Thursday, 14 September 2017
MYANMAR: Yangon Is Safe, But Disgusting Are Spitting Pedestrians And Chaotically Crowded Buses
The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, and is known for its colonial architecture, which although decaying and beyond appreciation, remains an almost unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital.
New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s and some are scarily unoccupied and left as ghost skyscrapers and hotels as seen along Upper Pansodan Rd, as the government began to allow private investment while former national government buildings such as the massive Secretariat Building, as the capital is shifted to Naypyidaw, have been left to rot.
However, Yangon continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its longyi-wearing, betel nut chewing and spitting pedestrians, their friendly or even familial attitude towards strangers, its street vendors and its pungent smells.
Yangon's former name is not the only victim of symbolic changes in this country. For one, the country's name has been changed. To add up to this identity crisis going on in this country, this city has been stripped of its capital status, the capital relocated to a secluded new site called Naypyidaw built from scratch.
The flag too has been changed, recently redesigned in 2010, replacing the old one which replaced another one slightly more than a decade earlier.
Yangon formerly known as Rangoon, literally means: End of Strife, is the capital of the Yangon Region of Myanmar, also known as Burma. Yangon served as the capital of Myanmar until 2006, when the military government relocated the capital to the purpose-built city of Naypyidaw in central Myanmar,With over 7 million people, Yangon is Myanmar's largest city and its most important commercial centre.
Yangon boasts the largest number of colonial-era buildings in Southeast Asia,and has a unique colonial-era urban core that is remarkably intact.The colonial-era commercial core is centred around the Sule Pagoda, which is reputed to be over 2,000 years old.The city is also home to the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda — Myanmar's most sacred Buddhist pagoda. The mausoleum of the last Mughal Emperor is located in Yangon, where he had been exiled following the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Yangon suffers from deeply inadequate infrastructure, especially compared to other major cities in Southeast Asia. Though many historic residential and commercial buildings have been renovated throughout central Yangon, most satellite towns that ring the city continue to be profoundly impoverished and lack basic infrastructure.
One noticeable observation is seen along Yangon's southern streets perpendicular to the river. Diagonal parking is set off against the traffic direction in these one-way streets.
Most time-zones countries set their time in one-hour increments from UTC. Myanmar is UTC +6:30, which is similar to India's UTC +5:30.
Maybe because Myanmar had traumatic encounters with foreigners as far back as the Mongol invasion when it sacked the city of Bagan, the colonization by the British and invasion by the Japanese as well as the brutal cruelties inflicted by them - it developed its idiosyncrasy and to the point isolationist behaviour towards foreigners, but it is not as totally xenophobic as North Korea.
As Buddhists, Myanmar people are kind and welcoming to any stranger as any guest. As long as that guest-stranger does not impose something to his lifestyle, it's OK. Somehow, they don't want to fully and sweepingly adapt to any foreign idea. That said, the history of Myanmar has its own empires, including the complete destruction of Ayuthaya which crushed the Siamese and from which they did not recover for a hundred years.
Their bit of contempt was manifested in condoning the government to practice impositions on foreigners such as a tight grip on the internet as well as the hotel TV - indispensable gadgets by tourists to the outside world in their everyday lives here and in their hometown; requiring foreigners to register and log their particulars every step of the way from every hotel down to the museum they've been, and in every mode of transport they use.
Not to mention that any local who billeted a foreigner in his house overnight was long perceived by the community as an indiscretion and subject to imprisonment. Attitudes are changing rapidly, however, as a result of the government's increasing openness to foreign trade and movements towards democracy.
As of November, 2013 the situation is significantly changed with far less regulation over foreign tourists and an exponential growth in technology like smartphones and tablets, Internet access and international television. Visitors in February 2014 have noticed no restrictions on internet and no need to log trip details.
Yangon is the most exotic of all Southeast Asian cities. A walk down a typical street, the sights show noticeable commercial and traffic signs written mostly in local alphabet, not to mention the appearance of wandering monks in burgundy robes and the gilded pagodas as this is expected in this Buddhist country, and down to the locals keeping up their appearances.
Here, everyone seemed to be comfortable with walking barefoot - indoors or outdoors; with faces applied with sun protection cream from the extracts of a tree branch called Thanaka; smiles reddened by bloody red juice from chewing betel nut; as well as being used to images of men wearing a sarong-like garment, the longyi.
Longyi, in Myanmar men wear either trousers or a Longyi, a tubular piece of cloth similar to a sarong.
Ubiquitous Help-Yourselves Water Station - This image is noticeable in hot Laos and Cambodia but they pervade more here in devout Buddhist Myanmar installed at every five or so home or establishment.
According to local legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was built during the time of the Buddha and the area around the pagoda, modern Yangon has been settled since then. Whatever the truth of the legend, it is certain that a Mon village named Dagon has existed at the site since the 6th century AD. It was renamed Yangon or 'end of strife' by the Shwebo based King Alaungpaya when he captured it from rebel Mon leaders in 1755 after which its importance as a port city began to grow.
However, the city gained in importance only after the British occupied it during the Second Burmese War in 1852, after which it became the capital of British Burma and the trading and commercial centre of Burma. The British called the city Rangoon, which was an Anglicised form of Yangon. The city grew rapidly during the colonial period, which left a legacy of solid 19th-century colonial architecture.
Burma attained independence in 1948, but its true modern period begins with the 1962 military coup and the institution of an isolationist Socialist regime in 1964, resulting in the steady decay of the city and its infrastructure
In 1988, Yangon was the site of peaceful pro-democracy protests, in which thousands, including monks and students were gunned down. In 1989, the city was renamed to its original Burmese name, Yangon, by the military junta. In 2006, the capital was moved to Naypyidaw but today Yangon remains the business, cultural and intellectual capital of modern Burma. In 2007, Yangon again became the centre for demonstrations against the military government.
Since the 17th century, Yangon has been a cosmopolitan city with a polyglot mixture of peoples. Portuguese businessmen, Dutch fortune hunters, Englishmen of all sorts, Chinese seeking refuge from the upheavals in the Yunnan, and many, many Indians who arrived in several waves during colonial times.
Most of these people are now gone and Yangon is now a predominantly Bamar city with a large Indian minority and a growing Chinese minority. Still, there are traces of the old Yangon still visible, whether it is in the crowded Indian dominated parts of Anawratha Street, or in the occasional Anglo-Burmese or Anglo-Indian who walks up and says hello.
In some ways, the biggest change in modern Yangon is the loss of the Indians, who arrived with the British as soldiers and labourers,though Indian traders have always been a part of the Burmese landscape and then left in two large waves of migration during the Japanese occupation and again, in 1963, when they were forced to leave by Ne Win's government. Ethnic groups such as the Shan and Karen are also present. Kabya, or persons of mixed heritage, are common in Yangon.
The climate is monsoonal, with three distinct seasons: a rainy season from June to October, a cooler and drier "winter" from November to February, and a hot dry season from March to May. The winter season from November to January is markedly less humid and cooler than the remaining months, and hence sees the greatest number of visitors.
Nevertheless, major festivals occur throughout the year, notably Thingyan- the water festival, equivalent to the Thai festival of Songkran, in April. Festivals are keyed to the lunar cycle, specifically to the full-moon days of each lunar month, and therefore fall on different days each year of the Western, solar-based, calendar.
However, first day of Thingyan festival occurred in 12 April because it is based on stellar cycle and number of festival days are different by years according to traditional astrological calculation.
Yangon International Airport is located approximately 30 minutes north of the city centre. Just undergone from a major upgrade and renovation of existing facilities, it contains both international and domestic terminals. The easiest way to get to and from the airport to the city is by taxi,official rate of USD8 or MYK8000 from airport to city but it is also possible to use a public bus if you willing to walk 20 min and pay 40 times less.
If you want to take the bus: exit the international terminal, turn right till you reach a road (1 minunte walk), turn right again there, and walk along the road for about 15 minutes. You'll hit Pyay Rd; turn right again there and walk for another 3-4 minutes till you reach the bus stop, from where you can take public bus 51 or some others which will take you one block east of Sule Paya right downtown depending on the bus.
If you have luggage, try not to take more than one seat, or you might be asked to pay more. The bus stop is called "Se Mai" pronounced like "se" in "seven" and "mi" in "mile". You'll have to cross the road in order to take the bus going to the city center. Another option is exiting the airport and start walking to "Se Mai".
Many taxi drivers will be driving in the same direction and asking if you need a ride to the city center. Tell them you just need a ride to "Se Mai". The price is negotiable, but if you bargain a bit, you might be able to get to "Se Mai" for 1000 kyat.
This will spare you a 20 minutes' walk in the heat. A third option is to take the circular train downtown, it's 1 mile (1,6 km) walk from the airport to the closest station Pa Ywet Seik Kone. Price is 100 kyat to Yangon railway station and the ride takes about 45 minutes. You'll either need a map, take a taxi or ask yourself forward to find Pa Ywet Seik Kone. The first train runs about 7:30am.
For going back to the airport, you'll have the same options. No direct bus will take you to the airport but the closest buses pass a couple of kilometres away. Thus, on the way to the airport the cheapest option would be to take that bus, get off at the Airport Road "Se Mai" stop, and take a cab for the remaining -short- distance.
Or just walk those 15-20 minutes, for seasonned backpackers it have been an easy stroll. The name of the bus stop is "Mile 10" "Se Mai" in Burmese on Pyay Rd and the line 51 is written in Burmese characters. In addition to bus 51, you can take any other bus going in the direction of "Se Mai" - just listen to what the conductor is announcing when the bus approaches.
If any concern: Ask some locals and they will be happy to help you along the way. Allover a great way to start your Myanmar experience, if you want to dive into locals life.
There are international direct flights to RGN from Dubai, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Gaya, Kolkata, Kunming, Guangzhou, Nanning, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Doha, Taipei, and Tokyo . International Airlines servicing RGN include Nok Air (To Bangkok), Thai Airways, Bangkok Air , Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Dragonair, Korean Airlines, Silk Air, Vietnam Airlines, Air India, and All Nippon Airways. Coffee, tea and very basic snacks like packaged biscuits and single serving cakes are available inside the security area.
A new international terminal (T1) opened in March 2016 and the old international terminal has been designated as T2. Some airlines are in the process of relocating, so check with your airline for which terminal your flights will operate from.
The temporary domestic terminal is located between the two international terminals. Facilities are minimal,espresso coffee, tea, local beer, limited hot food, and basic packaged snacks are available but, as a consequence, check-in is simple and quick and bags arrive quickly from arriving aircraft. Ancient buses ferry passengers to their aircraft.
Taxis are available at the taxi counter situated before exiting arrival area. Fare is paid to the driver and is fixed, from MYK5,000-15,000 depending on the distance. Pre-paid taxis are available USD10 or MYK8000 to downtown, pay at the taxi counter inside the baggage claim area or just before exit of terminal.
Update January 2016: There is a taxi terminal, taxis are US$8 Airport to Downtown fixed price. You pay the driver directly. Some people say it is easier and cheaper to exit the terminal and negotiate directly with the Taxi Czar who controls the taxi trade at Mingladon but most of taxi drivers are usually inside the terminal though.
Try not to allow porters to carry your luggage, as they will demand specified tips and hassle you. This is especially a problem in the domestic terminal as there is no customs to pass through with your bags. There is also no belt for luggages. Staff will put your bag on the floor. If a porter has not attached himself to a hapless tourist, he may take random bags off the luggage cart, hoping someone will follow him.
On the other hand you can experience the full service treatment, not going to counters or luggage concerns for a few thousand kyats. A new domestic terminal (T3) is due to open during the second half of 2016.
There are several train lines that connect Yangon to the rest of Burma. Several trains daily connect Yangon to Mandalay via Bago with connections to Bagan and the Inle Lake area at Thazi. Because of a bizarre timetable change in 2006,apparently to ensure that trains arrive at a reasonable hour at Pyinmana, the station for the new capital, most trains leave early in the morning (02:00-03:00) and arrive late at night.
