You might be thinking $100 in Myanmar sounds like a lot of money, but imagine that this amount of money is all you have four days in the city and includes all your spending, eating, and accommodation money. Now that should give you pause. If you are on this tight a budget, then you really only want to spend your money on the best things to do in Yangon. This small budget of yours should only be spent on the best things to do in Yangon. Fortunately for you dear reader, I have been in Yangon and can give you the insider’s scoop on the best things to do in Myanmar.
Yangon is, apart from Mandalay, is the most famous city in Myanmar formerly known as Burma. And most people, myself included, thought that Yangon was the capital of Myanmar. Yangon was the capital of Myanmar until as recently as 2006. In 2006, the capital changed to the custom-made city Naypyidaw which is just below the city of Kalaw. Naypyidaw is essentially in the center of the country.
Yangon is an ancient city and was first established in the 11th century by the Mon ethnic group of Myanmar. It was originally named Dagon. This ancient name is still around and can be found in the names of buildings, restaurants, and beers. It’s an important part of Yangon culture and history. The city of Dagon was a small fishing village and was built around the Shwedagon Pagoda. Yep, that pagoda has been around for a long, long time.
In 1755, King Alaungpaya conquered Dagon and named it Yangon. Yangon means “End of Strife” and is pronounced Rangoon. King Alaungpaya was one of the most important people in Myanmar history as he united all of Myanmar under one rule. The British took over Myanmar in 1855 and it’s thanks to the British that Yangon has a lot of colonial architecture. The British also built the many beautiful and large parks in Yangon, along with the University of Yangon, and it’s large hospital. Today, if you visit Yangon you’ll notice that the architecture and infrastructure of much of Yangon is old and worn down. This is quite sad because it’s easy to see that Yangon, in its prime was a beautiful city. In fact, it was known as the “Garden of the East.”
Needless to say, Yangon has a long and interesting history and although the architecture isn’t the most breathtaking or beautiful if you are visiting Myanmar, this city is worth a visit. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than Mandalay.
The Best Things to do in Yangon
This is the biggest pagoda in Yangon and is the main sight to see in the city. This pagoda is one of the reasons that the ancient city of Yangon was built. At 99m high, the highest steeple dominates the skyline of Yangon. It’s the center of Burmese culture in Yangon and is the most visited tourist attraction. In addition to its size, this temple is awe-inspiring because of its tall golden spires and rows of smaller stupas which radiate out from the center of the pagoda. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred temple in the whole country. Inside the pagoda away from public view are ancient relics of four of the previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa. (A kalpa is a cool Sanskrit word which means eon.)
Buddha Hair Pagoda aka Botahtaung Pagoda
This temple is believed to have been built about 2,500 years ago around the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda. Botahtaung Pagoda is really neat because it was built over the ocean. When you visit before the crowds show up it’s possible to feel and hear the ocean waves rumbling beneath your feet. Botahtaung Pagado is famous because it is supposed to house a sacred hair from Buddha. Unfortunately the hair isn’t available for public viewing. You see it through a TV screen. Honestly, when I saw it I couldn’t even see a hair it just looked like a scab but based off of everyone else’s reactions they saw a hair. The temple was completely destroyed during WWII and is in the process of being rebuilt. It costs 6,000 Kyatt (chit) to visit and includes a free water bottle.
Karaweik Royal Palace– A Cultural Experience
It’s expensive for the area but you have to visit Karaweik Palace! I loved the show we saw here. It was about 30$ for the night but it was worth every cent. The Karaweik Palace is grand, golden, and majestic. It makes you feel like royalty. For the cost of one show, you see fourteen different performances and there is a grand, limitless all you can eat buffet. The buffet is great because it has many different styles of food. It allows you to try different Burmese and Thai foods, that you normally might not feel comfortable trying on the street. For instance, I tried chicken feet. (Not my favorite dish.) Additionally, for the less adventurous they have some yummy Western food. This is totally worth it and you also get to see a really cool marionette show. Marionettes have a long and ornate history in Myanmar. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Yangon.
Train around Yangon
This is by far the cheapest attracion in Yangon you’ll find. It’s only a few hundred Kyatt to ride this train all around the large city of Yangon. The train itself is kept in good condition with comfy padded seats. There isn’t aircon, but the constant breeze that is generated by the moving train creates enough air that it doesn’t feel too hot. This train is used by the locals and so when you ride it you get to see into the daily lives of the local people. You’ll see the heart of the city and also the heart of the slums. I would highly recommend this trip. The train takes about 3-4 hours to complete it’s loop so make sure to allow enough time.
The People’s Park is huge and is right out front of the Schwedagon Pagoda. It is a really neat park because it has lots of different types of attractions to see. For example there is an old airplane in the middle of the park. There is also this fun series of small tree houses with aerial walkaways that park-goers can walk along and enjoy. I really enjoyed this park and lost myself in a book for hours here. It’s very peaceful. This park is divided into a free section for everyone and nonfree section for foreigners. I didn’t pay to enter the fee section of the park. You can visit this park for free and still really enjoy yourself.
Yangon Zoological Garden
The Yangon zoological garden is about a 10-minute walk from the People’s Park. It’s a lot smaller, but it does have bumper boats, paddle boats, and an amusement park. Needless to say, this park is a lot less peaceful than the People’s Park, but if you have the time and are looking for free places to explore this is another nice option.
Maha Bandula Park
Deep in the heart of the first yard is Maha Bandula Park. This park is right across from the smaller Sule Pagoda and I must say it’s a reprieve from all the city congestion and noise. It was really nice to go to this park and see everyone enjoying themselves and relaxing under the shade of the many trees and large shrubbery that live in the park. There is also a really large unique statue in the center of the park that is pleasant to view. From this park, you can also see many of the administration buildings of Myanmar’s government.
Clothing Market a.k.a Scott Market a.k.a Bogyoke Market
This is a huge market. It’s hours are 10:30-5pm daily. If you go at the end of the day you’ll be more apt to get last minute deals as vendors are trying to get rid of their wares. This market is a wet dream for people who love fabrics. This market is great too because you can get all the clothing that you purchase tailored to fit your body right then and there. It’s also an excellent place to buy local style clothing. If clothing isn’t your jam don’t worry. This market is large and sprawling and has pretty much anything your heart can desire from jewelry to fans and marionettes you can find and buy it all at the Bogyoke market.
For those of you trying to experience gay Asia #gayasia explore the bar O’thentic a French colonial style building with delicious crepes and wine. What French locale wouldn’t be complete without wine? Tuesday is the preferred day there amongst the LGBTQ community. You are able to find out about any local events on their informative Facebook page.
My favorite part of Yangon were the parks, they are some of the best things to do in Yangon. If you do visit Myanmar this list of the best things to do in Yangon will keep you on track and save you money. Let me know how you enjoy your time in Yangon! Did you find this list of best things to do in Yangon helpful? Do you have anything that you think should be added to this list of best things to do in Yangon? If you are looking for other ideas of what to do in Myanmar look no further! Leave comments below and let us know your thoughts on the best things to do in Yangon. As always you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!