Former capital of Burma, Yangon (Rangoon) is for many, the point of Entry/exit in the country. Different from what Myanmar offers, it is a city full of surprises, pretty street markets and pagodas more impressive than the others. Here’s a glimpse of our 2 days in Yangon.
Day 1: Downtown, Chinatown and Sule Pagoda
We booked our room the night before so we wouldn’t have to deal with it when we got there. The prices in Myanmar are sometimes a little abused in view of the quality, but there are still some exceptions. We had booked the cheapest. It was frankly not Vegas, but anyway, we didn’t come for it ^^ it was still clean and relatively quiet.
About €6 a night in an Eco room with breakfast.
Downtown, our Headquarters
After we put our belongings, we went to the discovery of Yangon. Downton is definitely worth a visit. It’s a jolly organized mess. The simple fact of walking around the streets serves as a visit. These large buildings, a little dilapidated but full of colors, bordering large streets where thousands of cars pass. Street markets are also really nice. You will find almost everything: fruits, vegetables, fresh and dried fish, but also fresh meats on the ground, toy stands of flowers etc…
Our best advice to visit Downtown is to let go of your guide, and get lost in the streets by taking the time to look around you.
Small lunch break on the edge of the only railroad on the corner. Nice little greasy spoon where, like just about anywhere in the country, the curiosity of the premises is quite amusing and benevolent.
Sule Pagoda and Burmese culture
We then decide to head to Chinatown, and visit some of the old colonial heritage buildings such as the General Post Office, the Myanmar Port Authority, or the Yangon Stock Exchange.
Before the visit of the Sule Pagoda, we crossed the Maha Bandula Gardens where we could not stop ourselves from having a well deserved little nap. Rare Green area of the city, here you can soak up the rhythm of the local life.
The Sule Pagoda is beautiful and has been completely regilded two years ago. This gives the stupa the impression of being only a huge gold ingot (50 meters high still ^^). Located on a huge roundabout, you will have to risk your life 3 times to access it 😅 (pedestrians are frankly not priority). All around, there are dozens of shops of astrologers, real stars in the country.
Little anecdote, it is the point “zero” of the country, or the place that serves to give all the distances.
Go around and find the sign that corresponds to your day of birth. The astrological calendar is made up of 8 days, Wednesday counts for 2, morning and evening being different (day of the Birth of Buddha).
The custom wants you to pour water on the Buddha and on the animal that is yours. That’s good luck. Normally, you have to pour as much glass of water as you have a year (good luck for our grannies)…
It is not at all badly seen to do so even if you are not Buddhist on the contrary. Simply, respect the place and the people who occupy it 😉
For the curious here is a site that explains perfectly well all the religious rituals in Yangon.
- Sunday: Northeast-Sun-Garuda (man-bird)
- Monday: East-Moon-Tigre
- Tuesday: Southeast-Mars-Lion
- Wednesday morning: Sud-Mercure-Elephant with tusks (Nicolas ^^)
- Wednesday afternoon: Northeast-lunar node-helpless elephant
- Thursday: West-Jupiter-Rat (Morgane 😅)
- Friday: North-Venus-guinea pig
- Saturday: Southwest-Saturn-Naga (Serpent)
Day 2-Shwedagon Pagoda and the Yangon Train
We had read that it was better to come and see the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise and/or sunset. The light of the sun making these hours, the pagoda even more beautiful. and for cause…
Despite a little late awakening, we were there at 6:30.
Small reminder for dress: the legs and shoulders must be covered, shoes and socks remain at the entrance.
It is a place difficult to describe as its beauty and grandeur are immense. Two immense stupas occupy the premises. The main measure 98m high and is covered with more than 700Kg of gold!!! Unfortunately, during our visit, much of it was being renovated.
All around you will find a lot of small buildings going from the Buddhist museum, to the student monument, through Buddha trees.
Our advice to visit this place is imperative to equip yourself with a guide (local or paper). There are hundreds of things to see and you might miss out if you don't know the place well.
Of course, all around you will find your astrological sign and can do or redo the procession. Hundreds of mini pagodas also adorn the place, which makes it always more magical.
Yangon Train, an experience to be made
Taking the train to Yangon is a bit like going back in time. For a paltry price, we crossed the city and joined the area of Lake Inya. On a somewhat run-down train, you will see many locals getting on and off the train. At each station street vendors come to offer you directly in your car, vegetables, tap-dancing or even flowers. This is a great way to discover the popular Yangon and a rather nice experience that we really enjoyed!
We have completed the visits of this 2nd and last day by the Kabar Aye Pagoda and the Mahapasana Guha Cave. A pagoda that glows with a thousand lights with its walls completely covered with mirrors. Inside, in the centre of the stupa, a small room protected by an armoured door worthy of the greatest James Bond contains the largest silver Buddha in Myanmar. A little off-center, it is a pagoda that is worth the detour because of its difference and its beauty. Right next to it is a “cellar” (which does not have much of a cellar), where the 6th Buddhist Council was held. A huge room that can accommodate thousands of monks. Nothing very exceptional, but it’s right next to ☺ ️
Stroll around Lake Inya
Close to the bus station where our night coach was waiting for us, we wanted to enjoy Lake Inya. Peaceful and quiet place, we fled to a wonderful restaurant to enjoy a good beer that closed the visit to Yangon
To be honest, Yangon is far from the place we have preferred in Burma. Besides the pagodas (the Shwedagon Pagoda is truly amazing) which are beautiful and the downtown area with its buildings and street markets, we have not been more sensitive than that to the charm of the city. On the other hand take 2 days at the beginning of the stay is a good option to still take the time to visit, and acclimate to the country before going to new regions…