Yangon-Mandalay fares for a sleeper are USD35-50, for a seat are USD30-40 on First Class and USD10-15 on Second Class. There is also a direct train line between Yangon and Bagan (USD35/13) but trains take almost 24 hours for a bumpy journey and the change at Thazi is a better bet.
Train from Yangon to Bagan leaves 4p.m and arrives to Bagan around 9:30am. Sleeper class (4 beds and private toilet) cost for us 16000MYK. It is bumpy ride but does not take 24hours :)
The oldest line in Burma is the Yangon-Pyay line and it shows its age. But, the nine hour journey (USD15/6) along the Irrawaddy basin is well worth it. The Mawlamyine line is equally bumpy and the 9 hours express (06:15, USD17/11) and 11 hours slow train (07:00, USD14/5) is slightly longer than by road.
On this trip in upper class you get your own seat and it's slightly less crowded, but there isn't much else different between the classes, Trains also run to Pathein in the Irrawaddy delta but are very slow and the bus is a better alternative.
When booking trains from Yangon, you have two options. For trains departing the same day only, enter the main entrance of the station,north across the railway bridge from the corner of Bogyoke Aung San road and Sule Pagoda Road, then east on Bo Min Yaung road.
For trains leaving at any other point in the future, do not cross the railway bridge at Bogyoke and Sule, but walk 20 metres east on Bogyoke and seek the nondescript second ticket office opposite a prominent cinema. As of July 1, 2017, first class train tickets from Yangon to Mawlamyine cost 4,250 kyat/person.
A hundred and fifty years ago, boats were the way to get to places from Yangon and IWT or Inland Water Transport passenger ferries still ply the major rivers. Yangon to Mandalay takes 5 days with a change at Pyay 3 days and the return trip (downriver) takes three days. A luxury ferry - the Delta Queen recalls the colonial era on the Yangon-Pathein route - about 20 hours, US$170/person. The IWT ferry to Pathein takes 15 hours for the over-night trip (US$35/10). On okt.2015 the IWT ferry to Pathein was suspended.
Most buses for destinations as Bagan, Kalaw, Mandalay, Taunggyi for Inle Lake, Bago, Hpa-An, Mwlamyiane, Pyay, Lashio depart from the Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal also known as Highway Bus Station, MYK5000 taxi from airport, MYK2000 for a motortaxi to airport, a bit out of the city and beyond the airport, on the Pyay Road.
There is heavy competition on the Mandalay route with air conditioned fares ranging from 10,500 (Mandalar Minn, E lite) to MYK18,000 for a 3 seat across VIP bus (E lite). E lite has an all new fleet with several departures early morning and evening. The new highway has dramatically reduced travel times north with the Mandalay trip taking just over 8 hours with a good bus.
Buses to Bagan are at 15,000 kyat for the 9 hour journey no bargaining seems to be possible, buses depart around 9am and from 6pm to 9pm. There are ticket offices representing all companies outside stadium opposite the main train station. Many offer ferry services to the Highway Bus Station in a pickup for 1000 kyat a taxi will cost around 6000 kyat.
Buses for the Irrawaddy delta region (Pathein, Chaungtha Beach, Ngwe Saung Beach),depart from the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal across the Bayintnaung Bridge.Buses to Kyaiktiyo (Kinpun) leave in the mornings (4.5 hours, 6000 kyat). Buses for Mawlamyine (6 hours via the new bridge) leave in the mornings and late nights (8000 kyat). Buses to Sittwe and Thandwe (Ngapali Beach) are also available but the road is bad and the journey long.
Going to the city from the Highway Bus Station is possible (Bus #43) at 300 kyat. The bus passes in front of the entrance to the Station; just ask the helpful locals. Alternatively, there should be waiting buses inside the station area at GPS coordinates 16.9336123, 96.1585152. Keep your eye out for the old buses with Burmese characters on the back.
If making your way to the bus terminal, ask your hotel to write it down in burmese script and catch the bus from the city hall across Sule Paya right downtown for just 200 kyat! also better than the horrible transfer timings that sometimes make you wait at Aung Minglar for 3 hours. bus 43 takes about 1 hour to get there,give yourself some time with check in and potential delays, leaving 2 hours from sule paya before your bus leaves.
To going to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal from Sule Paya get the bus 124 check the barma numbers before from Anawratha Rd. 2 hour to get there. The faster way is, take the inner circle train to Insain station, then bus 333 from Baho Rd.
Thanks to the new bridge and upgraded road, buses to Pathein take less than 4 hours and the journey is comfortable. Add 45 minutes by taxi to get to the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal though. 6000 kyats. Big bus companies serving the main tourist destinations (Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal) have sales offices across Yangon train station (can also buy "shuttle ticket" to Bus Terminal for 1000 Kyat here).
The easiest way to get around the city is by taxi, and Yangon is apparently where Toyota cars come to live out the rest of their days. Genuine taxis have red license plates, carry a laminated green slip and have a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car, but all taxis are reliable.
In recent months, traffic has gotten considerably worse in the city; taxis are ubiquitous and during peak times (8-10am; 5-7pm) taxis may be more expensive because of the traffic. Taxis are always available outside the bigger hotels, on Sule Pagoda Road outside Cafe Aroma, and, during the day, outside the Southern entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Away from the city centre, for example near the budget hotels in Pazundaung Township, you may have to wait a bit before a taxi shows up and it may be easier to ask your hotel to call one for you. If you're travelling in the wee hours to catch a 4AM train or flight, arrange one with your hotel the previous evening. You will always find a taxi outside the Central Hotel on Bogyoke Aung San Road. Uber and Grab are now available.
It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip, although other than tacking on an informal tourist surcharge, you'll rarely be cheated. Most taxis charge a minimum fare of 1500 kyats, increasing in increments of 500 kyats the further the destination. You should be able to get anywhere around the main Yangon area,downtown, Kandawgyi, major hotels for 2-3000 kyats.
Tourist destinations such as the Shwedagon Pagoda will usually require harder bargaining to get a decent fare. Approximate fares are: airport to/from city centre 8000 kyats or US$10 official rate.Airport TO city centre US$8 fixed price. City Centre TO airport 7,000 kyats; city centre to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal 6000 kyats; city centre to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal 4000 kyats. Expect to pay more, when it rains and late at nights. Taxis will often try to charge more for aircon or for more passengers; try to discourage this practice.
Most taxis will be only too happy to negotiate an hourly (5000-6000 kyats) or daily (US$5-6) or longer rate. It all depends if you hire an aircon taxi or not. Taxis will take you anywhere and you can, in theory, hail a taxi and negotiate a trip to Pathein or Bago or other destinations at a much lower price than through a travel agency.
While Yangon's circular train is not particularly useful for getting to tourist sights, it is a sight by itself. As of May 2014, foreigner tickets cost 200 kyat. Buy your ticket in a little office on platform seven in Central Railway Station or at any circular train station. Train leaves from platform 4 or 7 several times a day. You choose clockwise or anti clockwise. Probably best just to take the next train to depart.
They seem to expect you to be looking for the circular train so just those words will have people pointing you in the right direction. Prepare for three hours on a hard wooden seat. You are the entertainment from some passengers: and they are yours. Watch cherry sellers step on and off a moving train with a bowl of cherries on the head. This is not a train where you lean out the window space to shop.
The shop pops in and out of your carriage before moving on to the next. Take a seat by the door space: the windows are low so you get a better view near the door. When buying the ticket, you may be asked to present your passport so they can write your name and passport number on the ticket. It iss not made clear why the information needed to be put on the ticket.
Trishaws are scarce in the city centre and not permitted before 10AM but more readily available in the surrounding townships. Negotiate fares in advance but 500 kyats(60 cents) for a short ten minute ride, while higher than what locals would pay, is appropriate.
Riding the bus is absolutely safe. The only drawback is the lack of understanding. Most of the locals can't speak English and the signs are written in Burmese text. As you would expect, Yangon has an extensive and chaotically crowded bus system. Most are privately run and will not move until enough people are falling off the sides of the bus. Buses are cheap, but high yearly inflation is chipping that cheapness away.
Most routes originate and terminate on the eastern side of the Sule Pagoda so head there if looking for a bus to the airport or to the Shwedagon Pagoda. If you don’t know how to read the Burmese numbers, announce your destination before boarding. The driver/assistants seem intrigued that foreigners are taking local busses and are willing to help. Take bus 51 for the airport, they will drop you off a little past the entrance gate.
You can return from the northern bus station using bus 43. This is a great option as the bus station is one of the first stops and you will have no problem getting a seat (200K).
A ferry crosses the river to Dallah from the Pansodan Street Jetty.
Distances in the tourist areas are not large and, provided you take it easy, you can walk almost anywhere. The pavements can be very crowded though, particularly on Anwaratha Road, so expect to be constantly bumped into and to have to negotiate your way across vendors selling everything from hot samosas and curry to screwdrivers and TV remote controls to jeans.
Also be aware that a lot of the footpaths and sidewalks have large holes, mismatched pavers, or missing/unstable covers over drains. Walking on the footpath after dark can be treacherous, so either carry a torch or, like most locals, walk on the edge of the roadway which normally in a marginally better state of repair.
There are not many pedestrian crossings with traffic lights and even there drivers sometimes go on red. Streets are poorly lit so for crossing better join a bunch of locals.
Foreigners on tourist visas are not permitted to self-drive in Myanmar. Motorbikes are not permitted within Yangon,although they are permitted elsewhere in the country. Bicycles are available for hire (2,000 Kyat a day) and are a good way to get around.
The Shwedagon Pagoda or Paya is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. The pagoda stands on the top of Singuttara Hill, and, according to legend, that spot has been sacred since the beginning of time, just before our present world was created. At that time, five lotus buds popped up on the hill, each bud signifying the five Buddhas who would appear in the world and guide it to Nirvana.
Gautama, the Buddha as we know him, is the fourth of these five - Maitreya, the fifth, will announce the end of the world with his appearance and, according to the legend, two brothers brought eight hairs of the Buddha to be enshrined in this sacred location, inaugurating the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Whatever the truth of the legend, verifiable history records a pagoda at the site since the 6th Century AD. Built and rebuilt, gilded and re-gilded, almost nothing in the pagoda is likely to be old, except whatever is hidden deep inside the stupa. An earthquake (18th century) destroyed the upper half of the pagoda spire and many buildings. Burmese Buddhists are inherently practical people who constantly build and rebuild pagodas for merit.
Today, the pagoda is an interesting place for tourists. For one, it is lit up Las Vegas style with multicoloured neon light on a galaxy of shapes and textures. It is also a jungle of spires with superior Myanmar woodcarving embellishment and somewhat playfully but incongruously mixed and matched with modern building materials such as pre-fab G.I. roofing.
Unlike other religious sites, it has at once a spiritual as well as a secular feel about it. Children run up and down singing songs, monks sit on the steps chatting, young men cast amorous glances at women, women stand around gossiping, all while others are deep in prayer in front of whatever shrine has significance for them.
The Shwedagon captures the essence of both the informal nature as well as the strong ties that signify the relationship that the Burmese have with their Buddhism. There is no other pagoda like it in Burma and there is no other place like the Shwedagon Pagoda in the world.
Hours: 6:30 am to 10:00 pm. The pagoda opens at 5:00 am but, technically, tourists are not allowed in till 6:30AM. In Myanmar, 6:00 am is still dark. It is unlikely, however, that an early arriving tourist will be turned away. Beware of visiting during mid-day as it gets very hot (especially painful to walk on the hot stone barefoot). Entry fee is no longer good for 24hrs, only for one visit.
