Things To Do In Yangon
Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, is filled vastly with culture, history, the traditional pagodas and gold stupas that mesmerize people from around the world. Experience the traditional Burmese food, the exquisite and unique lifestyle. It is one of the less visited places in Southeast Asia since it changed from dictatorship to democracy. However, now people have started visiting Burma, especially since there have been changes on different levels for tourists. Just plan your trip properly and it can be amazing!
When to go:
If you wish to experience the best moments in this city with your family and friends, then you should try visiting during the months November to December. The climate is cool, dry and soothing. This allows tourists to enjoy outdoor activities with a pleasant weather. The hot climate from March to May and the monsoons from June to October are not the best time to visit. The high temperature of about 40 degrees makes it unendurable in the summer while in the monsoons, due to its location it receives heavy rainfall making it impossible to go outdoors.
Known for its festivals, there’s a festival almost every month. The two unique ones include the Thingyan Water festival which is celebrated in the month of April. Water is splashed onto passersby’s through water pipes and this is considered of purifying one’s sins. The second one is the Shwedagon festival which is the biggest pagoda festival in Myanmar.
Keep on reading for the top things to do while in Yangon…
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This is the most visited site in Yangon and is famous for its glittering light when sunlight falls upon it. Rudyard Kipling, the known author, called it a ‘beautiful winking wonder.’ The construction of the pagoda began somewhere in the 11th century however, the current structure dates back to 1769. For the best photographic view go at twilight and watch the golden light being emitted from the sight and watch the thousands of Buddhas glistening. This is the place where you will find everything smothered and covered in gold, be it a bell or decorations.
You take your shoes off at one point and walk to explore the rest. Shwedagon pagoda is not just one temple, but hundreds of them clustered together and this is the highest point in Yangon from where you get a beautiful sight. Interacting with monks and other religious people inside the temples is another part of this tour inside the pagoda. You can even get a tour guide inside who will explain history as you stroll around and show the history engraved on the walls inside the temple. Get a spiritual experience at this marvelous place.
Htwe Oo Myanmar
This is one of the most unique places to go to in Yangon. A display of cultural and traditional heritage through the art of puppetry is the attraction here. You can even learn it if you have extra time on your hand! A minimum of two people and a maximum of 12 people are allowed to attend through booking which should take place at least a day before. Even something about four hours earlier can be managed.
This is one of the best ways to understand the history, the people and the culture which you are mingling with. You can get a chance to go backstage and personally get to know the puppeteers who will tell you the history of the puppet show itself. This is a highly educating trip, especially for children as well as for adults as it provides more insight into the culture and traditions of Myanmar. Book a show for yourself right now and go enjoy the real Myanmar.
Yangon Circular Train
This is the best way to see all of Yangon in one day. Start off with the paddy fields with the locals and the local markets packed with people and actual fruit, vegetable vendors. This is a real look at the life in Yangon. Children playing along the track. The locals going about with their daily routine. Take a camera along and take snaps of this busy life and the colorful life. Get off at the water villages and ignite your adventurous spirit. You’ll have to pay more as a foreigner, but it still is not expensive and is worth the experience. So head out to the office and get your tickets!
Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar
This is the resting place of the last Mughal Emperor of India. The head priest there will give you a tour and show the graves of his wife and his sons. The grave of the emperor being on a lower level was found much later in the 19th century.
Poetry by the dying emperor in his dying days is also displayed in the tomb. For those interested in this site is a must visit as it gives you the spiritual lift and takes you back to the days of disdain of the Indian emperor. The caretaker will ask you for a donation for the upkeep of the tomb and it’s up to you how much to contribute.
Memorial to the Forgotten War
Also known as the Taukkyan War Cemetery which is named after the village of Taukkyan and is located 35 kilometers from the Yangon city. This is the resting place of 27000 soldiers from the Commonwealth who gave their lives in campaigns. This cemetery, the place of unidentified soldiers was inaugurated in 1958 after which it was open for the public to visit. It is one of the 3 largest war cemeteries in Myanmar. The construction began in 1951 to make divisions for martyrs from 4 wars of Sahmaw, Meuktila, Mandalay and Akyab.
The graves of these soldiers are preserved separately to commemorate the wars and their heroes in the Chindit cemetery. These cemeteries also include soldiers who died during the Commonwealth in World War I and II. This is a moving place to go to as people belonging to different nationalities live in together in one place, fighting for one Burma. A sober sightseeing point, but quite worth a visit.
The Karaweik Hall also called the Karaweik Palace is one of the most famous landmarks of Yangon. From far away it looks like a golden barge floating on the water of Kandawgyi Lake in the shining sun. At night the palace lights up with spotlights with the golden stupa reflecting in the water creating a scenic view. The palace is actually a concrete structure which looks like two huge golden birds with a multi tier style roof which a traditionally Burmese. The Karaweik is a bird from the Burmese mythology and is recreated as the prow of this structure.
A golden ball hangs from its beak. The back is the tail of the Karaweik bird. Completed in 1974, this structure was based upon Pyi Gyi Mon Royal Barge which was used to travel around by the Burmese kings. Inside this beautiful building you will find theatres, buffet halls, restaurants, conference rooms and reception halls. Enjoy the variety of Chinese, Burmese and Western food while watching Burmese entertainment. These include dances, puppet shows and elephant dances and can last up to 3 hours. This amazing place is a must visit for any tourist as it really is a once in a lifetime experience.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Quite contrasting to the traditional buildings located in the city this structure is beautiful and leaves one in awe. The vaulted ceiling and stained glass are the sight of any world class cathedral. In the land of Buddhism this cathedral shows support and respect to other religions in the world. The red and white bricks are the beauty of the exterior with statues located here and there around the garden. However, it is open on specific timings and you can attend masses inside it. The chapel in the grounds is open at all times where one can sit in solace and calm while reflecting on their lives; one of the religious sites which one should definitely visit.
