You must visit the Shwedagon to marvel at Myanmar’s most famous and landmark, perched on the highest point of Yangon. The stupa enshrined with Buddha’s relics and gilded in gold leaves you in awe. While the main stupid and 82 other structures in the holy compound are amazing to see, I was touched to witness the faith of Buddhist. Every good Buddhist is said to make pilgrimage here in their lifetime. The monks and the lay are in prayer, with the tourist still kindly respecting this place of worship.
|Amidst the pilgrims at Shwedagon|
Maida’s Tips: You will be asked to go barefoot once you get to Shwedagon. Bring an extra carry bag to carry your shoes. Yes, you must remove your socks, too. They will hand you a plastic bag to put your shoes at the entrance, but will expect a donation for this bag. BE extra careful when it rains. The floor is kept clean inside the Shwedagon. But once it rains, it’s very slippery. It rained on my way out, and I slipped. Ouch!
2. Visit the markets
|Go, Team Go at the Fish Market!|
I always enjoy visiting markets, wherever I go. In Yangon, I was the lone tourist in the fish market. I got a glimpse of huge containers of freshly caught fish, sold, iced then packed into Styrofoam containers. It gave me a glimpse of the everyday life of people, mingling with monks and their begging bowls, market vendors, and shoppers early in the morning.
My biggest joy was seeing young men dressed in soccer jerseys packing fish. They were in groups of three wearing the same jerseys, with the long socks, too. I didn’t see them score a goal. But despite the language barrier, we shared a good laugh and some great photos.
3. Taxi Dancing
While taxi drivers are often characters around the world, I’d have to say riding the taxi in Yangon has been the most interesting for me. The vehicles are old, circa 1980’s and 1990’s. I’d say most of them are at least 21 years old (if they were humans, they’d be old enough to legally drink!). All except one of the cabs I rode were alfresco. Some were left-hand drive, others right-hand drive. A Yangon resident said, “As long as they run, then its ok!” The interiors may be dilapidated, often without door handles or window knobs. So when it rains, the driver hands you the lone window knob to roll up the window and keep you dry.
What the vehicle lacks in features, the driver compensates for. In the numerous cab rides I took around Yangon, all the cab drivers were kind and helpful. Always negotiate and agree on a price prior to boarding the cab (ask the help of your hotel concierge). They may even accommodate stops along the way. But more impressive was how the cab drivers helped each other. One cab driver didn’t understand English. So another helped him with my request, instead of poaching the customer.
The taxis remind me that Yangon is still its authentic self. The vehicle may be stuck in the past, but it works. It is a raw, genuine, and authentic experience I find charming.
4. Bogyoke Aung San Museum
|Intimate History lessons at Bogyoke Aung San Museum|
It is not Aung San Suu Kyi’s current home. But it is the last home her father lived in before his death. In here, you get to learn about her father. You get to see how he lived with his family, where they dine (even who sat where in the dining table), and their beds. It gives you a tiny taste of Myanmar history, but a great experience nonetheless. No other tourists were there when I visited, so it feels like an intimate experience.
Bogyoke Aung San Museum, Tues to Sun 10am to 3:30pm, Bahan Township
5. High Tea at The Strand
|High Tea at the Strand|
Built in 1901, The Strand is one of Yangon’s historic buildings. Imagine you are back at colonial times, as you enjoy high tea served daily from 2-5pm. It is a great way to relax, write on your journal, or just take it all in right at the heart of the city. Take a stroll around The Strand, there are colonial buildings nearby worth seeing too.
Maida’s Traveler’s Tip:
|on exchanging currency to get Kyats|
Crispy Money- Yes, it is true. They are obsessed with crisp, near perfect US Dollar bills in Myanmar, so come prepared. Have your ratty bills or those with marks or folds exchanged for crisp new ones before heading here. I learned it is best to exchange it in the airport. There are no banks or money exchange places open on Sundays. The rates in hotels are not in your favor too. There will be some people whispering to exchange currently in the black market at Bogyoke Aung San Market, don’t do it.
see other posts on Myanmar:
Dining in Yangon
The Kindness Trail in Yangon
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Thanks for journeying with me!