Yangon, formerly Rangoon and no longer the capital of Myanmar, is a diverse city. Two days in Yangon is enough to see the contrast between an evolving culture and a modern metropolis. This urban landscape is an eclectic mix of glittering Buddhist temples, British colonial architecture, and thin, squashed-looking apartments for the city dwellers. The chaotic street vendors line the streets, smells of the flavoursome food and big smiles from the Myanmar people will make you love the hustle and bustle of Yangon.
For a jam-packed 48 hours in Yangon, you can easily navigate around the city visiting the many sights and experiences that will capture your imagination.
NORTH YANGON | 2 DAYS IN YANGON
Look up at the Reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda
You are faced with a ginormous 65 metre long reclining Buddha as soon as you enter the large metal-roofed shed, just north of Kandawgyi Lake. In all its glory, the Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a splendid display with golden robes, and glass eyes, and the crown is encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. Don’t forget to take a loop to see the bottom of the feet which are decorated with more than 100 lakshanas, depictions of Buddha’s physical and spiritual characteristics.
Open 6 am-8 pm | Admission free, donations welcome | Located in the Shwe Gon Taing Road. Tamwe Township
Be wowed by the Shwedagon Pagoda
This dazzling golden Buddhist stupa can be seen shining out from all parts of the city, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a must-see. Myanmar’s most sacred religious site comprises of 64 small stupas surrounding the 99-metre high stupa adorned with rubies, sapphires, and everything that glitters. This incredible stupa is believed to enshrine relics of four Buddhas and seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise blew my socks off!
Visitor Information: Open 4 am-10 pm | Foreigners admission fee $8 (10,000 MMK) | Located on Singuttara Hill
Stroll around Kandawgyi Lake
Escape the hustle and bustle of Downtown Yangon by wandering along the boardwalk around the tranquil Kandawgyi Lake observing the shrines on the southern side.
One of Yangon’s many famous landmarks, Karaweik Hall, can be found shimmering in the lake. Also known as Karaweik Palace, the golden barge was built in 1974 and its’ design is reminiscent of the Pyi Gyi Mon Royal Barge. this can be accessed via the park entrance on the east side
Visitor Information: Open 4 am-10 pm | Park admission fee $2 (2000 MMK) | Located directly north of Downtown Yangon
DOWNTOWN YANGON | 2 DAYS IN YANGON
Start at the Sule Pagoda
In the middle of a hair-raising roundabout next to Mahabandula Park, you will find a 44 metre tall haven for Burmese devotees to make offerings. There are four entrances leading into the temple which is surrounded by small shops and non-religious services such as palm readers and astrologists. It is thought that King Okkalapa held meetings at Sule Pagoda to discuss the building of Shwedagon.
Visitor Information: Open 4 am-10 pm | Foreigners admission fee $3 | Located in the Kyauktada Township
Take a Colonial Walking Tour
Yangon is awash with colonial buildings and the Yangon Heritage Trust is restoring many that have fallen into disrepair under the military regime. The free walking tour will give you an insight into the history, and political and social movements since Myanmar became a colony of Britain in 1824. The City Hall, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Sofaer Building, Central Post Office, the Strand Hotel, the Port Authority, the old Accountant General Building, and Yangon Stock Exchange Building are some of the colonial gems on the tour.
Nibble away at Sule Night Food Market
Down the east side of Maha Bandula Park opposite the City Hall, there’s a hotchpotch of food stalls and small plastic tables and chairs seemingly the right size for children. Street vendors are cooking up a storm with a variety of dishes from Mohinga (rice noodles in fish soup), Laphat Thote (tea leaf salad), skewers, fritters, fried tofu, coconut noodles and smoothies to wash it all down.
Visitor Information: Opens from 3pm | Located on Maha Bandula Park Street
Haggle at Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San Market was around the corner from my hotel and with 20 minutes to spare, I thought I’d pop in to see whether it was worth a longer shopping spree. I’ll be honest, I saw a lot of cheap souvenirs and plastic toys so it didn’t really appeal to me. Having said that, I may have missed the stalls with more authentic handicrafts and fabrics.
Built in 1926, its original British name was Scott Market and it is now protected by the Yangon City Heritage as it is a piece of colonial architecture worth preserving.