Entrance fee: US$8 or 8,000 kyat. Ticket booths are located at the top end of the flights of steps on all entrances. If you enter before the booths are opened, the ticket agents will catch up with you sooner or later and collect the fee. They are a team of three men, one of them carrying a thick book of receipts, all wearing I.D. It is easy to avoid handing the US$8 fee to the government by simply asking for or buying a used sticker from another tourist as they leave the paya then going up one of the side entrances.
If you get in at 5:00 am and get out by 6:00 am you'll probably escape paying the fee but risk not being allowed in. Ticket agents will sometimes quote the price in US Dollars or Kyat either at the government rate, the black-market rate, or an inflated black market rate. Best to have both available and pay whatever is cheapest. Tickets are valid for one day only but not a 24 hour period and must be retained throughout your visit. While a sticker is to be displayed, is unusable the next day for a new colour is introduced.
Guides: Guides, official and unofficial are available for US$5 (add a US$1/1,000 kyats tip). The quality is variable but most guides are friendly and trying to make their way against the odds. The pagoda is vast and complex and, if you can afford the extra dollars, the company and practical information on what's going around you is well worth the expense.
Getting there: Taxi from the city centre costs 2,500 kyats to 3,000 kyats,expect higher starting prices, especially if it has rained or is after dark - 3,000 kyats or so, feel free to haggle. Taxis are available for the return trip at the bottom of the main entrance. Can also take bus 204 looks like, takes about 10 minutes with four stops 100 Kyats catch this on SHWE DAGON PAGODA RD across from Public Toliets just as you cross the overpass.
From downtown Yangon, it's about a 30min walk that will take you past the Aung San Marketplace, Martyr's Mausoleum, and a beautiful park space. If traveling internally by plane, it's likely that you'll need to go directly to the Air Mandalay office to pay for your paper tickets, from which you can walk here in a pleasant 10 min stroll by some beautiful scenery.
Food: The closest restaurant is at the intersection of the Shwedagon Pagoda Road and U Hlaung Bo Street at the bottom of the Southern Walkway. There are some tea shops on a small roadway that describes a semicircle just below the top of the pagoda where you can get tea and biscuits. North of the pagoda, on Inya Road and outside the Savoy, are many places to eat, including a good fast food restaurant for pizza, coffee, and sandwiches.
There are also several restaurants across the street from the western exit, by the entrance of the People's Park. Bring water; the heat of the sun can get to you if you visit during the daytime. No food or water is available on the platform itself but water is available on the lower reaches of the walkway.
Disabled travellers: A road on the Southern side leads halfway up the Singuttara Hill and an elevator can take you the rest of the way. Alternatively, if not in a wheelchair, head for the Western entrance from where escalators are available all the way to the top. The escalators are free for foreigners or rather, included in the price of the ticket.
Dress code: Dress reasonably and keep your legs covered - long skirts, halfway between knee and ankle, are fine; shorts, on men or women, are not. Longyi is available at the ticket booth if you arrive overly uncovered.
Shoes: As with nearly all Buddhist monuments, footwear is not permitted. With the Shwedagon Paya, almost all visitors and all locals remove their footwear and socks at the gates before even setting foot inside the complex. There are places to leave your shoes at the bottom of every walkway for a nominal fee (5 kyats) but that can be a problem if, say, you enter using the Eastern walkway and wish to leave by the Northern.
Carry a plastic shopping bag, pop your shoes into that bag, and carry it around with you while on the walkways and platforms. That is the Burmese way! If you can visit during the early morning or in the late afternoon / evening so the white marble tiles do not burn your feet.
Things to see at the Shwedagon
Plan The Pagoda is actually shaped like a Greek cross. There are four entrances on each of the four cardinal directions - north, south, east, and west, flanked by gargantuan sculptures of mythical Burmese lions. These entrances open up to the four walkways as the appendages of the cross ascending to the top via flights of steps.
At the top is the octagonal intersection of the cross which consists of the Stupa at the very center itself surrounded by shrines that can qualify as temples by themselves and separated from the Stupa by a vast open walkway paved with spic and span shiny marble tiles.
The Stupa is further surrounded by a string of micro shrines small celled structures housing the icon of the Buddha himself and interspersed by lion sculptures, and then further inwards, another string of micro stupas surround the Stupa superstructure.
Walkways to The Pagoda Four covered walkways lead up to the pagoda from the plains surrounding the hills. The Eastern walkway is the most interesting, crowded as it is with vendors selling items for pilgrims like candles, flowers, gold leaf, stones and other paraphernalia of Burmese Buddhist worship and souvenirs for domestic and international tourists Buddhas, lacquer ware, and thanaka.
Nothing tacky is for sale, so do stop and take a look. The other walkways are less interesting but the Western walkway has escalators and the Southern has an elevator. Walking up the Eastern walkway to the top and allowing the beauty of the pagoda it to emerge remains the best way to get up the hill.
The entrances are a sight to behold because of the Hollywoodish overall effect they evoke. As previously mentioned, there is a pair of ginormous mythical and stylized stone lions guarding the humongous doorway framing the grand staircase as if this scene is coming out from a biblical movie set. To view clearly these mythical lions, one simply has to examine the Myanmar currency notes where it is featured practically in all denominations. The Great Stupa is very visible and at dark, multicoloured neon lightings highlight its profile in Las Vegas style.
Another attraction of this temple in general and the walkways in particular are the 3D murals of the Jataka tales in Myanmarese interpretation showing distinctive Myanmar landscape, temple and toddy palm dotted countryside, country life, architecture, palace and court scenery and pageantry, temple scenes, period costumes, mythological nagas and nats, elephants, lions, and dragons all literally popping up like 3D children's picture book.
These 3D murals flank the upper part of the walls of all the four entrances. Viewing this is the best way for the unbelievers to be converted done much like the same technique that the pagan American Indian tribes were subjected to by the Spanish friars with their outstanding retablos refer to the movie "The Mission".
It is unlikely for an acrophobic person be attacked as he navigates the staircase they are enclosed and there is no reason to fear as when ascending and descending temples and pyramids. More likely for an agoraphobic person to be attacked by fear for this place is already crowded even at 6 am.
The Pagoda Platform Although similar in concept to Mecca's kaaba surrounded by a vast space, the Pagoda platform where people may make rounds around the Stupa, exists as a religious space without pomp and circumstance and is one of the best places in the world to sit and people watch. Find a comfortable step, or sit yourself on the floor, and look around. Children run up and down, perhaps singing and shouting with abandon.
Women cluster in groups gossiping. Couples, young and old stroll up and down. Burgundy robed monks are everywhere. Here and there, at the many shrines that dot the platform and sit around the stupa, people pray, seriously and silently. Bells ring. There is no awe here, only life, religious and secular life. Sit there long enough and someone will stop to chat with you, to ask questions, to exchange information.
Day Shrines There are eight shrines, one for each day of the week,in the Burmese calendar, Wednesday is divided into two parts, dotted around the eight corners of the stupa - the stupa is octagonal, and most Burmese pray at their day shrine when visiting a pagoda. If you can figure out the day of the week when you were born, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrine corresponding to that day.
Starting from the Southern entrance, and going clockwise, the eight planetary posts are: Mercury (Wednesday morning, before noon), Saturn (Saturday), Jupiter (Thursday), Rahu (no planet, Wednesday afternoon), Venus (Friday), Sun (Sunday), Moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday). Each shrine also has a beast associated with it, the most interesting the Gahlon, a mythical half-bird half-beast said to guard Mount Meru (the shrine for Sunday).
Statue of Wa Thon Da Ray the statue of Wa Thon Da Ray, the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the Southern Walkway. Wa Thon Da Ray is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honor.
The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion, a little before the Western Walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the Pagoda complex.
Maha Ganda Bell Known locally as the Singu Min Bell after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon, the Maha Ganda bell was cast between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tonnes. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825) but dropped it into the Yangon River instead.
The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese shoved some bamboo rafts and, lo behold, powered by rafts or by divine right, the bell floated to the surface and was returned to the pagoda.
Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa which is very spectacular at night and a panoramic view of the city.
Naungdawgyi Pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung Left of the Northern walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform. Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing.
The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!
Dhammazedi Inscription, A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.
Sule Paya or Sule Pagoda, incongruously serving as a traffic island in the middle of the busiest intersection in central Yangon, Sule Paya is a 46 m octagonal-shaped stupa that, according to the local story, was built 2000 years ago to house a strand of the Buddha's hair. Whether or not it has a strand of the Buddha's hair, the galleries of the pagoda are an oasis of calm from the chaotic traffic that passes around it all day long.
Admission used to be free but foreigners must now pay a 4,000 kyat/US$3 admission charge. Shoes can be left at counters at any entrance but carry a plastic bag.
Botataung Paya A few blocks East of The Strand Hotel along the Yangon River lies the Botataung Pagoda. The original pagoda was destroyed by allied bombing during the Second World War but the site has a legendary history as long as that of the Shwedagon or the Sule Paya, and it is supposed to house more strands of the Buddha's hair brought to the site by a thousand soldiers (hence the name which means '1,000 officers'). The rebuilt stupa is hollow inside, and many relics (not the hair though) are on display. While not spectacular like the Shwedagon, the river-front setting and the hollow stupa make it worth visiting.
Saint Mary's Cathedral The cathedral's exterior has just been renovated and rededicated last Dec.'11. Still an ugly eye sore exterior but the superior Myanmarese dexterity of carving is shown in the interior's 14 Stations of the Cross. Images literally pop out of the screen in 3D fashion.
Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral built by the British. It is one of two cathedrals in Yangon, and has a beautiful interior.
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, located at 85, 26th Street, is the only synagogue in Yangon. It is a colonial relic, built in 1893. Its interior is beautifully maintained.
Mailamu Paya, located in the outskirts of Yangon, is a large expanse of land on which larger-than-life and colourful statues depicting Buddha's lives are located. Mailamu Paya also showcases a pavilion on a man-made lake, and several zedis.
Zoological Gardens, first opened by the British in 1906, contains Myanmar's most expansive collection of wild animals. During public holidays, the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus are performed for visitors. Open 08:00-18:00.
Mahabandoola Garden, located in the cantonment, is known for its rose gardens. Inside the gardens is the Independence Monument, built to signify Myanmar's independence. The garden offers a great view of the City Hall, and colonial buildings of the British.
People's Park, which occupies 130 acres, is located between Parliament and Shwedagon Paya and is known for its large concrete water fountain. Inside the park is a museum. The government collects entrance fees for tourists, 300 kyat. Open 07:00-19:00.
Inya Lake, the largest lake in the city, recently renovated its shoreline. Some parts of Inya Lake's shorelines are accessible by foot, and are known for their gardens. Along Inya Lake's shorelines is the famous Inya Lake Hotel, now owned by Dusit and the Yangon University in a beautiful park-like atmosphere. Surrounding the lakeside are many villas owned by military leaders.
Kandawgyi Lake (formerly Victoria Lakes). A large fungus-shaped lake northeast of the city centre. It was recently renovated, and foreigners must pay an entrance fee. At its northwestern tip is Bogyoke Aung San Park, which is on Natmauk Road. The Lake is best known for its Karaweik (located at its southeastern tip), a replica of a traditional Burmese royal boat.
There is also a boardwalk around the southern edge of the lake, affording a better view than that from the gardens. However the entry fee for the boardwalk alone is 2000 kyats or $US2. It is cheaper to walk along the road footpath (sidewalk) with free view from the outside looking through the fenced park.
If intending to go to the boardwalk, be careful where you are entering because a wrong entry means money down the drain that should have been allotted to a more noble purpose such as donating to a beggar. To go to the lake itself, you have to be ready to cough out the amount stated above to be paid at the entrance located in the middle of the south side road.
But if your real intention is to get close to the Karaweik, the entrance is on the southeast corner and there is a separate charge. The charge to the Karaweik is 300 kyats. The lake is separated from the Karaweik by a fence and there is no way of simply crossing over although the view from the street outside looks like they are all integrated. 300k (+500k camera fee, +1000k video camera fee).
