Where to go in Myanmar YangonTo where in Myanmar Yangon?
Things to see in Myanmar's largest city
Myanmar's former capitol, Yangon (or Rangoon), is still the country's biggest town and an important business and culture centre. Compared to Bagan, Mandalay or the remainder of Myanmar, Yangon seems to be a truly contemporary, richly varied culture with over 5 million people. Though the town is vast, you can see a great deal in just one single working days - the most spectacular sites and attractions (such as the Shwedagon Pagoda or the Sule Pagoda) are within easy Walk.
The majority of travellers jump over Yangon and go directly to Mandalay instead - the town that has the more "old Burmese" look and is the gate to the renowned antique site with its thousand temple - Bagan (I have described it here). I' ve come by night coach from Bagan to Yangon - you can also take the rail, which is supposed to be a true adventur.
- If you are warned not to use the night busses due to roads. Aside from the usual Asian tangle of wires, Yangon seemed quite well organised compared to other towns in the area. The chaotic market was quite beautiful, at least along Sule Pagoda Rd - where we began our watch out.
Though less widespread in Yangon than in the remainder of the land - don't be amazed if you see someone spit out a little betelnut - a favourite Myanmar stimulator (just like booze or cigarettes). I wrote more about it in the mail about the journey to the Golden Rock Pagoda.
Yangon architectural design is a messy mixture of contemporary glazed high-rises, broken down colored houses, China influence, church and Myanmar pagoda. You' ll see all this when you walk along Sule Pagoda Road - right behind Sule Pagode is a plaza with Yangon City Hall, Immanuel Baptist Church on one side and high-rises on the other.
Nearby, on the way to the most popular Shwegadon Pagoda, on Bo Gyoke Road, you will see the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. The Sule Pagode is situated at the traffic circle in the Sule Pagoda Road. One can see it from a distance when one approaches it.
The Sule Pagoda (ca. 500 B.C.) is quite small, and although it is beautiful, it does not have this wow fact - compared to other shrines that you will see soon. It was built on the site of Sulatara - a mighty ghost (nat) who assisted in identifying the site where holy relicts of former Buddhas had been entombed.
As a result, the Nath Emperor was able to build a sanctuary for the holy Buddha's head, which must have been erected on the site where earlier relic had been placed. Sule Pagode is also an important Myanmar policy centre - the 1988 rebellion and the 2007 revolutions took place here.
Follow Sule Pagoda Road, turn lefthand onto Bo Gyoke Road, then right onto Holy Trinity Catholic Church and you will end up on Shwegadon Pagoda Road. Soon you will see the most beloved travel stop in Yangon - the Shwegadon Pagoda itself. Before arriving there, however, you' ll need to go to the Maha Wizaya Pagoda - a wonderful sanctuary, much quieter than Shwegadon, set in the midst of forests and ponds.
Compared to all other maha wizaya seems to be brandnew - not finished until 1980. Harboring the holy relicts of the King of Nepal. The Shwegadon Pagoda is situated right next to the Maha Wizaya Pagoda. It is one of the most important symbols not only of Yangon, but also of Myanmar.
In the view of most scholars, it was finished in the sixth century ( "although according to tradition it is more than 2600 years old - and you can find this date on the leaflets) and is the holiest Buddhist sanctuary in Myanmar - it contains the remains of the four former Buddhas of today's Calpa (period between creating and restoring the universe).
According to tradition, around 600 BC two Myanmar Brother Tapussa and Bhallika were given eight wisps of Buddha's head as a present from the illuminated Guatama Buddha of India to offer him gingerbread. Later, the bristles were to be anchored in the birthplace of the two brethren - Occalapa, today's Yangon.
The Shwegadonagoda was built to house the holy relic. When you enter the cloakroom you will get a brochure with all information and a site plan. Unfortunately, when I visited the Shwegadon pit, the central pupa was restored (as you can see on the photos). It' a must when you're in Yangon.
It' situated west of the Shwegadon Pagoda and is quite big. Don't be amazed if some young folks ask for a picture with you - Myanmar with the not so touristic except Bagan - sometimes you are feeling like a celeb! Across the lakeshore is the Karaweik Hall - the castle in the form of a barges drawn by two gold-bowls - it is a wonderful place, but it is a long stroll away from the Shwegadon Pagoda, as you have to go along the winding water.
The Golden Rock Pagoda (Kyaiktiyo) is also a well-known Myanmar symbol, but unexpectedly you won't find many westerly people there. It is about 200 km (125 miles) from Yangon. This can be done either on a privately booked trip, which can be costly, or, if you want to see the true Myanmar, by Burma mad transportation.
This could all be a bit intricate, so if you want to see the pit stop, please see my article about the journey to Golden Rock from Yangon.