake boardwalk, a nice elevated platform where you can walk or exercise with beautiful views of the lake, the Karawiek Palace, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. If you go in the evening, on a nice day (when it’s not raining), you’ll have a fantastic sunset view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Visiting Kandawgyi Park is one of the great things to do in Yangon because it’s such a change of pace and a haven of calm in the usually buzzing downtown of Yangon.
How to get there: It’s easiest to take a taxi from downtown Yangon for 1,000 – 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 300 Kyats ($.30) for restaurant area, 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) for boardwalk
6. National Museum of Myanmar
I have to say right off the bat that I’m personally not a huge museum person. I do like to occasionally visit museum if it’s on a subject I’m really interested in, but for the most part, I like hands on museums better (aka. walking around a historical area of a city).
The National Museum was a little on the old side, and it could do with a re-model soon, but overall, I thought the actual collection at the museum was very interesting. There was a wealth of artifacts, religious relics, artwork, cultural explanations and ethnicities, and tons of golden objects from the royal courts of Myanmar.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Myanmar, and if you enjoy a museum type of environment, I would say visiting the National Museum is one of the worthwhile things to do when you’re in Yangon.
Tip: Just around the corner from the National Museum is Feel Restaurant (more info coming soon), a wonderful place to sample all thing Myanmar food. I ate at Feel Restaurant before walking over to the museum.
How to get there: The easiest way to get there from downtown Yangon is by taking a taxi, should be about 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) from central downtown
Open hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Monday and government holidays
Price: 5,000 Kyats ($5.05)
7. Yangon Circular Railroad Ride
Trains are a fairly common form of public transportation throughout Myanmar, and there’s a circular loop route in Yangon, which was built by the British back in 1954.
The circular railroad runs for just under 50 kilometers, stops at 39 station, and takes about 3 hours to complete.
Ying and I decided to go one day in the morning, and we arrived to the Yangon Central Railroad station at about 9:30 am. I think we had just missed a train departure, so we had to wait about 45 minutes for the next one, but that was fine with us.
Taking a ride on the Yangon circular railroad is not really a traditional attraction at all, but it’s a great way to experience and observe the life and culture in around the outskirts of town. I also liked that we actually left the main part of Yangon and got a brief glimpse of the countryside.
If you have a half a day to spare when you’re in Yangon, and if you’re interested in seeing the culture and life that surrounds Yangon, taking the circular railroad is a pretty cool thing to do.
My highlight of the ride was Danyingon station, which was almost in the middle of the route, where there was a huge market, full of fresh vegetables waiting to be transported.
How to get there: The train departs from Yangon Central Railroad station, which is located just north of the Sule Pagoda, in-between Sule Pagoda road and Pansodan street. I walked from the Sule Pagoda, and it took about 10 minutes.
Open hours: Trains should leave from Platform 6 (but the attendant will tell you exactly), about every 30 minutes – 1 hour starting in the morning
Price: 300 Kyats ($0.30) for a ticket
One of the best ways to experience Yangon to its fullest is to just walk around with no plans at all and let the city flow around you.
When you’re ready to take a break, just join with the others by grabbing a red plastic stool on the side of the road, ordering a Myanmar salad or a plate of snack samosas, drink cups of hot tea, smile, and absorb the life and the culture of Yangon.
The friendly culture of the people, the delicious variety of food, some truly beautiful attractions, and the lively never-ending action of Yangon, are just a few of the many reasons you should visit.
Hope you enjoyed this article about some of the top things to do in Yangon. If you have any more suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
By Mark Wiens
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