Yangon

One of the best places to visit in Asia is Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Nature lovers will appreciate the city’s stunning lakes, shady parks and verdant tropical trees. These are the reasons why it is dubbed ‘The Garden City of the East’. However, Yangon has more to offer than impressive scenery. This city is a melting pot—a diversity of cultures and communities in terms of people, settlement and religions. Because it serves as the country's main entrance and seaport, it is also the country’s centre of business. Yangon was founded in 1755 by King Alaungpaya; he established Yangon on the location of a small town named Dagon when he dominated the lower part of Myanmar. He was the one who gave the name Yangon, meaning ‘End of Strife’. In 1885, the name was anglicised as Rangoon when the British annexed the country. Yangon is a city that balances tradition, culture and modernity, making it a must-see for anyone who wants to see a different side of Asia.

There are many different attractions to see and experience in Yangon. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find many places of interest which will keep them busy for many days. These include places of a spiritual nature, green parks and gardens, and museums that provide an insight into the rich history and culture of Myanmar. We have listed some of the more popular attractions in the city, along with some attractions that may be lesser known and less visited, but may also be of interest.

Aung San Suu Kyi's House in Yangon Yangon 
Until her release from house arrest in November 2010, anyone who wished to see Aung San Suu Kyi's house did so from the the other side of the Inya Lake, from a distance of 300 metres. All you could see then was the back of this crumbling colonial style mansion, shaded by a large tree. The front of the house on University Avenue was barricaded and guarded by security police. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and leader of the National League of Democracy was put under house arrest here off and on for 15 years since 1989. Subject to international pressure, the Burmese ruling military junta agreed to release Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010.
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
It is said that no visit to Myanmar is complete without a trip to Shwedagon Pagoda. Considered one of the wonders of the religious world, the magnificent Shwedagon rises majestically over Singuttara Hill to the north of central Yangon, casting its golden gleam over the low-lying capital. This 2,500-years old structure, which contains the relics of four Buddhas, is the guardian temple of Yangon and the most sacred site for the people of Myanmar.
Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is an excellent landmark. It is said to be over 2,000 years old and contains a hair given by the Buddha to two Burmese merchants. Located on a roundabout in downtown Yangon. The golden pagoda is unusual in that its octagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl. It is surrounded by small shops and all the familiar non-religious services such as of astrologists, palmists, and so on.
Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market)
Bogyoke Aung San Market is situated in the heart of Yangon, on Bogyoke Aung San Road. The market was first built and inaugurated on the present premises in 1926. It was named Scott Market after Mr. C. Scott, the then Municipal Commissioner. Nowadays, it is called Bogyoke Aung San Market in honor of our national leader General Aung San. 
It is known for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets. The Bogyoke Zay, as it is commonly known, is the most popular tourist destination for shopping in Yangon. It has the largest selection of Myanmar souvenirs you can find under one roof. You can buy a variety of interesting Myanmar lacquerware, gems and jewellery at this market.
Maelamu Pagoda
Mae Lamu means Maid of the Mangrove. There was a legendary saying about this Pagoda. It was said that a hermit once came upon a mangrove tree bearing an abnormally large bud which he took to his retreat and it later produced a girl child. The child was nurtured and brought up by the hermit who named her Mae Lamu on account of her being born of a mangrove fruit. She grew up into a beautiful woman and Sakka (or the Indra), monarch of the celestial divinities, fell in love with her. After asking for her hand in marriage from the hermit, the lord of the celestial gods fathered a child who, it was said eventually became King of Okkalapa, the name by which Yangon had been referred to in the remote past. Representations of the Maid of the Mangrove and her heavenly suitor can be seen at the southwest corner of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

One of the best places to visit in Asia is Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Nature lovers will appreciate the city’s stunning lakes, shady parks and verdant tropical trees. These are the reasons why it is dubbed ‘The Garden City of the East’. However, Yangon has more to offer than impressive scenery. This city is a melting pot—a diversity of cultures and communities in terms of people, settlement and religions. Because it serves as the country's main entrance and seaport, it is also the country’s centre of business. Yangon was founded in 1755 by King Alaungpaya; he established Yangon on the location of a small town named Dagon when he dominated the lower part of Myanmar. He was the one who gave the name Yangon, meaning ‘End of Strife’. In 1885, the name was anglicised as Rangoon when the British annexed the country. Yangon is a city that balances tradition, culture and modernity, making it a must-see for anyone who wants to see a different side of Asia.

