Yangon (also called Rangoon) is the largest city of Myanmar with about 5 million inhabitants and is located in the south of the country on an arm of the Andaman Sea about 15 meters above sea level. The center is characterized by one of the largest and most important sanctuaries of the country – the Shewedagon Pagoda.
The city was the capital of Myanmar from 1885 to 2005. Only when the government moved to Nay Pyi Taw in 2006 was it declared the new capital.
The metropolis was occupied by the British, who also called it Rangoon, from 1824-1826. Their influence is still visible in the many old colonial buildings and the streets laid out like a chessboard. The British also brought many Indians to the country, who still make up a large part of the population and shape the cityscape.
Yangon has been undergoing a major transformation since Myanmar’s opening. People are dressing more and more westernized and many of the old buildings have been demolished or renovated. However, from Bogyoke Aung San Market to Sule Pagoda Rd. and Pansodan Street to Strand Road, many of these beautiful old colonial buildings still remain.
Tip 1: Shwedagon Pagoda
Even from a distance you will recognize the huge golden pagoda, which rises on a small hill above the city. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the highlight of Yangon and one of the most famous sights in all of Myanmar
Most importantly, Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important shrines in the country, visited by thousands of locals every day. The pagoda indeed has a very special aura and a visit there is definitely one of the best experiences of any Myanmar trip.
We recommend you to go to Shwedagon Pagoda in the early evening. The time around sunset is when the light is best for photography and also when the daily hustle and bustle around the golden stupa reaches its peak.
As in all Buddhist shrines, shoes and also socks must be removed at the entrance. Shorts and off-the-shoulder tops are also taboo.
Tip 2: Botahtaung Pagoda
Botahtaung Pagoda is often referred to as the small Shwedagon Pagoda. It also has a golden stupa in the center of the temple complex. The stupa is about 40 meters high and, according to legend, houses a hair of Buddha. The pagoda was built about 2,500 years ago at about the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda. However, during a bombing raid in World War II, parts of the pagoda were destroyed. Reconstruction began in 1948.
The large stupa is surrounded by several smaller stupas. In addition, there are many Buddha figures to be seen here as well. By the way, the name Botahtaung Pagoda translates as “Pagoda of 1,000 Military Leaders”. This name comes from the time when the sacred hair of Buddha was brought to the stupa. At that time, 1,000 military leaders are said to have formed an honor guard to welcome the hair ceremoniously and respectfully.
Tip 3: Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple
Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is located just a few steps northeast of Shwedagon Pagoda. You will be impressed by a striking reclining Buddha that is 65 meters long and 16 meters high. This Buddha is one of the most beautiful in Myanmar. The serene face is punctuated by glass eyes, vermilion lips and blue eye shadow. Another distinctive feature is the statue’s stapled feet, which are decorated with 108 sacred Buddhist symbols.
Tip 4: Colonial Houses in Yangon
From Sule Pagoda you can walk to some old colonial houses. To do this, walk straight ahead from the main entrance of Sule Pagoda. On the left side you will see the Yangon City Hall. This is the city hall of the city. The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) is also located here.
It is a well-restored colonial house that is beautiful to look at from the outside. The roof also features elements of Burmese architecture.
If you continue walking, you will see the Immanuel Baptist Church in front of you. This is a large, white church, which is very conspicuous in the cityscape. It was built in 1885, but was partially destroyed during World War II. Therefore, its current appearance is mainly due to the reconstruction in 1952.
A particularly beautiful building is, for example, the “High Court”. It was built between 1905 and 1911. It is made of red brick and decorated with yellow elements. Particularly impressive here is the clock tower, which reminds a little of Big Ben in London.
If you walk further along Maha Bandula Park Street, you will come across other, more dilapidated colonial buildings. Due to the nostalgia that these old houses exude, they are particularly worth seeing from our point of view. However, you can only look at them from the outside on the street. Maha Bandula Park Street then leads into Strand Street. This is a very busy main street.
On the side of Strand Street you will also find more colonial houses. Here you can find the Custom House made of red brick, which is now a government office. A little further on you will find the famous 5 star hotel “The Strand”. The hotel and the café have been extensively restored and are very luxurious.
Tip 5: Bogyoke Aung San Market
At the Bogyoke Aung San Market you can buy mainly gems and crystals, clothes and souvenirs. However, the prices are now adjusted to tourists, so you will not find any bargains here. Nevertheless, the market is interesting to look at. At the clothing stalls you will actually see seamstresses sitting, who will also sew custom-made items for you on request. The entire market is also covered, so you are protected from the Yangon sun.
In the outdoor area of the market you will also find some food stalls. If you’re looking for classic street food, you’ve come to the right place. If you are looking for more international food, you can also eat in the neighboring shopping center. A pedestrian bridge leads from Bogyoke Aung San Market directly to the air-conditioned shopping center.