Land of the Golden Pagodas. With a moniker like that, it is no wonder Myanmar has been gaining ground in tourism in the recent years. And no other city best fits this claim than Yangon, the primary gateway into the country.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Yangon.
Myanmar’s commercial and religious center, high-rise residential and commercial buildings stand side by side with the city’s gilded Buddhist temples. For most tourists though, Yangon serves only as the launch pad to other places in Myanmar, like Bagan – to see the hot air balloons floating over its 2200 Buddhist temples – or the Inle Lake – to catch some wicked gravity-defying fishing tricks. But in fact, there are already plenty of places to go and things to do in Yangon.
Related article: Here’s the list of cheap backpacker’s hostels in Myanmar.
1. Order Burmese food straight from the menu at the Feel Myanmar Food
Eating the local food is an integral part of any trip, but it can be a daunting task if you have no idea what it involves. In Yangon, the restaurant Feel Myanmar Food is very popular among both locals and foreigners and will be the top-of-mind destination for taxi drivers whose clients are looking for some local grub. There is the option to dine indoors or al fresco, where tables and chairs are set up along the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, ordering can be done at the counter where food is laid out in chafing dishes, or by using the menu. For your first Burmese food experience, order from the menu and see what they bring out.
2. Visit the National Museum
The National Museum of Yangon is just next door to Feel Myanmar Food. Make it your first stop and get your introduction to Burmese culture and history. Five stories high and filled with artifacts from all across the country, the museum’s main attraction is the enormous 150-year-old gilded Lion Throne. Too bad, taking photos is strictly prohibited inside the museum.
3. Pour water at the solar stations at the Shwedagon Pagoda
The 326-feet gilded Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist Temple in all of Myanmar and is enormous enough to take all the credit for making the country a golden one. Enshrining the relics of four Buddhas who obtained enlightenment, it receives thousands of pilgrims yearly from all over Myanmar. On its platform are twelve astrological posts that represent the planets. Although this concept is of Hindu origin, Buddhist devotees would pour water over the post labeled with the day when they were born for a wish to be granted.
4. Watch the 76-carat diamond of the Shwedagon Pagoda change colors
The best time to check out the massive temple is around sunset. The 14-acre terrace surrounding the temple complex would be bathed in a golden glow, as the light from the setting sun and the lampposts would bounce off the surface of every golden pagoda. To top it all, the 76-carat diamond at the peak of the Shwedagon Pagoda would be like a twinkling star, changing color depending on the angle of the observer.
5. Have dinner at China Town
China Town, night life central in downtown Yangon, is where people hang out to meet friends and family to drink or just to have dinner. Restaurants line up the streets, and the most popular food would be the sticks and sticks of barbeques of all types. Chicken, pork, seafood and even vegetables are skewered and then grilled. Pair them up with rice, and you’d be having one of the best meals in Yangon.
6. Run around the Kandawgyi Lake
With a circumference of 8 kilometers, the man-made Kandawgyi Lake is a good venue for your morning or afternoon jog. Surrounded by the Kandawgyi Nature Park, the lake is a tranquil place in the mornings and afternoons. It is also a good place to chill in the evenings for there are plenty of restaurants, some even featuring shows of the local dances.
7. Have lunch at the Inya Lake
The Inya Lake is the bigger man-made lake of Yangon. Like the Kandawgyi Lake, it is very clean, and the serene scenery is a good reprieve from the unforgiving heat of the sun. It is also a very popular dating spot in the city (you will get this after reading the signs posted around the Inya Lake Park). Although most of the area surrounding the lake is surrounded by exclusive neighborhoods, public access is possible on one side of it where a row of restaurants and a bay walk for joggers are located.
8. Receive blessings from a monk
Monks are a common sight while in Yangon, and it is not difficult to receive a blessing from one, especially while inside the temples. Not a Buddhist? No problem. The monks don’t mind; they would still bless you. Catch one at the Botataung Pagoda while touring the golden interiors of the temple.
9. Have a Burmese massage.
Burmese massage entails having parts of your body squeezed, slapped and pounded alternately. It is surprisingly invigorating and very effective in relieving the soreness of your feet after hours of walking barefoot around pagodas. A good thing too about this massage is that it is dry, no post-massage stickiness, and there is no need to go au naturel. The Burmese massage at the Sapel Traditional Burmese Foot Spa offers different affordable packages according to your budget and needs.
10. Wear a Thanaka
Thanaka, the Burmese women’s beauty secret. It is made up of the yellowish powder from the bark of several trees, ground on a circular stone slab called the “kyauk pyin” and sprinkled with a few drops of water. It acts as a natural sunblock, and it also dries pimples fast. Wear it plain like a circle on the cheek or get crazy creative and come up with your designs, too.
11. Make friends with a local and treat them to a meal
As a budding tourist destination, some locals are very eager to learn and practice English. And being the friendly people that they are, it would not be surprising if a local would hang around you just wanting to chat. Be wary of course, but try it; even if it’s just the taxi driver from your city tour, treat him to a meal and see what comes out of it.
Bonus: If you’re a guy, walk around in a Longyi
The Longyi /’long-gee/ is the national skirt-like costume that Burmese men wear in Myanmar. It is the preferred school and work uniform, and especially on formal occasions. Walk around in one and see if you would experience a general change in your worldview.
About The Writer
Jayce Cairo is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a French translator to finance her various interests. She is into reading young adult fiction, running, swimming, surfing, yoga and eating every three hours. An avid traveler who fastidiously documents every detail of her adventures, she aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.
Follow her blog at chasingjayce.com.
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