ATTRACTIONS

There are many different attractions to see and experience in Yangon. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find many places of interest which will keep them busy for many days. These include places of a spiritual nature, green parks and gardens, and museums that provide an insight into the rich history and culture of Myanmar. We have listed some of the more popular attractions in the city, along with some attractions that may be lesser known and less visited, but may also be of interest.
Aung San Suu Kyi's House in Yangon Yangon 
Until her release from house arrest in November 2010, anyone who wished to see Aung San Suu Kyi's house did so from the the other side of the Inya Lake, from a distance of 300 metres. All you could see then was the back of this crumbling colonial style mansion, shaded by a large tree. The front of the house on University Avenue was barricaded and guarded by security police. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and leader of the National League of Democracy was put under house arrest here off and on for 15 years since 1989. Subject to international pressure, the Burmese ruling military junta agreed to release Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010.
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
It is said that no visit to Myanmar is complete without a trip to Shwedagon Pagoda. Considered one of the wonders of the religious world, the magnificent Shwedagon rises majestically over Singuttara Hill to the north of central Yangon, casting its golden gleam over the low-lying capital. This 2,500-years old structure, which contains the relics of four Buddhas, is the guardian temple of Yangon and the most sacred site for the people of Myanmar.
Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is an excellent landmark. It is said to be over 2,000 years old and contains a hair given by the Buddha to two Burmese merchants. Located on a roundabout in downtown Yangon. The golden pagoda is unusual in that its octagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl. It is surrounded by small shops and all the familiar non-religious services such as of astrologists, palmists, and so on.
Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market)
Bogyoke Aung San Market is situated in the heart of Yangon, on Bogyoke Aung San Road. The market was first built and inaugurated on the present premises in 1926. It was named Scott Market after Mr. C. Scott, the then Municipal Commissioner. Nowadays, it is called Bogyoke Aung San Market in honor of our national leader General Aung San. 
It is known for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets. The Bogyoke Zay, as it is commonly known, is the most popular tourist destination for shopping in Yangon. It has the largest selection of Myanmar souvenirs you can find under one roof. You can buy a variety of interesting Myanmar lacquerware, gems and jewellery at this market.
Maelamu Pagoda
Mae Lamu means Maid of the Mangrove. There was a legendary saying about this Pagoda. It was said that a hermit once came upon a mangrove tree bearing an abnormally large bud which he took to his retreat and it later produced a girl child. The child was nurtured and brought up by the hermit who named her Mae Lamu on account of her being born of a mangrove fruit. She grew up into a beautiful woman and Sakka (or the Indra), monarch of the celestial divinities, fell in love with her. After asking for her hand in marriage from the hermit, the lord of the celestial gods fathered a child who, it was said eventually became King of Okkalapa, the name by which Yangon had been referred to in the remote past. Representations of the Maid of the Mangrove and her heavenly suitor can be seen at the southwest corner of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Kabar Aye Pagoda (or) the World Peace Pagoda
Unlike other pagodas found all over the country, the Kabar Aye Pagoda was built in 1952, as it name implies, it is dedicated towards the realisation of global peace. The circular platform around the main stupa is enclosed in the manner of a cave-temple and there are five porches decorated in the traditional style of flamboyant arched pediments, lotus flowers, lotus buds and the swastika motif in carved stucco. In passing it might be pertinent to explain why and how the swastika came to be associated with Buddhism. As some dictionaries of the English language will point out, the origin of the term swastika is svastika from Sanskrit denoting "well being"-the device being associated with sun worship and veneration of the wheel originating with the ancient Aryans. To Buddhists however, it is in the context of its association with Dhammacakka (the Wheel of Law), the first sermon preached by the Buddha after attaining enlightenment, that this rotating wheel motif is employed on religious structures.