Aung San's House, located at Natmauk Road (near the German embassy). This was the house were Aung San lived, with his wife and three children, shortly before he was assassinated. The house is still in original condition, with many interesting items on display, for instance Aung San's car, his library and his suit. Outside is the pond where his son Aung San Lin drowned.
This accident was one of the reasons why the family moved. Foreigner entry 300kyats. As of August 12, 2012, the house is open 10:00-16:00, and is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and gazetted holidays. No photographs allowed inside the house.
Aung San Suu Kyi's House, located at 54 University Avenue, used to be frequented by many tourists. The house used to be barricaded by a concrete wall and barbed wire, with surveillance and security to prevent documentation. Nowadays (Feb2013) with the change in the country opening towards democracy the NLD now practices freely and there is not much to see here except the outside of a wall. Getting to the area is as simple as asking a taxi driver to take you there and if driving past they will point it out to you. Approximate taxi fares from the city is 3000 Kyts.
Bahadur Shah Zafar Grave, located at Zi Wa Ka Street, is a grave of last of the Mughal emperors in India, as well as the last ruler of the Timurid Dynasty. After Indian rebellion of 1857, he was exiled to Rangoon, in 1858 along with his wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the remaining members of the family. Bahadur Shah died on 7 November 1862. Today you can see his tomb, and if you are lucky, a guide may be there to give you a lot of information about this Sufi saint. There is no entrance fee, but you can give donations to local Sufis.
Defense Services Museum, was located in Yangon until 2011 but has since moved to Naypyidaw. It has been reopened in Naypyidaw in march 2012 in the Zeyathiri Township. It has an Air Force, a Navy and an Army department.
Martyrs' Mausoleum, near Shwedagon Pagoda's North Entrance is a memorial built to honour Aung San and six cabinet members who were assassinated. It also contains the tombs of Queen Suphayalat, wife of Burma’s last king; nationalist and writer Thakin Kodaw Hmaing; former UN Secretary-General U Thant; and Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi.
In 1983, the structure was bombed by North Korean agents attempting to assassinate the visiting South Korean president. He escaped, but 21 others were killed. The structure was completely rebuilt, and is now much less grand than the original, but offers a beautiful panoramic view of Yangon. It opens only on 19th July, the Burmese National Holiday to commemorate the assassination (on the said fatal day, 1947) of Aung San and other leaders of the pre-independence interim government.
National Museum, located on the relatively quiet 26 Pyay Rd., in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, displays many Burmese historical artifacts, including regalia of the last Konbaung Dynasty. The museum is open 10:00-15:00, and is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and gazetted holidays. This museum has one of the most quality collections in Southeast Asia - the best of Myanmar artistic heritage and superior craftsmanship - both Myanmar masters and unknown craftsmen but unfortunately it is in a wrong Third World hands.
The architecture itself of the museum is a pathetic, awkward, tacky, and crude interpretation of modern architecture. The showcasing itself is the worse of the state of the art - captions and storyboards as if done by high school students for a school open house fair, graphics, most are handwritten, specimen documents in blueprint or photocopies, showcase cabinets that cry louder and take the thunder of attention from the display itself for its too much intricately and unnecessarily carvings.
Jewelries and regalia kept in reflecting glasses and prison cell-like rooms complete with steel railings. One comment in the visitor's log indicates in big letters "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" due to poor lighting on the display. Halls and halls of exhibits have dimly lit display lights.
Photography is prohibited and cameras and cell phones must be stored in lockers outside the museum entrance. Note: Do not buy books in the museum shop. Buy them at Innwa Bookstore with its varied selections, and other stores along Pansodan Rd. As an example, a book that costs US$38 in the museum costs only US$22 at Innwa.
Strand Hotel, located at 92, Strand Road, is the oldest and most famous hotel in Myanmar, built by the Sarkies brothers in 1901. It is a national landmark and was renovated in the 1990s after years of neglect. Its facade is rather unimpressive compared to other colonial buildings nearby, but the decor inside maintains an ambiance of earlier days.
The Circular Train is way to get a tiny glimpse of life along the commuter rail corridor in Yangon. For experienced travelers, though, the train is monotonous and doesn't reveal more than train stations and a handful of water spinach fields. A ticket costs 500 kyat,since 2014 same price for tourists and cannot be paid in USD any more and is available at the Station Masters office at Platform No. 7 at Yangon Station.
To get to platform 7, take the walkway above the tracks east of the station along Pansodan Street, and go down the last stair to the south. The train departs from the west end of the platform. The station itself, in true British colonial style, is a grand building that combines functional Western styles with Burmese architectural elements (layered ornamental roof).
Vendors, vegetable sellers, monks, commuters, all use the train which passes through the many villages that surround Yangon. The scenery changes from urban to rural fairly quickly and villages with ponds, kids, and cows passing by. The journey takes three hours.
At the Yangon Station, the train departs from either Platform No.4 or No.7, one going clockwise and the other going anti-clockwise. The eastern half is perhaps the most interesting if you are interested in agricultural activity. Do get on the train at fast pace, as the train stops at the station for a short while only and leaves whether people have fully boarded the train or not.
The Dallah Ferry - to Dallah, a small village across the river from Yangon, is an interesting ferry ride, particularly if you won't have the opportunity to catch a local ferry elsewhere in Burma. The ride is brief but filled with all the craziness of a Burmese ferry: you can buy freshly sliced watermelon, cheroots and cigarettes, tea, all kinds of interesting looking food, various knick-knacks from the many vendors who pack the ferry.
The ferry are two tiered. The lower deck has plastic seats possibly for rent small plastic chairs which are kid-size are available for rent for 5 kyats,odds are that the chair rental agent won't take your money and larger deck chairs for 15-20 kyats. The Upper deck has seats for free. Upstairs, kids will jostle to sell you packets of what is used as bird food. You throw it out to acrobatic gulls flying in circular pathway looking to get a morsel.
The ferry ride seems more like a floating market than a means of transportation! Combine the ride with a trip to Thante for a half or full day trip. There is a pagoda at Dallah worth a visit but otherwise the village is not really a destination. The Dallah ferry leaves from the Pansodan Road Jetty across from The Strand Hotel. Tickets are US$4 from a window reserved for foreigners (locals pay 30 kyats) and you may be required to show your passport.
Once on Dala, you'll be mobbed by tricycle men who try to sell you a ride around the area. Be careful about the pricing. There's a gang who will first tell you one price but at the end of the journey, will gang up on you and tell you that you owe them 400% more for the effort. They will also tell you that their bicycle is broken halfway and plead with you to give them more for instance, they might snatch the ignition key and argue that now they have to replace all the locks that costs quite a lot.
One way out of it is to be calm, smile and bargain - you would still pay, but you can halve the price, but whatever you choose, stay calm and smile and don't raise your voice. It'd be OK to point out to the guy that he is very angry, makes him calm down a little. One more scam around is that they bring you to a poor village and ask you to donate rice. Much of it is a scam. Whatever you do, stay safe and make sure you know how much they intend to charge you by the half hour rates.
Pushers will offer to sell you drugs on the ferry. They're persistent, so just keep saying no.
Food Market Tour and Cooking Demonstration offered by the Governor’s Residence Hotel to experience the local way of life and the produce on offer in the local markets of Myanmar. Costs $60 for a half day tour including lunch ($40 excluding lunch) but excluding the drinks. The cooking demonstration takes place upstairs in the hotel's Mindon lounge where you will learn to cook a traditional Myanmar salad.
Cultural Shows in General Yangon, which is supposed to be the cultural capital of Myanmar is sadly having a shortage of it. The de facto capital could be Mandalay where the remnants of anything that has to do with royalty which is associated with arts and culture and whose patronage served as the model or foundation of what is now is claimed as Burmese Culture are still surviving.
While the British during the colonial era were too busy with something else such as India or getting much even richer propagating the empire to developed Yangon firmly as a cultural capital.
Cultural Buffet Dinner-Shows There are only two cultural dance shows lumped with buffet dinner sponsored by restaurants with the commercial profits in mind limited to snippets of folk and royal dances. The National Theater holds events only on special occasions, the rest of the year, they are not busy since there is no critical mass of audience to support them.
This is a great way to learn about the local dishes. The waiters are happy to write the dishes name in Burmese. This really helps when ordering in other restaurants.
Karaweik Palace does nightly shows and buffets for 20000Kyat/$25 per person. The food is okay, but there is more than 2 hours of unique Burmese entertainment. It is a fun night out, but it is rumoured that the profits from this show go directly to the government.
TS1 Yangon – Myanmar's First Pop-Up Project, Transit Shed No. 1, Between Lanthit Jetty and Kaing Dan No. 1 Jetty, Oo-Pa-Sa Street, Seikkan Township, Yangon, Myanmar. 10am-6pm. Transit Shed No.1, located in the centre of one of Southeast Asia’s most historically significant and iconic areas of exchange, houses Yangon’s first Pop-Up Project. Named TS1 Yangon, it includes three distinct spaces: a gallery, a retail space and a restaurant called Port Autonomy.
In keeping with the pop-up concept, new gallery exhibitions, retailers and menus rotate in to TS1 Yangon regularly. All content is Myanmar focused, with a twist. The space will host a carefully planned programme of cultural and social activities, including concerts, literary readings, performances, screenings, trunk shows and workshops. Both the TS1 Gallery and the retail space is open to the public daily.
Sapel Burmese Traditional Foot Spa, No.78, 16th Street (Middle Block), Ground Floor, Lanmadaw, Yangon, Myanmar (Walk along Mahabandoola Rd towards Sule Pagoda and turn left from main road). The only place in Yangon that specializes in Traditional Burmese Foot Massage in an open hall concept. It provides a safe and comfortable environment for all travelers to indulge in a healthy and relaxing massage after a day's walk along the nearby streets of busy Chinatown. The staff are able to converse in English.
Health Blessing, No. 63, 19th Street, Yangon between Strand Rd and Maha Bandula Rd in Chinatown. 10-24h. The welcoming staff at Health Blessing have been specially trained in the ancient techniques of traditional Massage and Reflexology Foot Massage. The owner, who speaks English, is graduated from world famous Wat Pho Massage School.
Yangon Yoga House, 2 locations: one studio near Sedona hotel (Yankin Lan Thwe 1) and one near Park Royal hotel (36 Alan Pya Pagoda road). Yangon Yoga House Was born out of the desire to bring together the growing community of yogis in Myanmar's major city under one roof. YYH was opened to encourage practitioners of all levels to explore, share, and grow their own yoga practice in a common space.
In addition to yoga, YYH offers pilates, barre, endurance and cardio workouts and personal 1:1 training with the goal of offering balanced wellness options for every one at every level of fitness. MMK16,000 and tourist pass available.
Hintha Tours, 1st Floor, No.78, 16th Street (Middle Block), Lanmadaw, Yangon, Myanmar. The only organization in Yangon specializing in providing shorts tours which allows foreigners the true Burmese experiences. The most popular tours are the meditation tours, which one can learn Burmese meditation in 4 hours, and the local market & monastery tour which one can experience an authentic side of Burmese culture and place. All tour guides are very genuine in introducing tourists the true side of Myanmar
Thit Min, No. 114, 6th floor, 18-Street, Lathar Township, Rangoon (You can catch this artist selling his pieces en route to the BBQ street,19th Street) around evening time. He is usually surrounded by vegetable vendors.). 6:00 PM-8:00 PM. The most amicable and kind hearted artist in Burma. Not only are his portraits and landscape paintings genuinely his, Mr. Thit Min creates works of art creatively with knives and paint.
His pieces have lovely texture and are a far cry less expensive yet much more unique than the typical elephant drawings. No more will you have to be hustled by fake artists with replicas and copies. Support this local artist and his one-of-a-kind talents! 3,000-10,000 kyat.
Although there are ATMs found everywhere, many banks still block payments to Myanmar, so do not count on being able use an ATM. Credit cards seem to be more reliable than bank cards. You can however exchange euros, Singapore dollars and US dollars cash everywhere.
