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Not sure what to do in Yangon? Read our guide on The Top 8 Best Things To Do In Yangon.
Hhhmmmmmm, what to do in Yangon? We know! Start by checking out perhaps Myanmar’s most famous landmark, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the skyline at around 99m tall and can be seen from just about anywhere in Yangon. It is considered Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist pagoda, as many people believe the pagoda holds relics of the 4 previous Buddhas.
It is said to have been built at some time between the 6th and 10th century, although legend has it being built around 2600 years ago. It has been damaged and rebuilt multiple times over the years, mainly due to earthquakes. These days the place is always busy with devout Burmese Buddhists and tourists flocking to the site daily in their thousands.
It is located around 30 mins by foot from downtown Yangon and you need to pay a very small donation to enter. Remember it is also a religious site, so covering your shoulders, knees and removing your shoes is expected. We suggest going for either sunset or sunrise. That way you beat the heat, crowds and get to enjoy it’s beauty with some peace and quiet.
Ok so you are probably figuring out a bit of a theme here. Pagodas and temples in Asia are like churches in Europe, they are fucken everywhere and yes they are usually pretty magnificent and impressive to look at. So while it might be a little boring to some, it’s important to note that the Burmese are a very religious and devout people, so to understand their culture you need to experience their most sacred sites.
The Sule Pagoda is much easier to get to and is located in the middle of Downtown Yangon. Once again there is a very small fee to enter, which allows you to spend as much time as you like while you walk around and admire the golden stupa. You can expect to see many locals and monks praying. Just remember to be polite and respectful, as this is a holy place.
Besides the obvious religious connection, the Sule Pagoda has often been part of Burmese politics. It has been a rallying point in both the 1988 uprising and the 2007 revolution. It is considered extremely important to the Burmese people also because geographically it is almost situated in the very centre of Yangon.
Number 3 on our list of The Top 8 Best Things To Do In Yangon, is to check out China Town in downtown Yangon. Basically the neighbourhood immediately west of the Sule Pagoda is considered China Town. If you want to get a real feel for the city and the daily grind for the locals, then walk down the street past all of the old British colonial buildings.
However, it’s at night when China Town really comes into its own. By night China Town is crawling with locals as the streets close down and pop up restaurants take over the side walks. Have a walk down 19th street in particular, which is also known as BBQ street. The atmosphere is incredible and you can sit down and have a really cheap feed and some Myanmar beers. Sometimes there is live music or even some parades. No matter when you are there, it’s always a lot of fun!
Immediately east of the Shwedagon Pagoda lies Kandawgyi Lake, formerly known as Royal Lake. The lake is massive and surrounded by park land. It was originally built during the British occupation to help provide clean drinking water to the people of Yangon. These days it’s largely enjoyed by locals for exercise, meditation or playing Chinlone (Burmese style Hackey Sack).
It’s located a good 30-40 minute walk from Downtown Yangon. We really enjoyed spending an hour or two walking around the lake and over one of the really old teak wooden bridges prior to sunset. For a really awesome view of the park, look for a local rooftop bar. We went to the Esperado Hotel and enjoyed happy hour in view of the park.
If you can’t figure out what to do in Yangon, then maybe try visiting another pagoda? Ok yes another one, but this one is good too.
Botataung Pagoda is located down near the river side of Yangon and probably about a 30 minute walk from downtown. Once again be sure to dress appropriately and pay a very small donation to enter. Unlike the Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas, this one is very spread out and has a lot of smaller shrines and places of worship to explore. You can quite easily spend a little bit of time here.
The Botataung Pagoda is said to have been built almost around the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda, 2600 years ago. It is said to have hair relics of the Gautama Buddha which were sent over from India a couple of thousand years ago. The pagoda was built to honour the 1000 strong military personal who accompanied the sacred hairs on their journey from India. The Botataung Pagoda was also completely destroyed during WW2 and was subsequently rebuilt.
Yangon Circle Train
So we didn’t do this, but other travellers we know swear taking the Yangon circular train is fun. Basically Yangon has a really old train that does a circular route through and around the outskirts of the city throughout the day. People we have spoken too say it’s a really interesting way to observe the local way of life, as you see farmers get on in the early morning with their produce to take to the market. As far as we know the journey takes a few hours from start to finish. To be honest if we had some more time in Yangon, it’s something we would have tried.
Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple
If you’re sick of seeing statues of Buddha in an upright position, then have a look at him reclining instead! The Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple contains a reclining Buddha statue that is 66m long. The Buddha image is barely over 100 years old and is considered to be one of the most sacred reclining Buddha images in all of Myanmar.
It’s located a little outside of downtown Yangon, so your best bet is to catch a taxi to get there.
Just simply hanging out in Downtown is a great thing to do in Yangon. Downtown is where you will see and feel the very best of the local culture. Here you can walk down busy streets packed with rough and tumble old British colonial buildings while locals try to sell you fresh fruit and veggies. You can also pop into one of the many local tea or noodle shops to enjoy cheap and authentic local food.
Overall, everything in Yangon occurs Downtown. So this is of course the best place to stay and base yourself.
Well there you go, we hope you enjoyed our Top 8 Best Things To Do In Yangon list. We reckon three nights is enough to explore the place.