Yangon: City of Golden Pagodas (Myanmar)
Yes, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Yangon, Myanmar’s capital. And it was literally a 24-hour stay in this emerging Southeast Asian city without bringing with me expectations and whatnot.
Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is one of Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) most busy and developing cities. Besides being dubbed as the City of Golden Pagoda, I really didn’t have much in mind on what to anticipate. But after my brief stint, I could say that Yangon is a city that is filled with charm and eccentricity (in a good way). And I believe that it is one of those Asian metropolitan that doesn’t always get the attention it merits.
So what exactly did I see, taste, experience and feel when I was in Yangon? Read along:
The Shwedagon Pagoda: One of the most important religious sites not only in Yangon but the entire Myanmar. The 99 meters high golden chedi of the pagoda (that glimmers more during the daylight) is a landmark that is visible all throughout the city (reminds me of the Sky Tower in Auckland that is all seen wherever you are in the City of Sails). I admire how the Burmese people are able to preserve this sacred, cultural monument. Definitely one of the first things a visitor must do when in Yangon.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Shwedagon Pagoda from downtown Yangon is to take a taxi. From the center, I took a taxi for 2,500 Kyats
Open Hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily (but closed during holidays)
Entrance Fee: 8 USD/ about 6, 000 kyats
The Sule Pagoda: Another pagoda worthy of a visit is the Sule Pagoda which is a notable historical and navigational pagoda landmark in Yangon as it is right in the middle of the major thoroughfare in the city. It is in close proximity to a number of government buildings and workplaces. I have read that the grounds near the pagoda is also a place for political activities and even protests. It may not be as massive and impressive with that of the Shwedagon Pagoda but still a sight to behold.
How to get there: From central Yangon, it is located at the main circuitous intersection right in the middle of downtown. I actually walked my way from my hostel.
Open Hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily
Entrance Fee: 3 USD
The Botataung Pagoda: Located on the river banks of downtown Yangon is one of the city’s well-regarded temples. Botataung, which means 1,000 military leaders, is a 40-meter high golden pagoda that houses a sacred hair relic of the Buddha and is open to the public.
How to get there: Take a taxi from downtown Yangon to the Botataung Pagoda which would cost between 3 to 5 USD. Actually, from Sule Pagoda, if you are into walking, you could make your way to this pagoda on foot.
Open Hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily
Entrance Fee: 3 USD
Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Chak Htat Gyi Buddha): More commonly known as the Reclining Buddha, Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a humongous, 65 meters long reclining Buddha (hence the name) that is housed in a giant metal shed. One will surely be mesmerized with the bejeweled crown of the statue as it is adorned with various gems.
How to get there: Take a taxi from central Yangon that may cost 2,500 to 3,000 Kyats
Open hours: 24 hours open
Entrance Fee: Free
Please note that as in any Burmese temple, kindly please remove shoes and socks before entering the temple.
Kandawgyi Park: I kinda have a soft spot for parks that offer a view. Admittedly, I was sold when I saw the wooden walkway/ boardwalk that goes along the lush green, man-made lake. I went here at night and early morning. And it was both a beautiful experience. A number of restaurants abound the park, including the lovely Karaweik Palace – a seemingly floating dining place. A visit here tops my favorite things to do in Yangon!
How to get there: If you are coming from the Shwedagon Pagoda, you can just walk your way to this place. If you come from downtown Yangon, take a cab for 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 300 Kyats ($.30) for restaurant area, Boardwalk – free.
Maha Bandula Park: Just right across the Sule Pagoda is a public park called Maha Bandula Park or Maha Bandula Garden. Formerly named Fitch Square or Fytche Square, the park features a 150-feet Independence Monument, that was put up to commemorate Burmese independence from the British. It also has a rose garden which offers a view of the city hall, other government colonial buildings, and the Sule pagoda.
How to get there: If you are coming from downtown Yangon or Sule Pagoda, just walk your way.
Open hours: 24 hours daily
Entrance Fee: Free (but according to some, there is a 500 Kyat entrance fee for foreigners only (apparently, I wasn’t asked to pay, maybe because I look like a local)
Other places of interest you might want to visit if you have more time are as follows:
• Ngahtatgyi Paya
• Bogyoke Market
• Bogyoke Aung San Museum
• Aung San Suu Kyi’s House
• Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque
• Sri Varada Raja Perumal Temple
• National Museum (Yangon)
And by the way, if there is one food place you must try when in downtown Yangon, go to 999 Shan Noodle Shop. It is a restaurant at No. 130 B 34th Street, very near the city hall and Sule Pagoda. It is not impressive in terms of its interior, but the food is certainly delicious at a very affordable price. Thanks to my friend Karlene for bringing me here.
I wish I had more time. It could’ve been great to have fully explored the city and experience the seemingly surprising Burmese ways of life. During that brief stay in Myanmar, I have truly felt how genuinely friendly and good-hearted the people are. Looking forward to trying more of their food, seeing more of the stunning attractions, and experiencing more of their culture.
Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…