On the Naga Hlainggu Hillock are the oldest stupas and pagodas from the earliest Buddhist period. The grounds here were radiated to find ancient tablets and objects which were then excavated to be enshrined in a new pagoda. This land covers more than 17 acres of land and is the second largest hillock in Yangon.
The visitors are happy to see the greenery surrounding the place with monks and nuns teaching happily both religious studies as well as modern studies. Nuns and monks can find lodging here if they continue to pursue secular and religious studies here. Take a trip down here and discover the aura of true Buddhism.
Kaba Aye Paya
This is a different place for anyone to visit. Colorful and bright from the inside, with places to hold Buddhist ceremonies inside for the locals. The peaceful atmosphere inside adds to the beauty. This pagoda is quite large with a high ceiling which has a painting of Buddha on it at the main entrance and is used for praying purposes. Around the pagoda there are a few trees and a cave which is used for large Buddhist meetings.
It has a high ceiling too with Burmese art decoration all around with a theatre style sitting making this place strange yet amusing. A little at its back is a small pond which breeds catfish and people go there to feed them bread and buy merit since it is located in the surroundings of the Buddhist university. The Buddha figures and relics both outside and inside the building are from across the world and noticing the different characteristics in each of them is amusing itself.
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
This building dating back to 1896 is the only Jewish temple that remains in the city. A plaque at the entrance states that the stone building was built during 1893-1896 and actually was a replacement to the wooden structure of 1854 which was the actual foundation and building. It serves about 45 Jews in the country who are mostly descendants of the Sephardic Jews of Iraq.
This is a unique place to go since it is the only Jewish temple left in Burma especially after the war that took place in the country after which the army took over. A contrast in the middle of the Buddhist community and streets filled with Indian and Muslim shops this building is a relic from history and must be visited for a totally different experience within Burma.
ACL Travels: Day Tour in Yangon
Yangon Sightseeing day tour is an excellent opportunity to go through the entire city which includes exploring the Heritage Buildings and other historic sites of the city along with a cruise across the Yangon River. The tour guides are highly friendly and have rich information about the local culture, traditions and history.
This tour of the city includes activities for children and adults on various levels. Moreover, it is the best way to go on a journey of the city of Yangon and thrive in the rich history the city has to hold. Food is provided and available. This is the most convenient way to travel through Yangon and learn more about the city.
Bogyoke Aung San Museum
This museum, established in 1962 is dedicated to General Aung San, who was the founder of modern Burma. The building was previously Aung San’s house before his assassination in 1947. It is a two storey villa built in the colonial era in 1921. The museum focuses on General Aung San’s short adult life and exhibits his life story and memorabilia which includes his clothes, books, furniture his car and even his photos. However, you are not allowed to take any pictures inside the building. One feels emotional once inside the building and once going through the displays of the relics from General Aung San’s life.
The ground floor displays photos and speeches from his life, photos of various political meetings along with other personal items such as his letters to his wife, his lighter with his name etched on to it and his ashtray. The second floor consists of his bedroom, his children’s bedroom, a library and a meeting room, each with mementos of his life displayed there. The garden of the house has a bronze statue of Aung San doing gardening and a swimming pool where his son drowned. If you are interested in history then this place is a must visit filled with beautiful teak furniture and the original things from the life of Aung San.
Maha Wizaya Pagoda
This is a relatively new structure compare to the other famous pagodas and was built in 1980 with both traditional and mixed elements combined in its architecture. It stands opposite to the Shwedagon pagoda on top of a small hill. It was built for the first assembling of Theravada Buddhism in Burma and is paid for by donations from Buddhists across Burma. The umbrella shaped spire on top of the pagoda was donated by Ne Win who was the country’s head of state and military leader. Due to this, the pagoda is also known as the General’s Pagoda.
The most interesting part of this temple is the stupa in the center of the building. It is hollow and open to visitors unlike other pagodas and temples in Burma. In the main stupa there is a round room with a dome at the top. In the center there is a shrine of Buddhist relics which were gifted by the king of Nepal. The domed ceiling has paintings and depictions of various animals. There are also depictions of Buddhas meditating under a tree and another with an elephant kneeling down to him. The relic chamber is filled with images of Buddha. The entrance is guarded with Chinthes which are Burmese mythological lions. The Southern gate has a small building with a multi-tiered roof.
The Golden Rock
The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock is one of Burma’s most sacred sites. It is a huge boulder on the edge of a mountain which has a temple on top of it. This temple contains the hair of Buddha and is one of the important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. The rock which seems to be made of gold is actually granite covered by gold leaf by the devoted Buddhists of Burma. The rock is balanced so perfectly on the cliff and it looks like it can fall down in the valley at any moment. The area around the temple is covered with incense sticks and burning candles which are a beautiful sight.
The rock is said to be a place of worship for over 2600 years. This place has a mystical atmosphere and surrounding with the lights from the candles. Images of Buddha are also placed around the site. Make a visit to this enchanting place and soak the religious traditions of Burmese people.
The city of Yangon has indeed a lot to offer to the tourists who visit it. Let the golden lights from the Shwedagon mesmerize you and then take a journey on the circular train of Yangon. Take a step in the real culture of Burma and interact with friendly locals and try the traditional food from street vendors and then the Karaweik Palace. Enjoy this spiritual journey in the land of Buddha and make the most out of it.