3 days in Yangon, Myanmar
Walking around the streets of Yangon, there are no signs of global fast food chains, hotels and coca cola billboards. The local dress is the traditional longyi, and women and men alike have their cheeks painted with the ubiquitous yellow paste and cosmetic of choice, thanaka. ATM’s and credit card facilities were almost non existent when we were there – all our transactions were paid in USD notes. Crisp notes only, thanks. And our hotel, we made sure it had a back up generator because electricity switches off randomly.
Although, on the facade Yangon looked to be a country stuck in time, the element of progress was evident as the locals we spoke to were excited about the political changes that had occurred recently, namely with Aung San Suu Kyi and what it meant for the country. We suggest acquainting yourself about her life here – which has a great timeline of events – to better understand what these changes mean for the country. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Yangon, from the beauty of the traditions that have remained throughout the years, the hospitality of the people and their passion for change.
If you get a chance to visit, we have listed a few things that we squeezed in during our 3 day stay in Yangon below.
|Day 1||SQ236 BNE-SIN|
|Day 2||taxis and foot||Shwedagon Pagoda
|Bogyoke Aung San markets
|exploring yangon city|
|Day 5||YH711 RGN-HEH||Inle Lake||Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort|
Stroll around the city & get your fortune told
If you’re staying in the city of Yangon, you don’t have to walk very far to find some old, crumbling, albeit beautiful colonial structures. Some buildings have been conserved and used as hotels or government buildings in downtown Yangon, however the majority remain at the mercy of other commercial developments and pursuits. We recommend devoting at least one afternoon just strolling around the city and taking in the sights of the historical buildings. If you’re an architecture or history enthusiast, this website has a great list of all the buildings that you can check out in Yangon and plan your visit around.
We also stumbled upon a few fortune tellers where they read our palms for a few kyats – apparently I was going to open up my own dance school, learn guitar and marry rich. I liked the last bit.
Chill out at Shwedagon Pagoda
www.shwedagonpagoda.com/ cost | 5 USD
The lack of high rise apartments in Yangon means that the imposing golden pointed stupa, shaped like a giant chocolate hersheys kiss, is a prominent and unique feature in the skyline. Upon entry, you are greeted first by the sight of the main pagoda in all its golden glory. Surrounding the main pagoda are other smaller pagodas, equally beautiful with intricate detailing on the roofs. We dedicated one afternoon here marvelling at its beauty, exploring the grounds and taking in the peaceful vibes.
See local life at Dala
cost | 100 kyat for the ferry ride
Across the road from the Strand hotel is the Yangon port. From there, you can take a short 15 minute ferry ride across the Yangon river to the township of Dala for a small fee of 100 kyat.
The ride on the ferry is interesting in itself as it is full of locals making the commute to the village. The sounds of chickens hanging by their legs awaiting their tasty fate, and local peddlers who were selling sliced watermelon and snacks, filled the air. We met a local tour guide onboard the ferry who offered to take us on a half day tour via non motorised trishaws. Our tour guide and I shared a trishaw and my boyfriend rode on his own. We explored a couple of pagodas and rode around the village, where our tour guide showed us how the locals lived. We also visited the local markets where we bought thanaka and much to the store owners and her friends amusement – they giggled and painted mickey mouse shapes on our faces with the yellow paste!
Feast like a king at Karaweik Hall
Kandawgyi Compound, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, Yangon, Myanmar
cost | 1,000 kyat/person for entry into the Kandawgyi Lake Park
cost | 30,000 kyat/person for buffet & cultural show
Karaweik Hall is a golden barge in the middle of Kandawgyi lake which currently houses a buffet restaurant and function halls.
Long tables are set up across the room with a main stage at the front where performers showcased a mixture of traditional dance, music, costume and puppetry. Adjacent to the hall was another room where a buffet of Burmese salads, hot dishes and desserts were available.
Spend your kyats at Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Rd, Yangon, Myanmar
The Bogyoke Aung San market, otherwise known as Scott market, is a popular undercover bazaar in Yangon. We walked from our hotel to the markets on a Monday – unaware that they weren’t open on Mondays! We returned the next day and spent the whole morning strolling through the maze of colourful Burmese handicrafts, art, jewellery and endless racks of longyis. Below are some souvenir ideas at the markets that you can shop for:
Men and women alike don the traditional wrap, knotted tightly on one side and usually worn with a casual tee or singlet. There were a lot of stalls dedicated to the longyi in Bogyoke markets, varying in material and styles but if you’re after a bargain, there are plenty of other stores around Yangon selling them cheaper if you’re not good at bartering like me. If quality is what you are after and have time to wait, women can have them customised by purchasing a choice of fabric- usually silk – and having it tailored to fit.
If you want to bring a taste of Myanmar back home, the street side tea lapae yae is sold in packet form and available in most supermarkets and airport duty free stores. Our friend in Myanmar gifted us with a packet of the “Sunday tea mix” as a farewell souvenir, but we also stocked up on another brand “Royal Myanmar tea mix”. Both mixes tasted pretty authentic and were catered for a more sweet palate.
Burmese arts and handicrafts
We saw a lot of beautiful carved wooden crafts in the markets, but with Australia’s strict quarantine laws, we didn’t buy any. We stuck mostly to printed arts and postcards that we could put up in frames around the house.
Similar to the very famous Che prints, if you want to rage against the machine and make a statement or are keen on politics, we saw several stalls selling various prints of Aung Sun Suu Kyi face plastered over ceramics and tshirts.
High tea at the Strand
Visited by the likes of royalty – Prince Edward, and rock royalty Mick Jagger just to
namedrop name a few, the century old Strand Hotel in Yangon is bursting with history and is a must see while in Myanmar. Even if you’re not staying at the Strand, I highly recommend trying out the high tea. You can choose the permutation of the traditional high tea, which comes with Burmese small eats and dumplings, or the classic version with sandwiches and cakes served on white tiered. We tried both and you can read more about our experience here.
Have a picnic at Inya Lake
A popular place where locals and young loved up couples hang out, Inya lake is a tranquil and peaceful green escape in the city, perfect for people watching. The Yangon Sailing Club is set up on one side of the lake, and on the other side, you can see Aung San Suu Kyis mansion where she stayed during her years under house arrest. There are also a couple of stalls set up on the banks of the lake so you can buy some yummy Burmese goodies and snacks, and set up a picnic spot by the water.
|Make sure you only bring crisp, unfolded US dollar notes, otherwise shopkeepers may not accept it.|
|Electricity black outs are apparently very frequent in Yangon, however we were lucky enough not to experience this as all the places we stayed at had back up generators. Most hotels that we booked stated this on their website so just something to note when you're choosing your choice of accommodation.|
|During our visit, we saw one ATM that was under construction. There may now be ATMs available, however it is best to still bring kyats and USD to ensure you don't run out of cash|
|Read about their colonial and tumultuous political past before you go- it will give you a better understanding of the people, and why Myanmar doesn't have the modern conveniences other neighbouring Asian countries have.|
|Drinking at local tea houses? Make sure you rinse the first cup with the tea to clean the cup. The second cup of tea you pour is what people usually drink.|