Yangon (AKA Rangoon) is the largest city in Myanmar with a population of approximately 6 million people. One of the two international airports in Myanmar is located in Yangon so you will probably start or end your trip here. There are many attractions around the city but our favorite top things to see and do in Yangon include the wonderful and colorful Theingyi Market, the girls’ nunnery and the magnificent Shwedagon pagoda. The city is quite hectic and you’ll spend a long time waiting in the busy traffic, however you must put Yangon on your Myanmar’s bucket list!
One of our favorite places to visit in every destination must be the local market. Yangon has great markets to stroll around and snap pictures of the daily lives of the local population. We visited the Theingyi Market early in the morning (9 am). We were surprised to find out that we were the only tourists there. It is such a lovely market where some of the vendors sit on the ground and offer you their fresh products,. Walking around the market among the piles of fresh herbs, leafy greens and colorful fruits was the perfect first day to start our Myanmar trip. The vendors were very friendly and offered us to taste some of the fruits and veggies we were not familiar with. The market was full of locals who were purchasing the fresh produce for the day and giggled or offered some tips while we were snapping pictures around. Towering over this market are huge concrete buildings which serve as a contrast to the lively atmosphere of this colorful market.
Another unique experience was our visit to the girls’ nunnery where the nuns dedicate themselves to studying the scribes. They live together and share their rooms (4-6 nuns in each room), and close to midday the women gather to eat their lunch. One of the top attractions in Myanmar is visiting a nunnery or a monastery during the morning or evening pray where there are many tourists around, however, we visited the nunnery at approximately 11:30 am and again we were the only tourists there. It was such a lovely sight watching the women dressed in their traditional pink and orange robes walking in a line to enter the dining room. You can also stroll around the compound and see their living-quarters. At the end of the visit you can donate some money to the nunnery to help them run the place.
Shwedagon pagoda was the only pagoda we visited in Yangon and it was quite impressive strolling around the compound, among the lit candles and praying visitors, a mixture of spirituality with invasions of the modern world (in the form of mobiles and selfies). The Shwedagon Pagoda compound is huge and you can take a leisurely walk among the many stupas, and statues that reflect its history of almost 2,500 years. The Shwedagon Pagoda itself is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond. It was the first time somebody asked us to take a selfie with them and soon enough we understood selfies with tourists are a hit among the locals.
We had a very short visit in Yangon but we loved our time there so don’t skip it and put it on your Myanmar itinerary.
Looking for a nice place for dinner? check out the restaurant-bar Gekko. Located at the Sofaer & Co. building in downtown Yangon, this charming bar offers Asian fusion dishes in a lovely setting.
You can read more about our experiences in our Yangon Travel Letter.
Where to Go Next?
For an off-the-beaten-path experience you can either go to Pindaya where you can find the famous Pindaya Cave, stunning landscapes and small family-owned workshops. Another great option is to visit Hpa An (just 6 hours away from Yangon) where you can find a variety of different caves located in beautiful nature scenery including the Kawgun Cave (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).