It's a good idea to always have enough kyat for the next 3-4 days, and it's a very good idea to have a few hundred dollars as backup.
In Myanmar, you are likely to pay for everything with cash. Unlike the past, by May 2013 it was no longer important to pay hotels and sightseeing expenses in USD. You can pay for almost everything in kyat. Although sometimes you can get better rates paying with US dollars. Unless pre-paying by Internet, you are limited to a few expensive hotels if you need to pay by card, and they will add a surcharge of 4%.
When bringing cash in US currency, it is useful to bring a wide range of denominations. The best exchange rate is for USD100 and USD50 notes, but the smaller ones (USD1, USD5 and USD10 bills) are indispensable for paying museum and temple entry fees, which are charged to tourists in US dollars. By May 2013 you can pay most of entry fees in kyat, paying in USD can be cheaper though depending on the exchange rate.
Bring the best mint condition unused, uncreased, unmarked crisp notes as the cashiers are squeamish at even the slightest pen stroke, dirt smudge, crease or tiny torn edge on the bill and will refuse to accept them. Check any USD note you are given in change, for the same reason,if you are given any damaged notes, they will be useless for the rest of your trip.
If travelling from Singapore, the Changi Airport money changers can provide crisp US bills for no additional charge, at reasonable rates. Any SGD you may have can also be changed to kyat at Yangon airport.
Money changers, hotels and entry fee collectors are no longer as squeamish as in the past. Folded and visibly used notes are now accepted at least for smaller denominations. However, you may find that the value of such bills locally is less than their face value especially with money changers. To be on the safe site, and get maximum value for your money, you should bring crisp bills.
In stark contrast to the past, nowadays the official money changer at Yangon airport airside offers decent exchange rates (with about a 1% spread, e.g. they buy/sell USD at 940-946 kyat as of May 2013), with banks in the city offering marginally better spreads. They accept USD, EUR, and SGD. The best exchange rates are for 100 dollar bills, with slightly lower rates for 50 & 20 dollar bills.
The official money changer is also safe, and less demanding about the condition of USD bills. Check the money you are given against the amount specified as the money changer may choose to round down to 0 from 49 kyat. Keep the receipt in case you need to change back any kyat at the end of your visit. Look around outside the security area to compare the different rates.
The banks in the arrival hall outside the customs, offer the best USD buying rate. Rates are similar between banks, hotels and change houses throughout the country now, so you can safely count on changing money without hassle throughout your journey. Do not change with locals on the street, these are likely scams and locals even warn tourists against street changers and even talk of muggings after the transaction has been completed.
A reminder, every full moon is a public holiday on top of the weekend holidays and gazetted holidays. Banks - public and private, money changer shops, and all government offices are closed, so you will need to change ALL your money at the airport if arriving that day.
Bank Branches with authorised money changer facilities e.g AGD Bank and KBZ are located around Sule Pagoda Road and Strand Road.
There is an ATM in the international baggage claim section of the airport just after immigration and it accepts international Visa and MasterCards. The bank kiosk just to the left of the ATM was willing to change the MMK5,000 notes dispensed into smaller notes. CB Bank ATMs are located across town and at many major tourist sites Shwedagon Pagoda and seem to be a reliable option for obtaining Kyat.
Handicrafts, precious gems, clothes & collectible. Shopping is fun in Yangon because of the variety of things available and because, unlike in neighbouring India, the hard sell and hassle is missing. Bargaining is expected, although tourists will be charged significantly higher prices. Street vendors in the centre are not allowed to open shop until 18:00, by government mandate.
Although not as well known as Bangkok or Hong Kong, Yangon is an excellent place to have a shirt tailored. One can have a shirt with a traditional Burmese collar or mandarin collar made for around US$6. 4-5 days should be sufficient for a shirt to be made.
Chinatown offers a wide selection of street vendors, where colonial coins, paintings and other souvenirs can be bought. Open 15:00-21:00.
Bogyoke Aung San Market or Scott Market is an excellent source to buy Burmese handicrafts, such as wood carvings or lacquerware. Beware, however, because some lacquerware is not traditionally-made, and will wear away quickly. The market is also known for its clothing and fabrics.
This is a site to see by itself and expect to get approached by many shop owners all around. Highly overpriced! They're surprisingly not as willing to haggle as you might expect. The vendors on the street leading South towards Sule Pagoda have a lot of the same things as inside the market and are much more affordable, a great place to get t-shirts especially.
Shwedagon Paya's entrance hallway offers many 1-room shops that sell Burmese antiquities, including paper mâché owls, wood-carved statues and Buddhas.
There are several shopping malls in Yangon, such as the Dagon Centre and the FMI Centre. Many of the items sold are from Thailand and China, and usually have fixed prices. Participate in the Yangon International Marathon in January: http://www.yangonmarathon.com/ Yangon International Marathon:
Various supermarkets are scattered across the downtown area near hotels and Yangon city for purchasing general supplies such as bottled water, snacks and toiletries, with a decent range. Do note only domestic bank cards (MPU) and cash (MMK and occasionally USD) is accepted.
- Orange - Maha Bandoola Rd
- Sein Gey Har Supermarket - Maha Bandoola Rd
- Bogyoke Aung San Area
City Mart Supermarket - Bogyoke Aung San Road. In addition to water, ice cream, snacks, fruit, be sure to check out the alcohol selection. For $1 USD you can get a little flask of anti-malaria liquor. Fruits are a great deal as well; a bag of 20 mangosteen will cost $3-4 10% what you will pay in the western world.
- Ruby Mart -Bogyoke Aung San Road, Kyauktada
- Taw Win Center - Pyay Road
Junction Square - Between Kyun Taw Rd and Pyay Rd
Myaing Hay Wun - 8th Mile Junction
Dagon Centre 1 and 2 - Pyay Rd
Yangon has seen an explosion of restaurants in the last ten years and almost any type of international cuisine - eclectic Western, Italian, Japanese, Thai, and Korean - is available. Local cuisine reflects the multi-ethnic nature of the city and the country and, along with Bamar food; there are a large number of Indian and Chinese restaurants as well as a few places specializing in Shan food.
Local (Bamar) food can be pungent and is usually served with a big heaping plate of raw vegetables and an even bigger heaping plate of rice. It is definitely an acquired taste, but in the event that you are unable to get use to it, you can still get non-Bamar food fairly easily.
Note that what the locals refer to as "restaurant" may not necessarily match the western expectations of one. Even a non-air-conditioned grungy hole-in-a-wall is refered to as a restaurant, as long as it is sheltered and has tables and chairs. So clarify what you want when asking for restaurant recommendations.
Fast food restaurants usually with table service serving burgers and pizza, and a few cafes complete the scene. Biryani, a rice and meat dish with roots in the Mughal Empire, is a specialty and there are many Biryani restaurants (dan-PAO-sain in Burmese) in the city centre, especially along Anawratha Road.
The three main competing restaurant chains all halal but vegetarian biryani is usually available, are Yuzana, KSS (Kyet Shar Soon), and Nilar. There's also a KFC near the central train station. Though it may seem counterintuitive to travel to Myanmar and promptly eat the only American food in the country, it's a worthwhile endeavor to eat at the only Western restaurant in Myanmar.
Be sure to pick up fruit from any of the street vendors in the city. The road leading from Sule Pagoda to the Bogyoke Aung San Market is an especially great place where you can buy 10 delicious mangosteens for 1500 kyat.
Street Food is generally not very varied. The whole stretch of more than a two mile-long Anawratha or Mahabandoola Rds. is dotted with hawker food stalls, but unfortunately the environment of Yangon streets is not conducive to al fresco eating due to the high density of dust in the air and the proliferation of smoke belching buses and cars.
Betel-nut spitting pedestrians do not add to the ambience either. Myanmar street food is mostly deep fried, and often served in a puddle of oil. Dishes are washed at the roadside "dunk" style, without soap and without running water. Nonetheless, travelers with seasoned immune systems will enjoy the experience.
Food in Myanmar has an amazingly wide price range. Restaurants and cafes in hotels and the airport charge prices that are normal in Western countries yet at a streetside stall you can have a whole meal for one or two thousand kyat.
Seven One One Restaurant (Anawratha Road) is a clean, well-lit street side restaurant very close to Motherland Inn 2. From Motherland Inn, just walk up the Lower Pazundaung Street to the first intersection, turn left onto Anawratha Street and walk another 100-200 metres (past the railway tracks) and Seven One One will be to your right.
This is an ethnic Indian locality of town and this place makes some sort of Indianized Burmese cooking (neither Indian nor Burmese for sure!) which is downright delicious. Any dish with their "hot & sour" sauce is particularly excellent! Prices are cheap, ranging from 1000-1500 kyats for a meal.
999 Shan Noodle Shop (No. 130, 34th Street) offers very good noodle dishes for around 1000 kyats. Really worth the effort to find this place. Good food, and very clean.
Nourish Cafe (Alan pya pagoda road, opposite Park Royal hotel) is a vegan restaurant serving a delicious range of cold and hot food. The vegan burger is the most popular item on the menu (10,000 kyats), together with the wraps (5,000-6,000) and the smoothy bowl (Acai, pina colada, spirulina, mango).
A great spot if you are tired of oily food and want somethings fresh, tasty and healthy - most of the ingredients are sourced from organic producers. The cafe is tucked away in a small courtyard down a small alley opposite Park Royal hotel. Telephone 09973802714. Opened every day, from 10 to 9 Monday to Thursday, 10 to 3 on Friday-Saturday and 10 to 7 on Sunday. Attached to the most popular yoga studio in town Yangon Yoga House.
Feel (No. 124, Pyihtaungsu Avenue, Dagon Township) offers a wide variety of Burmese curry dishes (~2000 kyats) displayed in the back. Salads and fries can be ordered easily. This is one of the top sites for tourists on a street nearby Shwedagaon Pagoda that is full of other restaurants. This is a great place to have your first Burmese cafeteria-style restaurant introduction to cuisine. Literally 50-60 different dishes to choose from, all home cooked by Mrs. Mok.
Hla Myanmar (Shwe Bad), 27 5th St, West Shwegonedine, Bahan Township (a fair walk from the northern entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda). 10AM-7PM daily. This is just a simple restaurant, but a good one for those on a budget. They are specialized in Bamar (Burmese) curries, so this is a good opportunity to have what the locals eat. You can just point at the curry of your desire and then take a seat at one of the brown chairs.
It is quite hard to find, so ask the locals for directions. It is well-known among locals, because the famous actor Shwe Ba used to have his house in the area and the restaurant is sometimes named after him. K2500.
Family Thai & Chinese Restaurant Located at the shopping mall next to Parkroyal Hotel. Get on the escalator until the top floor (food court) and you will see the restaurant on your right. Around 1000-1500 kyats per meal.
Furusato 137, West Shwe Gone Dine Road, Bahan Township, Yangon. Good Japanese option according to Western standards. Professional and helpful staff.
Innwa Located on 242 Anawrahta Road, between 29th and 30th Streets, Pabedan Township. Great choice of dim sum, mains, drinks and desserts. Popular, clean and cool. A typical meal with 1 dim sum, a big portion of noodle soup and a bottle of water is around 3250 kyats per person.
Kyet Shar Soon Biriani (franchises in Mingalar Taung Nyunt, Pabedan, and Kyauktada Townships), established in 1947, offers a dish of halal Burmese-accented biryani for around 700 kyats.
Shwe Pu Zun, , Anawratha Road, Lanmadaw Tsp., ice cream and dessert shop known for its faluda or cold vermicelli drink.
YKKO (No. 286, Seikkanthar Street (Upper Block), Kyauktada Township), is a well-established restaurant that is known for its kyae-oh, a Burmese noodle soup.
Street vendors sell samosas, onion balls and other Indian snacks around Anawratha Street between Sule Paya Road and Shwe Bontha Street in central Yangon. Under 200 kyats.