National Museum
The National Museum of Myanmar was founded in 1952 with its premises at what was once the Jubilee Hall. In 1970 the museum was moved to a more spacious building on Pansodan Street. But these premises were not originally constructed to house a museum. The present National Museum is located on Pyay Road in a splendid five-storey building constructed for the purpose in spacious and specially landscaped grounds. Priceless ancient artefacts, works of art and historic memorabilia are on display in 14 halls on four storeys. Three halls on the ground floor hold exhibits on the evolution the Myanmar script and alphabet, the Lion Throne Room and Ratanapon Period pieces.
Maelamu Pagoda 
Mae Lamu means Maid of the Mangrove. There was a legendary saying about this Pagoda. It was said that a hermit once came upon a mangrove tree bearing an abnormally large bud which he took to his retreat and it later produced a girl child. The child was nurtured and brought up by the hermit who named her Mae Lamu on account of her being born of a mangrove fruit. She grew up into a beautiful woman and Sakka (or the Indra), monarch of the celestial divinities, fell in love with her. After asking for her hand in marriage from the hermit, the lord of the celestial gods fathered a child who, it was said eventually became King of Okkalapa, the name by which Yangon had been referred to in the remote past. Representations of the Maid of the Mangrove and her heavenly suitor can be seen at the southwest corner of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
In 1959, during the clearing of land near the Ngamoeyeik tidal stream as part of the programme in setting up the new township of North Okkalapa, the stump of a ruined pagoda overgrown by a hardwood tree was revealed. Eventually a donor materialized who built a new pagoda at this site. As the ruins were being cleared before the construction of the new pagoda, a casket bearing a figurine of a woman was recovered from the reliquary of the ruined pagoda. The figurine was said to resemble the Mae Lamu statue on the Shwedagon Pagoda exactly and in the light of the legendary association of a crocodile named Ngamoeyeik involved in the legend of King Okkalapa with the location of the ruined pagoda by the Ngamoeyeik stream, the shrine came to be known as Mae Lamu Pagoda. A stylized fruit of the mangrove is also featured in the construction of the pagoda. There is also an image of the reclining Buddha and clustered around these Main edifices are compositions in stucco of various episodes in the life of the Buddha.
Kyaiktiyo: Golden Rock Pagoda near Yangon
Another wonder of Buddhist monuments, Kyaiktiyo or the Golden Rock Pagoda, which precariously hangs over a cliff edge 1,100 metres above sea level, defying all laws of gravity, is not to be missed by any visitor to Myanmar. Located 180km south of Yangon in the town of same name, Kyaiktiyo is regarded as one of sacred sites that any devout Myanmar must visit once in their lifetime. The rock itself is 5.5 metres high and is topped by a small pagoda or zedi. It is covered in gold leaf and, like any other Buddhist monument in Myanmar, contains a hair relic of Buddha Gautama.
Any geologist will explain the Kyaiktiyo phenomenon as a volcanic accident, but to the local people this is a work of the force that is larger than life, a miracle of Buddha himself that keeps the rock up. Legend relates the story of a yogi who, after having been given a hair strand of the Buddha, was looking for a stupa to contain it. As he lived in the wild, this proved almost impossible. The task was taken over by Indra, the supreme Hindu god, who found a suitable rock under the ocean and deposited it on Paung Laung hill. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is located in a town of the same name, 180km east of Yangon. A 4-5 hour car journey will take you to the Kinpun base camp where visitors ride in a small open top truck along the windy road a further eight kilometres (it takes about 30 minutes). From here, either hike up another two kilometres (about 45 minutes), or ride a sedan chair, which should cost about US$ 25 one way. As this is quite a long journey, this is probably not a day-trip outing. Spend a night in one of the agreeable hotels up in the hills so you can soak up the atmosphere while watching worshippers come and go. The view at the top is spectacular, especially at sunrise or sunset. Opening Hours: All year round, best time to visit is in the dry season from October to April Location: Kyaikto in Mon State, 180km east of Yangon, via Bago.

