5 Things You Should Do in Yangon, Myanmar

After a friend ran into some issues obtaining her Myanmar Visa, I was forced to hang out in Yangon (former Rangoon) for longer than originally expected. It turned out being a blessing in disguise, as the city has a ton to see and take in. Without covering the obvious Schwedagon Pagoda etc., here are five not so obvious things I did, that you should too.

1. Run and Jump onto a Moving Local Bus


It would be practically impossible to visit Yangon without seeing a local bus navigating the grid that is downtown Yangon. Some must be closing in on 50 years of public service as they race by, spewing thick smog from their aged tailpipes. Each bus service is a tag team effort, the driver and what I like to call the screamer. As the bus passes by, a man hangs out the door yelling. What exactly he’s saying is beyond my basic “hello, thank you” grasp of the Burmese language, but I can take a gander that he’s basically replacing a sign that would normally post the buses destination for potential passengers. If it’s headed in the right direction, be quick, as they don’t stop for long. You literally must jump on without hesitation as your run up next to the bus or risk being left in its dust. Just 200 Kyat for the thrill ride.

2. Get lost in the Indian and Chinese Quarters
Looking for the best way to see Yangon? Just leave your hotel, start walking and head for the Indian and Chinese Quarters of the city. Don’t expect a quiet stroll through town. This place is loud, busy, dirty and screams authentic. Pay to use a satellite phone, eat some mystery meat at a food stall or just watch the newly purchased food get scaled alive. At first you may be curious why the concrete is permanently stained red, but it will some become quite obvious. If you were lucky enough to wear sandals, you’re sure to feel the splatter of betel nut spit hitting your feet, and that my friends, you cannot find back home.

3. Get a Draft Beer on 19th Street
After walking the streets of Yangon for the better part of the day, we were ready to take a seat and relax with a nice 600 Kyat draft of the local favorite, Myanmar Beer. Problem was, we didn’t know where this place would be found. Luckily a passing local gave us the lowdown on the best spot to find local watering holes, 19th Street. He claimed that the locals were in the know (not surprising), and that the Lonely Planet didn’t have a clue. “I know, I live here.” It was just as he described, with too many spots to choose from and nothing but locals blowing off some steam in sight.

4. Jump Off at a Random Stop on the Yangon Circle Line



For just $1, the Circle Line takes you on a whirlwind tour through the Yangon suburbs and surrounding countryside. You sit on the wooden benches with the locals who are moving about their daily lives, or maybe even moving their furniture (yea, that happened). There is no facade on this train as all faces of the real Yangon are revealed, from the lush green rice paddies, to the lines of brand new, unused military trucks, from the piles of discarded trash outlying slums, to its amazing pleasant and bustling markets. See something interesting, jump off at the next stop. Another train is on its way. If you’d rather not see or if the rain starts flying sideways, shut the metal shades and play with fire, aka eat from the mobile food vendors.

5. Watch the Sunset from the Top of Sakura Tower
You know 95% for the buildings look like they need a paint job from ground level, but what about from above. Head to the top of Sakura Tower, pay for a drink, and take in the city of Yangon from a bird’s perspective. You’ll be rewarded with a perfect view of the 2,000 year old Sule Pagoda, right smack in the center of everything. Keep scanning and you’ll see the even more impressive Shwedagon Pagoda over in the distance and the Yangon River creating the cities natural boundary.

26 thoughts on “5 Things You Should Do in Yangon, Myanmar

  1. man, i am definitely gonna use this blog as I am planning my 2 weeks trip to myanmar :)

    actually, if you don’t mind, could you contact me by email so I can ask you directly some questions that i may not find in the blog?

    Thanks

  2. thank you so much for all the info! is so helpful!
    only few more things,
    -can you recommend me a cheap hostel/guest house to stay in Yangon? ; dorm?
    -is there any public transport from the airport to the city?

    thanks again!
    with metta
    nat

    • I stayed at the Ocean Pearl which was one of the cheapest places in Yangon. Also, we booked ahead and got free pickup from the airport. Kill two birds with one stone.

