Yangon Temples BurmaTemple Yangon Burma
inside Burma tours 24h in Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)
He is now often on the move as a free-lance travelling author, but fortunately he has taken the liberty of sharing his best 24h in Yangon. Myanmar is one of the most interesting but least valued places in Southeast Asia. Now, after a period of democracy reform, the town is carefully moving into the contemporary fashion scene, but still retains a lot of individuality, time-distorted charms and offers a unique insight into an old Asia that has largely disappeared from other megacities.
Walking through the old town center is an adventure in itself, its disintegrating street scenes from Colonies offer an unforgettable framework for an ecological piece of Myanmar-living. Stroll the roads and you will see many Yangonites on small wooden seats at the countless eating stands clogging the sidewalks of the town.
In between the buildings are jammed picturesque little temples and small mausoleums, and Crocodes of red-clad friars weaving between the intercourse, charity shells in the height. Only a few people miss the chance to see the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the largest Buddha temples in the whole wide globe, just a few minutes away from the town. His huge gold-plated stupa rises high above the town, glows with a lush gold glow during the afternoon and is brightly lit after nightfall.
Begin with the Sule Lagoon, whose shiny golden stupa emerges from the town' s dying center and gives Yangon' s inner town its most prominent symbol. The streets of the town seem to collapse here (as does much of the traffic), although nothing distracts from the magnificent panorama itself, which according to legends has preserved its own hair of the Buddha, which gleefully stands above the flocks of cars and the crowds whirling around its basis.
Hike eastwards from the pit stop along Mahabandoola Road past the extravagant 1924 Town Hall, whose urban austerity is softened by quaint Myanmar decoration. Southwards from here is the welcome verdant square of Mahabandoola Park Gardens, in the middle of which the city's obelisk-style memorial of liberation and the vast old colonial-era Supreme Court's reddish bricks rise to the west.
AYA Bank (now a subsidiary of AYA Bank), a kind of Myanmar Harrods and once the best shopping mall between Moscow and Melbourne. Follow Mahabandoola Road to get to the giant secretariat. The massive edifice that occupies an area to the south of the center was the former headquarters of Britain's government in Burma and the first parliamentary house in the post-religion.
This is where General Aung San, the architecture of Burma in 1947, was shot down. Since the 1962 war putsch, the enormous Louvre in Paris is now seriously run down, but still mighty impressing - a royal spirit of the ancient splendour of Rangoon-colonialism.
Take a southerly turn onto beautiful Bogalayzay Street to get to Strand Road, overlooking Yangon's rather run-down boardwalk - although the Yangon River itself is hidden behind a jumble of buildings, lorries, pedestals and canoes. Take a right turn (east) and drive along Strand Road to the magnificent old Strand Hotel, which opened in 1901 and is now back in its old five-star glory.
After crossing Pansodan Street, look out for the picturesque old customs house made of scarlet bricks overlooking the city. Head north onto Pansodan Street, the city's most impressive street, a wide avenue with a number of colonial-era attractions, such as Myanma Port Authority, the seashelled Inland Water Authority (once the home of the old Irrawaddy Flotilla Company) and, at the crossroads of Merchant Street, the chic Sofaer's Building, constructed in 1906 by Judean businessman Isaac Sofaer.
Sideways across the road, Rangoon Tea House is a great place for a meal or a beverage that serves an exquisite meal of Burma, India and China dishes in a stylish, contemporary setting. Follow Merchant St eastwards past the foot of Mahabandoola Gardens. Drive on for six thin streets and then turn right onto the small square named 29th St.
This is another classical through road from settlement times with a distinct sub-continental character, with beautiful structures, among them some temples in India and the disintegrating rooms of the old seagreen Bombay Burma Printing Company. Drive further to the end of the bloc and then turn westwards on Mahabandoola Road. Concealed on Alexandra Mahabandoola at the crossroads of Alexandra Mahabandoola, the easily missed Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue is one of Yangon's concealed gems and another reminder of its remarkable multi-cultural past.
It was home to commemorating thousand Jews from Iraq and India, drawn by the capital's heyday. Just south of here, the messy Theingyi Zei Square provides a remarkable piece of Burma's tradition with countless booths, sardine-proofed in a couple of old early 20th c. ed. malls.
Initially established by Gujarat merchants, the square still houses many tradesmen from India, especially on the northern side, near the Anawrahta Road, where the colorful little Sri Kali Hindu shrine is also located. The Bogyoke Tourist Markets a boulder away from here offer a completely different view of Myanmar's commercial scene, with literally a different moment in time, with literally a hundred high quality goldshops, gemstone stores and handicrafts in the impressive old Scott Markets build in 1926 by the British.
It is not the most genuine flavor of Myanmar living, but not to beat as a place to buy memorabilia. The best points of sale are Botun (at the back of the square next to the central alley), for old artifacts and collectors' items, Yangoods (right next to the front door), for colorful folk art that has been re-invented in a series of handbags, paintings and sorted bric-a-brac.
There is a funny group of unadorned cafes in a roofed patio on the western side of the square itself, or a few meters eastwards of Bogyoke Aung San Road to get to the trendy Bar Boon Cafe. Hop in a taxi and make the brief northbound journey to the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, the most impressive buddhistic pagoda in the underworld.
The huge gold-plated pagodaupa dominates the town' s skyline and towers high above the nearby outskirts like a huge gold beacon. It is an unmissable place at any hour of the morning or evening, but especially nice in the cold before and after sundown - when the stupa is splendidly lit.
Begin at the South Gate, where a long roofed stairway begins between a giant chinta (a kind of mythological beast somewhere between a beast and a dragon), and climb between colorful stands that sell sacrificed religions and various jewelry, with the palmist and astrologer bureaus in between.
Take a taxi back into the city and drive to 19nd St. in the centre of Yangon's pulsating Chinatown. After nightfall, the stripe comes to live, fringed with cafes and a dozen stands that serve a vast selection of China and Burma dishes, all rinsed with substantial amounts of beers.
This is a quintessence of Yangon road living and a great place to end the days. - See the temples of Chinatown, featuring beautiful Guanyin Gumiao and the even more extravagant Kheng Hock Keong, which faces the Yangon River and is devoted to Mazu, the deity of the North. - Marvel at the unforgettably large lying Buddha in the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda and the wonderfully ornamented sitting Buddha in the near Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda.
- Discover the impressive Botataung Pagoda in the east part of the centre. It is said that the giant Stupa contains bodily relicts of the Buddha himself. - Take the brief Yangon River cruise to the rural little Dalah - an exceptional scenic getaway just ten min from the bustling inner cities on the other side of the canal.
When Gavin's stories about gold towers in the Shwedagon Pagoda or the city centre of Yangon's colorful architectural style have been inspiring, take a look at our Best of Burma itinerary. Further high points are a shipwreck with sunsets on the Irrawaddy River and an excursion to Mandalay's old capital cities, convents and fortresses.