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Yangon & Countryside

Yangon, a city of five million friendly, smiling people is newly emerged from Myanmar’s time warp. The ghost of the British Empire is still strong, and its turn-of-the-century colonial architecture unmistakable. Whilst sightseeing you will pass mansions that were once home to administrators and planters born in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. The colonial blueprint on the design of hospitals, Customs House and Government Offices is instantly recognizable.

The jewel of Yangon is the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda. This magnificent structure can be seen from miles around the city, no building dare to be higher than its Golden Spire. Believed to be 2,500 years old and enshrining seven of Lord Buddha’s hairs, the Shwedagon Pagoda is revered as one of the most holy sites by Buddhists throughout the world.

The Golden Dragon, as it is known to the locals, rises over 300 feet in height and is a celebration of the beauty mankind can create. At the crown (and it’s just as well that this is out of reach!), bells of gold and silver are topped by a vane studded with 1,100 diamonds totaling 178 carats plus 1,383 other precious stones. The piece de resistance is a hollow, golden sphere, mounted with a single 76-carat diamond and encrusted with 4,351 additional diamonds weighing 1800 carats.

“The exotic beauty of the Shwedagon Pagoda is enough to take one’s breath away. If you had travelled to Burma from the other end of the earth and had seen nothing but this structure, it would be worth the whole trip.” Client testimonial, 2008.

Yangon will enchant you with a kaleidoscope of impressions: from shaven-headed monks in chocolate or burgundy robes to tiny blue taxis overflowing with life; to the vibrant colors of fresh fruit and vegetables that pervade the sense in the downtown markets. An emerging, dynamic city retaining a degree of innocent charm this is Yangon today and now is the time to see Yangon.

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Where to stay in Yangon?

A wide choice of accommodation is available, ranging from deluxe hotels to standard class hotels. We highlight below our recommended hotels for your stay in Yangon.

Colonial Style Hotels
If it is your first time to Yangon and you are purely visiting the city for leisure, colonial style hotels are a good choice. Besides offering high service standards, these hotels provide a nostalgic window to the olden times gone by in the former British colonial city. One of our top favorites, the Strand Hotel is Yangon’s landmark heritage hotel with an opulent décor reflecting the 1920s and 1930s epoch. Its central location makes it a good choice for both the leisure or business traveler. Another recommendation will be the Governor’s Residence Hotel, an elegant boutique hotel housed in an imposing teak mansion. It is also a short walk away from the embassies and the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda.

City Hotels
In town, the Chatrium Hotel and the Savoy Hotel tops our list. An outstanding business hotel located right in the city centre, it features modern facilities and comforts. As one of the tallest hotels in Yangon, it affords splendid panoramas of the city.

What to see in Yangon?
To complement the modern travelers' love affair with the unusual and experiential travel, Global Travel & Tours offers a range of new and interesting tours in Thailand that take you off the well worn tourist trails and focus on the wonders of Thai culture. First time visitors should not miss the Shwedagon Pagoda, a magnificent gold-crusted pagoda that has come to be the country’s icon. Other temple sites not to be missed are the Sule Paya with an octagonal-shaped dome, the Botataung Pagoda with the sacred hair of Lord Buddha enshrined, and the Chaukhtatkyi Pagoda with a 70-metres reclining Buddha statue.  Finally, there is the Kaba Aye Pagoda within which is the Buddhist Art Museum and Maha Pasana Cave. For aspiring yogis and meditation devotees, it is worthwhile to check out Mahasi Meditation Centre and International Meditation Centre, both of which offer full-time meditation amenities.

To seek out intriguing shopping finds, Bogyoke Aung San Market is an excellent choice. Constructed in 1926, the market is best known for its colonial architecture, inner cobblestone streets and wide selection of souvenirs. Head to Yangon’s Chinatown, a series of colorful streets filled with roadside stalls, market vendors and jewelry stores. Named after the sacred mythological bird, the Karaweik Hall is an imposing royal barge floating in the Kandawgyi Royal Lake. It makes a good spot to catch traditional Burmese arts performances as well as a beautiful view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.  

Situated at the confluence of the Pazundaung Creek and Bago River, the Yangon River is an interesting spot to seize out the local lifestyles. At the Yangon Nanthida Jetty, one can enjoy the panoramic scenery and magnificent sunset over the river. If you have time to spare, we highly recommend crossing the river to Dhala on the opposite bank for a glimpse into countryside lives in Myanmar, or Kyimyindaing where stone Buddha sculptures and the dyeing of monks’ yellow robes can be observed.