      Another cheap option with airport pickup is the Motherland Inn 2

      • I googled the accos you mentioned: 20-25$ per night? I had no idea the rates would much higher than in Thailand.

        Great blog btw! Especially helpful because Myanmar is more challenging to travel than LOS or surrounding countries!

        • Yea, rates are definitely higher in Myanmar. I think it’s largely due to a lack of supply. It just doesn’t have the tourist infrastructure built up like Thailand has

  3. Hi, just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over breakfast on a Sunday morning! I’m off to Yangon on a business trip soon, so will be trying to squeeze in some of your ideas around work! Also loved your article on Singapore, where I currently live. Enjoy the rest of your trip – it’s inspiring, and makes me even more determined to do a round-the-world trip when the time eventually comes for me to move back to the UK!

  4. I’ll be going to yangon next month. Booked my stay at ocean pearl too. Would definitely go to the places u recommended.

    What about food?. Could you recommend on places or cafes to visit?

    Thanks!

    • Great! We had a good stay there. As far as food, we honestly ate at a lot of street food stalls and the restaurants on 19th street all look very similar/impossible to explain how to get there. So I’m afraid I won’t be of much help, but regardless good luck on your trip!

  5. Hi,

    Heading to Manymar for 2 weeks in a month. Looking at a 2 days in Yangon, fly to Bagan for 3 nights, boat trip to Mandaly (thinking this might take two days), 3 nights in Mandaly 3 nights in Inle Lake and then back to Yangon overnight ready for my departure flight. Does this sound like an ok plan. Are you able to tell me average cost per day during your trip? I am also a early 30′s female traveling solo, do you think it would be safe? Really appreciate any advice. Thanks J

  6. Your trip sounds fantastic! I’m off to myanmar next week, but sadly I only have 10 days. Trying to plan where to go within this time is really tricky. I really want to to do the kalaw to Inle trek, spend a couple of days at Inle, kalaw, Yangon. This means I may not have time to visit Bagan. Do you think I’d be mad to miss it? I’m not that into temples, but I hear its so amazing. Cheers.

    • Oh, that’s a tough call. I’d say you need to try to make it to Bagan. The place is amazing. Even if its just for one day it will be worth the trouble.

  7. Hi Phil nice to read ur info about Myanmar. I’m student and planning to travel Myanmar for 2 weeks. Thankfully I will stay in my friend house in yangon so I can cut my expenses,hehe. I still thinking if possible to make a way to ngapali beach during my trip there and Mrak U even though I heard the atmosphere there still not safe.

    Cheers, Happy traveling
    Nindy

    • That’s great that you have a place to stay in Yangon. That should save you a bundle. I like to couchsurf or stay with friends whenever possible. Hope you have a great trip!

  8. Thanks Phil. We arrived last night & put some of your advice into practice today. Loving it all, especially walking around the Indian quarter this evening in the drizzling rain. Authentic experience to say the least & it made the beer in 19th St. all the sweeter!

  9. Thanks Phil, your blog is helpfuI, will be traveling to Myanmar this February 2014 in a group of 10. We did not book accommodation in advance, do you think is alright to do this. Will be there for 15 days . Have not plan out how may days to be at a place and the the route to take to visit Mandalay, Bagan, Inlelake, Kalaw and Hispaw.oh yes we will fly in to Yangon. Will want to visit the golden rock too. Wats your suggestions.?

    Thanks.

    • Hey Patricia! Yangon was the only spot I’d recommend booking ahead of time if possible. Especially with a group of 10 as that’s a lot of spots for one hotel there. I did Yangon-Kalaw-Inle Lake-Bagan and was very satisfied with my trip. Probably could’ve fit in Mandalay if we traveled faster but also didn’t hear great things about the city so decided to pass on it. The Golden Rock is in the opposite direction so that might be a tough fit for only 15 days. Good luck!

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