Nilar Biryani, 216 Anawratha Road, Yangon. An old and venerable Biryani restaurant serving chicken, mutton and vegetable biryani in seconds. Fast, delicious and cheap! Also serves a mean ice cold lassi. As at May 2013, chicken and lassi combo is 2400 kyats. Staff speak decent English
Golden City Chetti (Dotted around Yangon) offers Indian food at very reasonable prices and free top-ups on the Veg thali.
New Delhi, Between Shwe Bontha and 28th on Anawratha Rd. Better and cheaper than Golden City. Small Indian place, well known to the locals and tourists. Great taste and value.
Soe Pyi Swar, 136 Latha St. Vegetarian restaurant. Not bad, but a little strange. It seems the value of vegetarian in Burma is to copy every meat dish every thought of! They also serve more usual veggie dishes. A few doors north on the same block is another veggie restaurant marked only by Chinese characters. They seem a bit fresher.
50th Street (50th Street), the only stand alone Western Style Cafe, Restaurant and Bar in Yangon. Amazing architecture and ambiance. Free wi-fi, multiply sport TVs, pool table and dart board.
Acacia Tea Salon, 52 Saya San Road, Bahan Township. Will accommodate your cravings for pastries. Tea time in the garden with the High Tea Set menu along with Yangon Tea is highly recommended. They do serve complete meals as well. The setting is great although the indoor air-con is aggressively low. Note they do the catering services for Air Mandalay, which is great.
Karaweik Buffet Restaurant, Kan Pat Street, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, located on Kandawgyi Lake, a buffet restaurant inside the Karaweik, offers a wide selection of Asian dishes, and a 1-hour cultural show from 19:30 to 20:30. It is 20000 kyats/person. As a note, this restaurant is owned by Dr. Khin Shwe (Zay Gabar company) who is one of the cronies in Myanmar.
Sabai Sabai (Dhammazedi Road), the best Thai restaurant in town. Expect to pay at least 7000 Kyat/person. Most main dishes are around 4000 Kyat. Be aware that you have to pay service charge (10%) and tax (5%) extra. This clean and atmospheric place is a favourite amongst expats and businesspeople. Beware, closed between lunch and dinner time (3PM to 5PM). Closes at 9PM. Most taxi drivers know of the place. It's in an area with plenty of other mid-range restaurants.
Cafe Aroma, Sule Pagoda Road (Opp. Traders Hotel). Decent coffee by Burmese standards, excellent shakes and fries." Closed for refurbishment (jan 2013)
Zawgyi (Bogyoke Aung San road), nice restaurant next to Bogyoke Aung San Market with a good view on the busy street. Serves a mixture of food and drinks.
Sunday Mini Bar (No 173 Room 2 Shwegondaing Road), air conditioning, wifi, and the standard selection of juice, coffee, and alcohol. Features some western food (haven't tried). The wifi seems unusually stable and fast.
Le Planteur Restaurant and Bar, 22 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, next to Golden Hill Tower is one of the best restaurants of Myanmar. It specialises in fine French cuisine with an Asian touch. The location of the restaurant a former Australian Embassy is spectacular, and the service is impeccable.
Signature Garden Restaurant,Corner of Kaba Aye Pagoda Road & Kan Yeik Thar Road, Kandawgyi Relaxation Zone, Bahan Township is a fine dining restaurant in Yangon and feel the experience 2 Levels of Culinary Enlightenment.
L'Opera C62, D, U Tun Nyein Street, Mayangon Township is the best Italian restaurant in Yangon.
An interesting experience is to have an elegant Afternoon Tea at the Strand Hotel, on 92, Strand Road. Afternoon Tea is US$18 including 10% tax & 10% service charge, astronomical for most Burmese, but is served in the restaurant of one of the classic examples of the Colonial Hotel in Southeast Asia.
One can choose from either Burmese or English afternoon tea. The English variety includes delicate sandwiches, scones, tiny cakes and tarts, while the Burmese afternoon tea has small spring rolls and samosas, and traditional Burmese sweets.
Monsoon (85-87 Thien Byu Road), Offers Myanmar, Laos and Thai cuisine. Restaurant and Bar in Yangon. Great ambiance and comfortable air conditioned surroundings with free Wi-Fi.
Nightlife in Yangon is rather limited by Western standards and can be hard to find.
Local bars or beer stations as they are called close early (around 21:00-23:00), but offer drinks at bargain prices. Expect to pay about MYK600 for a pint glass of beer (Myanmar Beer). Local whiskies cost MYK2,000 a glass. Expect to get a lot of attention when going to the local beer stations since theses places are not frequented by foreigners, but people are curious and friendly!
Drinking is not culturally accepted for women in Burma, so don't expect to pick up any girls, because there won't be any on the beer stations. The beer stations represent a place where the local men meet to talk, chew betel nut (very popular in Burma) and drink.
Most upmarket clubs are located in 5 star hotels. Nightclubs located in 5 star hotels include The Music Club (at the Parkroyal Hotel; entrance fee USD6, hotel guests free), Paddy O'Malley's (at the Sedona, entrance fee USD5 including one drink) and Pioneer (not at the Yuzana Garden Hotel any more, it has moved to the east of the city centre).
here are also stand-alone nightclubs (BME1 and BME2 in the North of the city). Local entertainment plazas that include Karaoke, fashion shows, bar and disco include Asia, JJ's and 225. Closing times vary between 23:00 & 03:00 and entrance usually is USD3-5. Beer is around USD1-2. Most up market discos and nightclubs are frequented by numerous Burmese prostitutes who will be very eager to talk to foreigners.
Off The Beaten Track Cafe (OTBT), Kandawgyi Natural Park, Karaweik Oo-Yin Kabar, Mingla Taung Nyunt Township Yangon, Burma, Myanmar Across from the Playground. 11:00-23:00. Off The Beaten Track is a Café/Bar in Downtown Yangon created by a veteran tour guide and an NGO worker for independent travellers to get updated information on travel to places in Myanmar "off the beaten track" and act as a meeting and exchange point for fellow journeyers. Budget to Mid Range.
There are very few options for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgenders (LGBT) in Yangon. Currently, there is only one openly gay party in Yangon called Fab. This non-profit monthly club night is organised by YG and attracts a very mixed crowd of LGBT and straight, and locals and foreigners. The fab party is every last Saturday of the Month at VIP bar.
Accommodation in Yangon is comparatively much much more expensive than Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia or Laos and is of a much much lower standard. Rooms with an acceptable balance of price and comfort may be difficult to find at times, especially at the height of the tourist season (December and January), and advance reservations may be advisable.
Tourists used to be expected to pay in US dollars,only newer US dollar banknotes in good condition with large portraits of the presidents but now usually also can pay in the local currency. Be aware that many military generals are sharers in the hotels, and that many hotels are under a 30-year government lease. After the lease expires, the hotels are put under governmental control.
The budget hotels under USD20 are mostly a bit away from the city centre. The upside is that the hotels are quieter, the city centre can be quite noisy, and you get a little more room for your dollar. You'll need a cab to get to the main sight, the Shwedagon Pagoda anyway. The downside is that most restaurants are in the city centre, a long walk or cab ride away and choices outside the centre are more limited.
Pazundaung and Botataung Townships seem to have the highest concentration of budget hotels. Some rooms, the cheaper ones, in many budget hotels have no windows at all and if you are claustrophobic, make sure you don't end up in one of those! There are a few budget central hotels but, except for a couple, are quite shabby.
Mid-priced hotels (USD20-50) are scattered about the city, with one set concentrated in the few blocks around Sule Pagoda and a second set just north of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Luxury hotels are concentrated around the Kandawgyi Lake or city centre.
Rates for hotels are usually quoted as single/double. The room is usually the same but you pay a little extra (about USD5-10) if two people share the room. Breakfast is always included and the quality and variety increases with the cost of the hotel. In a budget hotel, expect a banana, an egg, some bread and coffee made from 'coffee mix' a pre-packaged mix of coffee powder, milk powder and lots of sugar.
An important factor in choosing a hotel is the availability of electricity. Electric supply is controlled in Myanmar and every part of Yangon has a fixed schedule when electric power is available usually about 24 hrs every 48 hrs or less. Mid-priced hotels usually have their own generators while budget hotels either do not or have a limited supply.
Do ask when you book what the electricity situation is and, if there is no generator, what you can expect on the days that you are there.
Many budget and mid-range hotels have a restaurant on the premises. But there is no guarantee that it will be open, especially off-season.
Beautyland Hotel II, 188-192 33rd St. 3 blocks from Sule Pagoda, in the middle of 33rd St. checkout: noon. Friendly and helpful staff in a central location. They have a range of rooms: non-air-con, Air-con with TV, air-con with TV & window. Breakfast included. US$30-32 (double), Single USD22-24.
Cherry Guest House, No.278/300, Maha Bandoola Garden Street, (Bar Lan), Upper Block, Kyauktada. (3 blocks east of Traders (big tower hotel) and 2 blocks north of north-eastern conrner of Independence monument park. You'll see a small sign in the middle of the street saying Cherry in pink letters over green background). checkout: 11:00. Friendly and smiling staff in a central location. Air-con room with TV and a minibar. Filling breakfast included, which compensates the lack of window in certain rooms (some rooms do have windows, we didn't). US$25 (double), Single USD23.
Chan Myaye Guest House, No.256/276, Maha Bandoola Garden Street (Barr St), Upperblock (3 blocks from Sule Pagoda, on the Maha Bandoola Garden Street between Bogyoke Aung San Road and Anawratha Road.). checkin: 1:30PM; checkout: noon. Very good city centre location, 500m to Sule Pagoda and 200m to Yangon Central Railway Station.
Super friendly & helpful staff. Breakfast included (tea/coffee, juice, banana, fried rice) & good Wifi. Rooms are fine, 28 bed dorm with AC; 3showers & western toilets; space to wash & dry your clothes; loads of electric plugs; racks to store & lock backpacks; lockers free. Dorm USD12 (March 2014), dbl USD25-30, tpl USD35.
Four Rivers Hostel, No.79, 12th Street, Lanmadaw Township, Yangon (200m from Mingalar Sanpya Cinema). Conveniently located in Downtown Yangon, Four Rivers Hostel promises one of the best accommodations in town at great value. Safe, clean and easily accessible, our premise is decked with modern amenities, while containing both private personal spaces and interactive communal areas suitable for all occasions. 24 hour reception.
Fully air-conditioned rooms with ventilation, Free Wifi Access/ Internet, Free Breakfast, Free Linen, Water Heater, Reading lights, power plugs attached to each bed. Dorm USD10 - 15 (Jan 2016).
Garden Guest House, 441-445 Mahabandoola Street (West side of Sule Pagoda). Small rooms in dingy surroundings but with a great location and a great price. Worth it if your budget is tight and you're not fussy about decor. Breakfast is included but is very basic (four slices of bread - toasting is not possible-, butter and jam, tea or coffee). USD8-16.
Golden Star Guesthouse, No.(711/719) Merchant Rd, between 26th and Kon Zay Dan St, Pabedan Township. New and clean guesthouse at a pretty central location. Staff is friendly. Comfortable beds, but noisy building and area. Very basic breakfast and very fast Wi-Fi included. Book via their Facebook. USD30 en suite double (Dec 2013).
Hotel Everest, Bogyoke Aung San St, 51st & 52nd St (a few streets away from Sule Pagoda). The place is not beautiful, but the staff is very friendly, if you look for a cheap room and are not a diva and can handle some shabby walls , you can check in here. $US6 single, $US13 double including breakfast.
Hninn Si Budget Inn, 213-215 Botataung Pagoda Road (Between Anawrahta Rd and Maha Bandoola Rd, very close to Orchid Hotel). checkin: 13:00; checkout: 11:00. Simple yet clean low-cost hotel, located at the east side of downtown. Friendly and helpful staff, owner (Mike) speaks fluent English. Rooms equipped with AC, ranging from 1 to 5 beds, bathrooms with hot showers are shared. Wi-fi and hearty breakfast included. Laundry service available. US$25 (double).