HISTORY

The name ‘Yangon’ is a combination of the words yan [enemies] and koun [run out of]. It has also been translated as ‘the end of strife’. The name Rangoon came from the British pronunciation of Yangon. In the early 11th century (1028–1043CE) the Mon dominated Lower Burma. Yangon was a small Mon fishing village centred on the Shwedagon Paya, and was called Dagon. However, King Alaungpaya conquered Dagon in 1755, renamed it Yangon. The British captured Yangon during the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–26, but it was returned to Burmese administration after the war. Then the British again seized Yangon, and all of Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, and established Yangon as the political and commercial center of British Burma. The British laid out the new city on a grid plan constructed on a delta, with the Pazundaung Creek on the east, and the Yangon River on the west.

Colonial Period 
In the 1890s, the increasing population and flourishing commerce gave rise to the affluent residential suburbs to the north of Royal Lake Kandawgyi and around Inya Lake. During the colonial period, the British also established hospitals and universities, and Yangon was a mix of colonial buildings and traditional Burmese wooden architecture, with spacious parks with lakes. It is said that by the early 20th century, the infrastructure and public services of Yangon were comparable to those of London. Yangon was known as ‘the garden city of the East.’

Modern Era 
After World War I, Yangon became the centre of the Burmese independence movement. In 1920, 1936 and 1938 there were nationwide strikes protesting against British colonial rule which started in Yangon. During World War II, Yangon was under Japanese occupation, and was heavily damaged during the war. The city was retaken by the Allies in May 1945 at the end of the war. Yangon became the capital of the Union of Burma on January 4, 1948 when the country became independent from the British. In the 1990s as the government began to allow private investment, and there was a construction boom with new high-rise buildings being constructed in the city. In 2005 the political capital of Myanmar was moved to Naypyidaw about 230 miles north of Yangon.

Yangon Today 
Yangon is a pleasant city with wide, tree-lined avenues. It is the largest city in Myanmar, and is the country's spiritual, cultural, and business centre, and is where many of the country’s pagodas and temples can be found. The city is a mix of diverse peoples, cultures, and religions, and is a blend of British, Burmese, Chinese and South Asian influences. The atmosphere of Yangon is that of a typical Southeast Asian city, but unlike other Asian capitals, it has not yet been overtaken by rampant development. Due to its slow growth, it still retains much of its colonial architecture, although much of it has fallen into disrepair, and is decaying due to lack of upkeep. Yangon is a unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital where men and women still wear the traditional lon-gyi, and street vendors, and the sights and sounds evoke an Asian city of the past. It is a city with a population of over five million people, but it is developing slowly. Even though it is a busy and bustling city, it still retains some of the charm of a bygone era.

THINGS TO KNOW

Because each place is different in term of practices and customs, it is necessary for tourists to know the do's and don'ts in their chosen destination. 
In the city of Yangon, there are some cultural rules that should be strictly followed, especially when it comes to visiting pagodas and interacting with monks. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, and 98% of the population consists of practicing Buddhists. Spirituality is very important to the people of Myanmar, and they treat their elders and monks with great respect. Visitors should respect religious custom when visiting Buddhist religious sites, and interacting with monks. The customs and traditions of Myanmar are very similar to those of other Southeast Asian countries. Below are a few Dos and Don’ts to help make your trip more enjoyable. 
Religion

  • At religious sites, always remove your footwear and socks 
  • Dress modestly when visiting a paya 
  • Treat Buddhist images with respect 
  • Avoid shouting or laughing 
  • Be discrete when taking photos or video
  • Don’t point your feet toward a paya or a monk
  • Don’t play loud music in these areas. Note that Buddhist monks are not allowed to listen to music 
  • Do not put Buddha statues or images on the floor, or in an inappropriate place
  • Show respect to monks, nuns, and novices
  • Don’t offer to shake hands with monks 
  • Sit in a lower position than monks and elders 
  • Don’t offer food to a monk, nun, or novice after noon time 
  • Women should not touch monks 
  • If there is no admission fee to a paya, you may leave a donation 

Customs 

  • Footwear should also be removed when visiting a private home 
  • It is not always necessary to shake hands 
  • Public displays of affection are frowned upon 
  • Avoid touching an adult on the head 
  • It is considered rude to step over any part of a person
  • Accept or give things with your right hand, or both hands

Travel Tips

  • Most public bathrooms do not have toilet paper. Carry tissue with you 
  • Don’t leave expensive items in your room. Use the safe deposit box 
  • Drink only bottled water, or unopened drinks 
  • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance is advisable, and should include emergency air evacuation, and should cover the activities you will participate in 

Safety 
Crimes against tourists are taken very seriously here, and Yangon is actually one of the safest big cities in the world. Most visitors, including female travelers, will not have any problems. Carrying large sums of money, and even walking down dark streets at night, is rarely a problem. However, there have been isolated incidents involving tourists. It is best to let common sense be your guide, and take the precautions you would take in any big-city. Always be aware of your surroundings, and never leave valuables unattended. 