For history and culture buffs, the National Museum of Myanmar has an extensive collection of ancient artifacts, art works and historic memorabilia on display in 14 halls in a splendid five-storey building. A visit to the National Races Village is a tour of Myanmar in a nutshell, where visitors can stroll through and view the 8 villages of Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Myanmar, Rakhine and Shan across the 117-acres compound. Unknown even to most Yangon natives, the Yangon War Cemetery is nestled deep in the city. A burial ground for the allied soldiers who died during World War II, the cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Just a 45 minutes drive from the city, the Hlawga Wildlife Park is home to over 70 kinds of herbivorous animals and 90 bird species, definitely an ideal place for picnickers, naturalists, botanists and bird watchers.

Where to dine in Yangon?
For a taste of authentic Myanmar cuisine, we recommend Padonmar Restaurant which features both traditional Myanmar and Thai cuisine with indoor and alfresco dining options. The Green Elephant Restaurant is another favorite of ours with a good selection of traditional Burmese and international dishes served in a garden setting. The Monsoon Restaurant & Bar, housed in a spacious colonial style building, is a good spot to savor Myanmar and Indochinese specialties.

There is no lack of restaurants serving international food in Yangon. Le’ Planteur Restauranthas established a formidable standing in serving French cuisine tops with Burmese hospitality, while the Manis Restaurant & Bar features contemporary Western and oriental cuisines. Tokyo Restaurant & Bar remains a perennial eating hunt for its delicious and fresh Japanese selections. Sabai Sabai whips up a fiery concoction of Thai food. The handful of Chinese restaurants, such as Western Park and White Rice, carry a wide array of dishes. 

Coffee shops have mushroomed across Yangon in recent years. For aromatic coffee brews with a panoramic view of downtown Yangon, head to Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro on the 20th floor of Sakura Tower. Another A-lister café is Mr Guitar, popular for its live bands and frequented by locals and expatriates alike.

Yangon – Attractions

Renowned for the 55-meter long reclining Buddha image, the beautiful golden Shwemawdaw Pagoda and many more religious monuments such as the old ordination hall built by king Dhammazedi. It has an interesting lively market and just 10 minutes out of town, one can see authentic rural life including water buffaloes yoked in front of a plough working in the paddy fields. Bago can be reached easily by road; the 80-km journey from Yangon takes about two hours. It is situated on the road to the Golden Rock Pagoda and to Mawlamying. Bago remains a quiet and easy-going town with a lot more bicycles than cars. It is, however, constantly expanding.

The capital city of Kayin State, Hpa-An is located 270 km east of Yangon. The town is dotted with a ridge of hills, magnificent caves such as Bayin nyi, Saddan and the Kawtgoon (natural lime stone) which measures 200 feet height and 300 feet length. The visit to the unusual shaped of Zwekabin Hill and brilliant landscape will be unforgettable experience. It is easily accessible by land route from Yangon. This is perfect hiking country with its small lakes and many grottoes. The colourful costumes of the Kayin women are a sight to be seen.

The Golden Rock of Kyaikhtiyo
One of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Myanmar Buddhists. The gold –plated boulder is said to maintain its balance thanks to a single hair of the Buddha being enshrined inside the pagoda. To reach the top of the mountain , one can either make a 13km climb ( which will take around 7 hours or more ) or sit on the loading area of open trucks that take passengers to a so-called middle camp through a steep and winding road. From there all visitors have to walk up the remaining 4 km (500 meters in altitude) on steep tracks. An easy alternative for those who can’t manage the way on foot is to sit on sedan chairs, which are carried by four porters to the top. Once arrived at the pagoda, one can enjoy a spectacular view, which is particularly beautiful a sunrise or sunset. The whole site has a magic charisma and famous for meditation.

Situated in the delta of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Pathein is the most important port for trade in the delta region. The region is the heart of Myanmar’s paddy cultivation. Pathein is a peaceful little town with a scenic waterfront, many Chinese and Burmese temples and Pathein umbrella workshops. The colorful hand-made umbrellas of Pathein are famous all over Myanmar. The traditional umbrellas for monks and nuns, as one commonly sees in upper Myanmar, are manufactured here. Pathein, located some 190 kilometers west of Yangon, can be reached in three hours by road or by overnight ferry through the alluvial Ayeyarwaddy river delta region.

A small town on the bend in the Ayeyarwaddy River. Pyay is very close to what was the seat of the Pyu Kingdom called Sri Ksetra from the 5th to 9th centuries. In the surrounding areas there are the ruins of this ancient capital. The Thayekhittaya Site, dating back to the 5th century, features a quite different architectural style than other periods and represents one of the most interesting historical and archaeological sites in Myanmar. Pyay lies 290-km northwest of Yangon and is comfortably accessible by car (5-6 hour journey).

A small town that is well known for its pottery is manufacturing and cotton weaving. Another interesting site to visit is an old Mon pagoda. The town is situated at the Twante Canal, which was dug during the time of British rule in Myanmar to provide a short boat ride from Yangon. A ride on the canal offers contrasting images; from the buzzing chaos in Yangon to the provincial calmness of the countryside.