May Fair Inn, No 57, 38th Street, Yangon. Good central location. Dated rooms but clean bathrooms. The owner is a bit wacky but her daughter is full of useful information. They don't serve breakfast. 20/25 US$.
Motherland Inn 2, 433 Lower Pazundaung Road, Pazundaung Township. A popular backpacker's place with private & shared baths, and on-site restaurant. Prices are rising at an enormous rate though. They offer free pickup and twice-daily dropoff from the airport, and an early morning breakfast. Breakfast is typical and western style unless you order a Myanmar breakfast the night before.
A long walk or short taxi journey from the city centre. They also have the rarely advertised $US10 dorm. Otherwise the rooms start from $27 Single(fan, shared bathroom) or $33 for a single with air conditioning. Some rooms seem past their prime, and the low ceiling rooms are sometimes without windows. The rooms are generally clean but some rooms may have a problem with fleas.
Internet is 1000Ks/hour on shared computers, while wifi is free but limited to the lobby and unreliable; a cheaper option is the internet cafe opposite. International phone calls are available from 1,000kyat/minute. US$27-42.
Mahabandoola Guesthouse, Cnr of 32nd st and Mahabandoola Rd (directly opposite Sule Pagoda). checkin: Whenever room is available; checkout: Midday. We stayed here in April 2013, unlike many other rooms in Burma (which have more than doubled prices in the last couple of years) this place still has real budget prices. The rooms are shabby, and the sheets are sometimes not changed between different guests. Bathroom is about as good as can be expected for this price in Yangon, so not great but useable.
If you want somewhere very cheap with friendly owners who won't rip you off, this is the place. You get soap and a towel. Some rooms have air-con, same price as the fan rooms, so ring through in advance to secure the best rooms. The dorms are about as basic as you get, thin mattress on the floor sharing with 3 or 4 other people.
They don't have email, so phone them. This hotel has no website but photos and info are available on webpage link. (You can take bus 51 (Kyats 200) from the bus stop south of the airport [15mins walk] in Pyay Road and tell the ticket seller "Sule Pagoda" and he will be more than helpful to help you) free Wi-Fi, but very slow. Double $12, Single $6, Dorm $4 .
Ocean Pearl Inn, 215 Byotataung Pagoda Road, Pazundaung Township . All rooms have baths, air-conditioning and hot water. 15 minute walk to the city centre. Prices (February 2013) include breakfast and airport pickup on arrival. US$25-35.
Okinawaka Guest House, No. (64), 32nd Street, Pabedan Tsp (1min walk from Sule Pagoda). checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Air-con, bathrooms with hot showers are shared. Wi-Fi and hearty breakfast included. Laundry service available. 20.000 Kyat for d.room with fan on okt 2015. Dorm USD10.
Pickled Tea Hostel, No 11 Myaynigone Zay Street, Sanchaung Township, Yangon (10-15 minutes walking distance to Shwedagon Pagoda). Clean, comfortable beds, bathrooms are great, especially the showers, complimentary local breakfast, towels included, friendly and helpful staff! Beds from $19 USD.
Pyin Oo Lwin II, Maha Bandoola Park Street (behind the City Hall and Between Maha Bandoola Road and Anawratha Rd). checkin: Whenever room is available; checkout: Midday. Quiet Guesthouse on busy road. Can be identified by the big blue stainless oblong sign hanging off the wall at street level. Decent Rooms with Air-con and Private Bathroom, some rooms without windows. Surprisingly good Accommodation in Yangon for the price, Similar to AD-1 in Mandalay. No Breakfast, No Generator, No Wi-fi. nice staff. Single $15- double $20 (Jul 2015).
Sunflower Hotel, 259/263 Anawratha Road (Opp. New Delhi Restaurant). Set on the busy intersection of Anawratha Road and Shwe Bontha Street, a few minutes walk from Sule Pagoda and the railway station, the hotel has a great location but its very noisy, so you better bring earplugs. Cheaper rooms have shared shower and have no windows and a damp mustiness about them, and others are large and roomy with air-conditioning and satellite TV. Tasty breakfast included, but some of the reception staff can be surly. Prices as of April 2013: standard rooms: 20$ single, 30$ double; superior: 40$ single, 50$ double; deluxe: 50$ single, 60$ double. No elevator (7 floors).
SleepIn Hostel, No 34; 9th street, Yangon (About 1.5km west from the train station. A few streets before the Junction shopping mall). good location in the city center, in a side street of Anawratha Road. 300m from a big shopping mall. Clean hostel, rooms and bathrooms. Dorm and rooms are large and include AC, free towel and (light) breakfast. Friendly staff. Bar downstairs. For the price in Myanmar this is a great deal! Dorm 11usd; double room 30usd (March 2015).
Three Seasons Hotel, 83-85 52nd. Street, Botataung Township. Rooms with shared and private bath. Friendly Indian owners and a good place to stay if you plan on spending a few days in Yangon and need a place to call home. Closer to the centre than Motherland Inn 2 but still a bit of a long walk. US$25.
Wai Wai's Place, No - ( 30), Pearl street, Aung myay Tharsi housing, 1 ward, kamaryout Township. . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Friendly, quiet and very clean guest house close to Inya Lake. Spacious rooms, en suite A/C wireless. Budget rooms with shared bathroom rooms are also available. Wai Wai is very helpful and can arrange booking, transport, tours, cooking lessons etc. $40 -$60.
White House Hotel, 69 Konzaydan St. (under 10 min walk west of Sule Pagoda). checkin: as soon as room available; checkout: 12 am. An 8-storey elevatorless backpacker's hotel, the place has a lot of character, there is nothing fancy here but altogether it's nice and clean, run by a very friendly and helpful family, except the male staffs which are really indifferent towards your inquiries. Penthouse dining area offers general views of the city. Breakfast is not included anymore.
There is free WIFI now at every floor, so coverage is great (speed, as everywhere, rely on government will). (Oct '16) Fan Shared bathroom Single USD8 Double USD13. AC Shared bathroom Single USD10 Double USD15 Triple USD21. AC Private bathroom Single USD24 Double USD29 Triple USD35. All without window, add USD1 for window. Dorm Fan USD6 AC USD10. (their exchange rate is bit funny (USD1 = MMK1250) but it's almost everywhere the same)
Myint Myat Guesthouse, 30-40 Bo Gyoke Rd, Downtown Yangon, Myanmar. located in Downtown Yangon, 1,5 km east of Sule-Pagoda, great accommodation of a very good value. A little bit hard to find: green neon sign with changing text, air-condition with ensuite or shared bathroom, free Wifi, good breakfast(toast, butter, jam, fried egg, fried noodles/rice, real coffee, tea), hot water, super friendly stuff speaking mostly good english and some german, free water refill, nice view from the big balcony where breakfast is served, some rooms face Shwedagon-Pagoda USD 22 - 35 (Mar 2016).
Alamanda Hotel/Inn, 60(B) Shwe Taung Kyar Street (Golden Valley Rd), Bahan Township. A boutique hotel near the Air Bagan airline office in the embassy district. Spotless and well furnished rooms with a ceiling fan (more convenient than air-con to sleep at night). Free Wi-Fi and generator. Healthy and complete breakfast included in the rates. Very responsive booking office. Great value for money . USD70-100.
Central Hotel, 335-357 Bogyoke Aung San Rod (Next to Trader's Hotel). this well located hotel provides near luxury facilities at midrange prices. Rooms are clean and big (don't expect a view though) with satellite TV and air-con. The rooms are spacious, but a little old. The hotel has room service and a popular coffee shop and Chinese restaurant. 24 hours electricity. Beware that this hotel is owned by the government (Yangon City) and an army colonel. USD80-120.
City Star Hotel, 169/171 Mahabandoola Garden St (behind City Hall, near Sule Pagoda), ☎ +95 1 370920 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +95 1 381128), . Clean, well kept, and comfortable rooms with TV, minibar, free coffee. 24 hours electricity. Certain taxi drivers in Yangon claims this hotel is government owned. But it's a private property and often a gathering place for poets, writers as well as politicians. USD75 single, USD85 double inc. breakfast.
Classique Inn, 53(B) Shwe Taung Kyar St (Golden Valley Road), Bahan Township. A small boutique hotel with well furnished rooms in the quiet area north of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Located in embassy district (about one mile from Shwe Dagon Pagoda) just a few doors down from Bahrain embassy. It's a cute, small, quiet hotel made with teak and decorated with traditional Burmese lacquer ware. Only a couple of minutes away lies Bogalay Mohenga shop which sells great mohinga (perfect for breakfast). Owned by the wealthy family of a Ministry of Energy official. USD70-140.
Clover Hotel, 7 A, Wingabar Road, Bahan Township (just opposite the Japanese embassy). This new hotel was started just in May 2011. With over 40 rooms, the hotel is equipped with basic amenities like hot water, 24 hour electricity and air conditioning. The cafe on the rooftop has a great view of the Shwedagon Pagoda too. US$90-100.
East Hotel, 234-240 (1)Quarter Sule Pagoda Road, Kyauktada Tsp (Opposite of Trader's Hotel, 2-3 blocks behind Sakura Tower). It's a relatively new hotel, opened in Feb 2011. Rooms are clean, air-conditioned, with hot and cold shower. Important note: bathroom has no door, only a shower curtain and a wall to block off the toilet area. Free Wi-Fi and 24hrs electricity. Hotel staff are friendly, able to communicate in English. US$65 inc. breakfast.
Eastern Hotel, 194/196 Bo Myat Htun Street, Pazundaung Township (about a 10min walk East of Sule Pagoda). This is a pleasant hotel that is clean and well maintained with the great service that you would expect from within Burma. In a quiet part of the city East of downtown that won't keep you up with street noise, yet easily walkable to the central area by Sule Pagoda. Right across the street is a money changer and 2 blocks North is a City Mart Tariff includes breakfast and Wi-Fi; they can arrange airport pickup/drop off for you at a reasonable price. USD35-55.
Excel Palace Hotel, No. 25 D-1, New University Avenue Rd, Bahan Township (just behind Crystal Jade Chinese restaurant). checkout: 12:00. USD50-150.
Excel River View Hotel, No.(3), (1-4) Thanlyin Yandanar Housing (Htut Khaung), Near Thinlyin Bridge, Thanlyin Township, Yangon. (near Thanlynn Bridge). checkout: noon. In Thanlyin which is just across the river by one of the longest bridges in Myanmar from Yangon on the bank of the Bago River (Pegu River). Gateway to Kyauktan (Syriam), a small island in the Yangon River, which is the site of the 4th century Ye Le Paya. USD50-170.
Excel Treasure Hotel and Serviced Apartment, No. 520, Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd, Shwe Gon Dine, Bahan Township (Shwegonedine Junction). checkout: 12:00. Very central location. Great view of the Shwedagon Pagoda from room. Walking distance to Singapore Embassy & Market Place by City Mart Golden Valley. 24 hour restaurant next to hotel. Breakfast is included. USD90-200.
Garden Home Hotel, 6No.10, Bogyoke Museum Lane, Bahan Township. A boutique hotel in the road that leads to the German embassy and Bogyoke Museum. Comfortable and well-sized rooms with air-con. Decent breakfast included in the rates. Great staff. It is a good choice vs. bigger overpriced hotels. US$90 for a double room as of April 2013.
May Shan Hotel (formerly Guesthouse), 115-117 Sule Pagoda Rd (next door to Central Fire Station). checkin: 1:00pm; checkout: 12:00pm. Clean, well kept, but small rooms right outside the Sule Pagoda. Has its own generator, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. All rooms have air-con, satellite TV, bathroom attached with hot and cold shower. Free Wi-fi at the lobby. US$45-79.
