Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and has a mix of colonial architecture, modern high-rises and Buddhist pagodas defined its skylines. The city is plenty of religious sites, natural lakes, markets selling a variety of traditional products, museums and a wonderful array of colonial-era buildings, many of which are now crumbling, hidden down side streets. The biggest concentration of colonial buildings is on the riverfront Strand Road, around the bottom of Pansodan Street and Sule Pagoda Road.
The most interesting spots of the city are:
- Shwedagon Paya: with no doubt the most beautiful pagoda of Myanmar, the Shewdagon stands on Singuttara Hill and is the largest in Myanmar, standing 99 meters tall, plated with 21,800 real gold bars and has a tip encrusted with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. It’s the most sacred religious site of the country and it says to be the oldest pagoda in the world and the only temple which holds four Buddhist relics of such high value. Inside the complex there are hundreds colorful temples, stupas, and statues, all of which have formed a microcosm of life within the pagoda.
- Sule Paya: located at the intersection of Mahabandoola Road and Sule Pagoda Road, at the very heart of downtown, it is nevertheless a stunning structure, and holds great historical significance. It is highly revered because it enshrines a hair relic of the Buddha and according to legend the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Gautama Buddha, about 2500 years ago. It has been renovated and enlarged several times by later Kings. The pagoda reached its present height of 44 meters when it was renovated halfway the 15th century.
- Colonial buildings and Mahabondoola Park: start walking from Sule Pagoda you’ll see the heritage buildings with the City Hall dating back to the year of 1930s, High Court Building just across from the City Hall and the Mahabandoola Park with its independence monument. Then continue your historic trail through the Pansodan Street admiring the colonial architectural constructions along the wide avenue ending your walk at the Strand Hotel, known to be the first hotel in Myanmar. Ten minutes walk from the Strand Hotel there is another awesome historic building, the Ministers’ Office, formerly called as Secretariat’s Center where the Independence Hero of Myanmar was assassinated together with his comrades in the year 1947.
- Chaukhtatgyi (Reclining Buddha) Pagoda: it is known for its colossal 65 meters long and 16 meters high reclining Buddha image. The enormous Buddha is wearing a golden robe, the right arm is supporting the back of the head and is decorated with very expressive colors, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow and red finger nails.
- Botahtaung Pagoda: on the banks of the river in downtown Yangon, it is one of the city’s most highly revered temples. The 40 meter high golden pagoda enshrines a sacred hair relic of the Buddha. The pagoda was destroyed during an air force bombing mission aimed at the nearby docks and rebuilt in 1948 following the original design.
- Kaba aye pagoda and Maha Pasana Guha caves: known as ‘’World peace pagoda”, it was built with the adjoining ‘’caves’’ in 1952 by the prime minister of Burma to host the 6th Buddhist council which ended in 1956. The stupa is 36 meters tall and has a circumference of 34 meters around the base. Its golden dome is topped with an ornamental spire shaped like an umbrella. The Maha Pasana Guha is a large man made “cave” that contains a meeting hall where the 6th Buddhist council was held.
- Theingyi Zay market: it is more authentic Yangon experience than Bogyoke Market and its prices are lower and its customers are almost entirely locals. It is the biggest and oldest market in Yangon, it sells all sorts of clothes, household items, toys and an array of unknown products, while the northern end of the market, opposite the Sri Kali Hindu temple, has a decidedly Indian feel, with stalls full of spices, herbs and traditional medicines. On the 24th, 25th and 26th Street section of Theingyi Zay takes place the morning market (6am-10am) with it’s beautiful and colorful stalls selling fruit, vegetables and food in general.
- The Thirimingala Market: located in Ahlone Township at the northern end of Strand Road, it provides some great photo opportunities. This is a market out of the touristic paths where you can live a real slice of local daily life. Trucks and lorries coming in and out filled with various fruits and vegetables and stalls selling any sort of food, dried and fresh fish, meat and chickens, fruit, vegetables and flowers make this market really unique and sure not to be missed.
- Bogyoke Market: situated on the northern edge of downtown on Bogyoke Aung San Road, it is Yangon’s most famous place to shop. To be honest is nothing special , just a place for tourist inside a colonial-era building constructed in 1926, where you can find over two thousand shops and stalls selling clothing, handicrafts, jewelry, antiques and paintings and any kinds of souvenirs. Opening time 10 am to 5 pm.
- Karaweik Hall & Kandawgyi Lake: it is a large lake in Yangon downtown where to spend a few time of relax surrounded by the green. On the southern end of the lake there is a boardwalk (entrance fee 2,000 Kyat) and around the park there are several open air restaurants. The Karaweik Hall, located in the south east corner of Kandawgyi Lake, is a replica of a classically styled royal barge and inside there are reception halls, conference rooms, buffet restaurants and theaters.
- Yangon railway station and ‘’circle line’’ trains: one of the most beautiful experiences that could be done in Yangon, is to visit the Central Railway station, built in traditional Burmese architectural style, landmark building since 1996 and have ride on the old train. There is an urban railroad line, better known as “circle line”, which begins and ends at Yangon Central Railway Station with several departures a day going clockwise and anti-clockwise, passing through the city, its suburban areas and satellites towns. Check at: https://www.travelwithbrothers.com/asia/myanmar/circle-line/
In Yangon you’ll find any sort of accommodations. The downtown is walkable and starting from Sule Paya you can visit the Mahabondoola Park and the colonial-era buildind around park and trough Pansodan street until you’ll reach the Strand hotel. From here you can walk to Botahtaung Pagoda and then take a taxi towards your next spot. I suggest you to visit the Shwedagon Paya in the late afternoon, the local Markets ( Thirimingala and the alleys around Theingyi Zay ) and the ‘’circle line train’’ during the early morning.
Getting around: the city is plenty of taxi but during the rush hours the streets are very very crowded.
Airport: Yangon International is located 20 km north from the downtown. It has three terminals, two international (Terminals 1 and 2) and one domestic (Terminal 3). There is a shuttle bus that runs between the three terminals and to reach the downtown you have to take a taxi ( around 9000 kyat ).
Railway station: it’s located close to downtown between Alan Pya Pagoda Road and Upper Pansodan Street. You can reach by train the most important cities of Myanmar ( Bagan, Mandalay, Nyaung shwe – Inle lake ) but it takes a long time.
Bus Terminals: they are located far from the downtown and it takes you around 1 hours and more to get there by taxi. Buses from most important destinations around Myanmar depart and arrive at Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal (known as Highway Bus Station). The ticket for the vip buses can be bought online or at the bus terminal, all the others directly at the bus terminal.
Train schedule: http://www.travelmyanmarservices.com/train.htm