Health Care 
The state of health care in Yangon is not up to the standards of even other Asian countries. Public hospitals including the Yangon General Hospital lack many of the basic facilities and equipment one would expect to find in a hospital. Private clinics and hospitals have the best medical facilities, and internationally trained doctors, but are quite expensive. For minor illnesses and injuries, your hotel can give information about private doctors with experience treating foreigners, or your embassy may be able to recommend a doctor or clinic. However, for any serious illness or injury, you will need to go to Bangkok or Singapore for treatment. 

  • Water – Do not drink tap water. Drink bottled water only. 
  • Disease – You can prevent most common illnesses by using common sense, and they can be easily treated with medicine. Infectious diseases are rarely a problem for visitors here. 
  • First-Aid Kit –Bring a small medical first-aid kit to treat minor illnesses and injuries. 
  • Vaccinations – Before you go, consult your physician or health clinic for vaccinations you need based on your medical condition, and health history. 
  • Medication – You should bring a supply of prescription medications you are taking. Specialized medications may not be available here, and over-the-counter medication may be of dubious quality. 

Money
The currency of Myanmar is the Kyat (pronounced like ‘chat’). The exchange rate for the Kyat is somewhere around 800 to 900 Kyat to one US dollar. The Kyat comes in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 denomination notes. There are NO coins. The Kyat is the only official currency of Myanmar, but most hotels quote prices in US dollars, and some businesses accept dollars. Also, entrance fees to various attractions; paya, museums, etc. are in US dollars. In fact, some places may not even accept Kyat. You will need to always have an amount of dollars with you. Also, be sure you have dollar bills in good condition, and preferably new bills. US dollar bills that are badly used, old, torn, dirty, written on, or heavily creased may not be accepted. In Myanmar they seem to be pretty picky about this. Note: Visitors are no longer required for to bring a certain amount of money, and it is not required to exchange money into FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificate). 

Exchanging Money 
It is actually illegal to exchange money except at the Currency Exchange Centre, and at government approved exchange banks. Unfortunately, government approved exchange banks are not convenient, and do not offer favorable exchange rates. However, some hotels can exchange money. It is said that the best place to change money is at the Bogyoke Aung San Market. However, the money changers around the Sule Paya are notorious for cheating, and should be avoided. When you exchange money at private money changers, you do so at your own risk. There is an official currency exchange counter in the arrival hall at the airport, but the exchange rate is quite low. It may be best to just exchange the money you need right away, and exchange more money when you get to town. Note: The Myanmar Kyat is not convertible outside the country. 

ATMs & Credit Cards
Currently there are NO ATMs that can be used for international transactions. In spite of recent events, Myanmar is still a very cash-based society, and presently very few places accept credit cards. Note: Visitors should bring enough cash for their entire trip. 

Mobile Phones / SIM Cards 
As of now, tourists can buy SIM Cards with one-month validity at shopping centres for about 50,000 kyat. Outgoing calls are 300 kyat per minute, and incoming calls are 50 kyat per minute. There are only a few shops in Yangon that sell these SIM cards, but your hotel may be able to assist you.

Internet 
Internet access has improved greatly in recent years, and there are now quite a few internet shops in Yangon. Rates are not expensive, but speeds are still slow at times. Most hotels offer internet access. There is still some censorship of the internet by the government, and sites like Yahoo! and Gmail may not always work, but most places know how to get around this. The rate is around 400 to 600 kyat per hour. For those with a laptop, some cafés and restaurant offer free Wi-Fi. 

Time 
Myanmar is 6 1/2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. 

Gay Travel 
Under the law, homosexuality is illegal in Myanmar. But gay travelers do not seem to be harassed, and do not have any special problems. But as previously mentioned, public displays of affection, whether straight or gay, are not acceptable, and restraint is well advised. 

Drugs 
Drug trafficking is taken very seriously, and the penalty for drug trafficking ranges from a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, to the death penalty. 

Business Hours 
Private businesses and government offices in Yangon are generally open from 09:00 to 17:00. Government offices use any excuse to close, and they do have a lot of holidays, but they are not closed for lunch.


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