New Aye Yar Hotel, 170-175 Bo Aung Kyaw St, Botataung Tsp (Two blocks west and one block south from Sule Pagoda). checkin: 24h; checkout: 12:00 (flexible). Five minutes walk from Sule Pagoda and around the corner from the Strand, this well located hotel caters to business travellers. A small but good restaurant is on the premises, the hotel is centrally air conditioned, and all rooms have satellite TV. (good but inexperienced service is second to none) USD75~100.
Panda Hotel, 205 Min Ye Kyaw Swa Road, Lanmadaw Township (corner of Wadan Street). Comfortable, if faceless, modern business hotel located at the edge of the city centre. You will need a Taxi to get around (easily available in front of the hotel). Broadband wireless internet access available in the lobby area. Offers great views of the city especially from the upper floors. All rooms have satellite TV, air conditioning and attached bathrooms. A very popular place and can be booked on agoda. official Website - . US$120-140.
Thamada Hotel, 5 Alan Pya Phaya (Signal Pagoda) Road (Across from the Park Royal and the Railway Station). Clean and central, but basic, the Thamada's price (about 26$ a night in summer 2011 booked through hoteltravel.com). The first international Hotel in Yangon, and while it obviously has been taken over by a "private" businessman, it still has a strong "government-smell". but good value for money anyway US$80-130.
Winner Inn, 42 Than Lwin Road, Bahan Township corner of Inya Road. Close to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a quiet hotel favoured by German tourists. All rooms with attached bath, air-conditioning and satellite TV. Restaurant on the premises but, if it is not open, there is a bit of a walk to the nearest restaurants near the Savoy. Free Wi-Fi for hotel guests. US$65-100.
Inya Lake Hotel, No. 37, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road.The Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon is situated on the borders of the Inya Lake, just 15 minute drive from the city centre. The colonial styled hotel, with its teakwood floors and oriental feel, is located in the middle of the 37 acre tropical landscaped garden. Also caters for seminars, conferences and banquets.
Parkroyal Yangon, No. 33, Alan Pya Paya Road. A five star quality hotel with 272 rooms. Dining & Entertainment - La Brasserie International Restaurant, Phoenix Court Chinese Restaurant, Shiki-Tei Japanese Restaurant and The Lobby Bar. The well known disco Music Club is in the basement.
Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon, No. 40, Natmauk Road,Tamwe Township. A beautiful 5-star luxury city hotel in the heart of Yangon located just 30 minutes from Yangon International Airport and pleasantly sited along the western shore of Royal Lake (Kandawgyi Lake). Facing the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, the luxurious accommodation comprises 303 spacious rooms including 37 exquisite suites, while facilities include 3 restaurants, 2 bars, meeting & conference facilities, spa, health club and a pool garden. Plus, many city attractions are close by and guests may arrange tours with the Concierge.
Summit Parkview Hotel, 350 Ahlone Road, Just west of Shwedagon Pagoda and with excellent views of that pagoda. Good restaurant and bar.
Sedona, No. 1, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road,. The Sedona, located near Inya Lake, is built using Burmese architecture and offers 366 rooms. From US$60.
The Governor's Residence, 35 Taw Win Road, Dagon Township. A renovated teak mansion, formerly the guest house for Kachin State officials, and located in one of Yangon's most exclusive neighbourhoods, the hotel offers 48 rooms and pleasant gardens. Swimming pool and several excellent restaurants on the premises. Close to Shwedagon Pagoda but one can walk to the city centre as well. An Orient-Express hotel. US$ 250-300
Savoy Hotel, 129 Dhammazedi Road. Housed in an old colonial building with period furniture and decorations, the Savoy is one of the most charming hotels in Yangon. A short walk to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a swimming pool, and an excellent restaurant. Lower than quoted rates are often available on the Internet so book before you leave home. US$236-418.
Sule Shangri-La Hotel (formerly Traders Hotel), No. 223, Sule Pagoda Road. The original upscale business hotel in Yangon. Swimming pool, all services and an excellent restaurant. The location, at the intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road is hard to beat. As of May 2013, business rates (room with excellent breakfast buffet) is $210 USD. Breakfast buffet offers a great range of Chinese, Western, Indian and Burmese style dishes, fresh fruit and juices plus coffee and tea. US$100+.
The Strand, No. 92, Strand Road. A five-star colonial hotel built by the Sarkies Brothers in 1901. From US$450. Meticulously restored, the Strand has huge airy rooms with vintage fittings, teak flooring and furniture, a cafe and bar.
Yuzana Garden Hotel, No.44, Signal Pagoda Road, Mingalartaungnyunt Township. 37 rooms in a renovated colonial building. US$100-180.
Internet cafes have proliferated in recent years and Yangon has quite a few that provide access at a reasonable speed for a reasonable price. Beware that you may be out of touch as the government has blocked most email sites (yahoo, AOL, etc and gmail only works occasionally). Skype is currently (March 2011) under threat from the government too. Many hotels also provide internet services but these tend to be more expensive and slower than the public cafes. The cheapest rate is around 400 kyats per hour - there are plenty of places so shop around and save some cash.
Tokyo Donuts, Anawratha Road (Between Sule Pagoda Road and Phayre Street, on the Northern side of the road). 09:00-21:00. A donut shop with a few terminals upstairs. Accessible USB ports. Very low access. Free Wi-Fi if you stop for a drink downstairs (pass: tokyo332) or upstairs (pass: tokyo441). Upstairs smoke is allowed though. MMK400/h.
NETSKY, (Mahabandoola Garden St, across the street of City Hall (doors made of glass)). 08:00-22:00. Windows 7, fast and reliable connection, nice and clean. No DVD readers, but USB and air-con. NB. Some machines appear to be slower than others, no. 30 is a good choice MMK400/30min, MMK600/h.
Shwedagon Pagoda. has a couple of free hotspots that are supposedly only for use by foreigners.
Thein Win / Modern Camera shop, 179, 33rd St, middle block (from the corner with Anawratha Rd, 6th shop on the left hand side walking south). Great place to repair all sorts of cameras. New and second-hand accessories and cameras for both analog and digital. The owner is an experienced and passionate photographer, who speaks good English. Can also recommend places for other photography-related needs.
Due to the unique laws of the country, street crime is almost non existent. Pickpockets/Muggers receive a mandatory 5 years incarceration unless they can pay large fees to reduce the sentence and the city is policed mostly by non-uniformed police. These two unique features of Myanmar means you will not experience any crime during your visit.
Yangon is one of the safest big cities in the world. It is most unlikely that one can encounter a bag snatcher, pickpocket or a con artist in a crowded place.
Most people, including single female travellers, will not have any problems roaming the streets alone at night, and carrying large sums of money around rarely poses a problem. Crimes against tourists are taken very seriously by the military government and punishment is often disproportionately severe.
This, in addition to the strong Buddhist culture in the population, means that Yangon's crime rate lower than the likes of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, and violent crime is especially rare.
However, there have been isolated incidents involving tourists so it is best to take normal big-city precautions like avoiding lonely areas at night and always being cognizant of your valuables. As with everywhere else in the world, there is no substitute for common sense.
Be aware of over friendly locals that offers to take you around or places in which they are heading towards, as they may actually turn out to be local tour guides.
From the Yangon Airport if you are catching a taxi, you might be a approached by people giving directions to you and showing may even ride in the taxi to your hotel with you and throughout the journey will try to push their tour package. However, if you are up for the adventure travelling the way locals do riding the old bumpy buses; negotiate for a price with the locals.
It is easy finding a local tour guide as they will approach you at tourist attractions. Travelling around Yangon for half a day would cost around US$5-10 while a full day trip or half a day trip to another city such as Thanlyin from Yangon cost around US$10-15.
The most common crime in Yangon is being short-changed by a money changer, so count your Kyat carefully when you exchange money. Opt to exchange at the Bogyoke market, where the rates may be slightly worse but the jewellery shop owners won't rip you off. Do not fall for the bad serial number excuse another attempt to con you. Only "CB" serial numbers are bad.
Be especially careful with the money changer around Sule Paya - they count the money right in front of your eyes, but will trick you while doing that they have fast hands. Travellers are strongly advised not to change money here.
Another concern, though this is very unlikely to happen, is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were a number of bomb incidents in 2005, three bombs left in shopping malls caused numerous casualties in May, and in October, a smaller explosion occurred outside Traders Hotel. The perpetrators have not been identified and there have been no bombings since.
In 2007, Yangon was the scene of numerous protests against the country's military junta and these protests were broken up by gunfire and by mass arrests. One Japanese photographer was killed. While it is unlikely that a tourist will be targeted by either the military or by protesters, events in a dictatorship tend to be unpredictable in how they evolve so, in the unlikely event that there are protests during your visit, be circumspect and avoid political rallies.
Prostitution and drug trafficking are illegal though there are plenty of prostitutes in Yangon, often in bars owned by senior officers of the Army. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.
Yangon's tap water is unsafe to drink. Always buy bottled water. Yangon's warm and humid weather makes it imperative to carry water around.
Tuberculosis and AIDS (known as "A-I-D Five" among locals) afflict a disproportionately high percentage of the people. However, HIV infection is not at the epidemic level,infection rates are much less than 1%. In addition, there is a risk of dengue fever. Malaria is a risk in rural areas.
Medical care is limited, but is most expedient at private medical clinics. Government hospitals are usually unreliable and require bribes.
Do not seek medical care at the General Hospital on Bogyoke Aung San Road, sandwiched between Bo Ywe Street and Lanmadaw Street; it is unsanitary and inefficient. Most guest houses and hotels will be able to provide you with the address of a private doctor with experience in treating foreigners.
Be sure to take the proper vaccinations before you leave for your trip. Carry a small first-aid kit with you containing at least painkillers, band-aid, ORS and a loperamide-like medicine. Anti-malarial pills and DEET are recommended.
Many hotels, shopping centres and restaurants offer toilets. However, aside from hotels, expect squat toilets throughout the city. Always bring toilet paper when going out. Try to avoid the need to use public toilets at regularly visited sites, such as pagodas and temples. Here the longyi or the Burmese version of the sarong works well. Since Myanmar men squat when they do their business, they can totally do so.
Pants constrict the legs to squat properly and steadily creating the possibility of not making a correct trajectory on the hole.
Note that most booking offices offer a pick-up service from their office (next to the train station) to the bus station (far away from downtown) for 500. Pick-up is usually very early before the bus departure (2-3 hours is common).
Bago (Pegu) - an important town with pagodas and monasteries located 60 km north of Yangon and an easy day trip.
Mandalay - overnight buses, and expensive government trains, leave for Mandalay daily. Bus tickets can be booked at the number of travel agents just north of Yangon railway station.
Various departures during the day, different companies. Prices start from ~11.000 for a seat and ~16.000 for a sleeper (which is more like a large inclinable seat than a real bed). JJ express has a departure at 9:30PM from the bus station; 18.500 for a sleeper.
Pathein (Bassein) - famous for its paper umbrellas and stunning religious architecture, and an overnight boat ride away (or 4 hours by rented car, more by bus) to the west. From Pathein it is only a few hours by bus or pick-up truck on to the beaches of Chaungtha and Ngwe Saung.
Taukkyan - about an hour's drive (35km) from central Yangon, and site of the Taukkyan War Cemetery.
Thanlyin - once an important city on the Irrawaddy Delta, and gateway to Kyauktan (Syriam), a small island in the Yangon River, which is the site of the 4th century Ye Le Paya.
Twante - the most accessible delta town from Yangon, and makes for a nice half day or full day trip.
Mawlamyine - A pleasant sea-side city with a few day trip possibilities. 9-hour express train runs here each morning about 6:15AM (and an 11-hour slow train at 7 AM). Ordinary tickets (with no seat reservations) cost foreigners $US5, while upper class tickets are $US14. You get your own seat and it's slightly less crowded, but there isn't much else different between the classes.