Visitor Information: Opens 9 am-5 pm | Located in Pabedan Township
OUTSKIRTS OF YANGON | 2 DAYS IN YANGON
Ride on the Circular Train
Taking the City Circular train around the suburban areas of Yangon is a slow ride. The 38-station loop takes 3 hours to complete. The carriages are certainly due for an upgrade but it makes for an authentic experience.
Thousands commute on the train each day and, for many vendors, it is clearly a major source of income. You can buy anything from fruit (they have the scales at the ready for sale), noodles, newspapers, hot tea, monkey nuts and many other goods. Some women looked like they had done their family shop on their journey home. I sat at the open door of the train to watch the villages pass by but as we drew into a station, I had to jump up for the big changeover as boxes were piled on and passengers descended off the train.
If you are doing this on your own, it’s a very cheap ride at less than 1 USD but it might be tricky to get off as you can’t be sure when the trains leave from the stations – local knowledge is handy here.
Visit the Danyingone Market
I decided to take a Circular Train tour so we had a stop-off at Danyingone Market to take a gander at daily life. This market is massive and sells weird and wonderful fruit and vegetable both in bulk and to individuals.
INTREPID URBAN ADVENTURES – Meet at Independence Monument In Maha Bandula Park | $37 for 6-7 hours tour
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO EAT IN YANGON
BURMA BISTRO – The food is simply delicious, and the staff was very attentive. Don’t be put off by the dirty staircase from the street, you will find an oasis up there when you open the door to the restaurant (Located on the Corner of Merchant Road &, Shwe Bon Thar Rd)
SOFAER & CO – I was super impressed, the tastes were subtle and just what we wanted after 10 days of spicy food in Myanmar. Our dessert just melted in the mouth too! The decor and ambiance were chilled, quirky, and relaxed. They had a happy hour on some beers and cocktails from 5-8 pm (Located at 60 Lower Pansodan Road, Kyauktada Township)
999 SHAN NOODLE SHOP – Serve up tasty sticky noodles with delicious smoothies that won’t break the bank. This busy place is popular amongst locals and backpackers, easy to order as the waiters speak English (Located at 130b 34th St, nr Sule Pagoda or 192 28th St, Junction City)
WHERE TO STAY IN YANGON
With only 3 nights and 2 days in Yangon, I wanted to be in the thick of it. After much research about where to stay in Yangon, the best option was to opt for the Downtown area. It is close to the main sights of the city, either by taxi or on foot.
YANGON: TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Best time of year to visit
Yangon stays pretty warm throughout the year with an average temperature of 28°C (82°F). The hottest month is April, while the coolest months are July and August.
- DRY SEASON (November to February) is the best time to visit for the weather. Not too hot and relatively low rainfall.
- HOT SEASON (March to May) should probably be avoided, it reaches 40°C (104°F) and is super humid. The hottest month is April.
- WET SEASON (June to October) will be warm and rainy, the wettest month is generally August so don’t forget your umbrella!
Getting around the city of Yangon
- ON FOOT: Downtown Yangon is pretty compact and easy to walk around with a comfortable pair of shoes, of course.
- TAXI: For sights such as Shwedagon Pagoda and Kandawgyi Lake, you’ll need to grab a taxi. I used the Grab app as I was getting a little exasperated with the inflated foreign fares. Not all taxi drivers speak English so, at least with the app they know exactly where they’re heading to.
Book tours with local businesses
You can self-guide around for 2 days in Yangon easily but I do believe in supporting the economy by booking tours with local companies and you will get insider knowledge of the political and economical state of Myanmar. Also, they pointed out things around the city about daily life that would have passed us by otherwise. If you wish to travel further afield such as the Golden Kite of Myanmar, you could book some day tours along the way!
Buy a SIM Card in Myanmar
As soon as you land, you should invest in a local SIM card, Tel. They cost next to nothing and will make your life much easier getting around. Check this guide on which SIM card to buy in Myanmar for the most reliable data coverage.
Rules on currency in Myanmar
In Myanmar, they are very strict on accepting USD with a slight ink mark or a tiny tear so ensure you take crisp new notes. We were also able to gain a better rate of exchange for the more recent notes so check your dates on the dollars before heading over there – they’re a tough eagle-eyed crowd on this matter.
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