September 2, 2014

Sightseeing in Yangon

We were in Myanmar in May and it was very hot then. Temps could go as high as 40 degrees Celsius so we would wake up early in the morning to sightsee while it was relatively cool and the light is softer, take an early lunch, have a siesta and resume sightseeing late in the afternoon just before sunset.  It helped that Myanmar is an hour and a half late to the Philippines and we took advantage of that time difference.

We spent a total of 3 nights and 3 days in Yangon and it was more than enough time to go around the city in a very leisurely pace. We napped a lot at middays or escaped the heat in room just reading a novel.

When we actually went out to explore, these were what we saw:

Shwedagon Pagoda
The grandest, most impressive and most sacred pagoda for the Burmese.  Over 2600 years old, the Shwedagon houses strands of Buddha’s hair. The actual pagoda is covered in gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with diamonds.  It is located atop Singuttara Hill and so massive that it has 3 entrances. My favorite would be the one that has access to a lift.  And because it is a place of worship, you have to walk barefoot which can be tricky if it is 40 degrees hot out, so I suggest you visit early morning or late in the afternoon like we did.  Entrance fee for foreigners is 8000 kyats or 8 USD.

In and around Sule Pagoda
Right in the middle of downtown Yangon, not as impressive as Shwedagon but still worth a visit; entrance fee is 1000 kyats.  Since Sule is right in the middle of the city, a walk around it can be quite interesting.     

Kandawgyi Lake and Nature Park
Kandawgyi Lake literally means “royal lake.”  The park is well maintained and very clean, perfect for a morning stroll. Entrance and camera fee is 1000 kyats.  The park has several restaurants, a pond and a children’s playground.

Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Reclining Buddha)
Paya is a Burmese word for stupa or pagoda and this paya houses a 60 meter long and a 30 meter tall reclining Buddha. It is also a monastery.

Bogyoke Market
A great place to buy souvenirs, they have everything from hand carved magnets and key chains to laquerware, gemstones, longyi, paintings and fruits.

Yangon Central Railway Station / On Board the Circular Train 
The jam-packed with locals railway station in downtown Yangon is already an attraction in itself with its traditional Burmese style architecture.

The complete loop takes 3 hours and probably the best way of getting a glimpse on how the locals actually live their daily lives – the backyards with their gardens or animal pens, the monasteries with their clothesline full of monk’s robes fluttering in the wind to dry, the slums, the farms green with produce or cracked dry lands. It’s a tour of the facts of Yangon’s life without walking on foot.

Foreigners pay 1 USD or 1200 Kyat in a little ticket office on platform seven in Central Railway Station regardless of the length of the journey. Ticket is valid for the whole day.

Service hours are from 3:45 am to 10:15 pm daily. 

We did this right after lunch and it was like riding a furnace on wheels. It is an experience and a good way to interact with locals but we strongly recommend that you do this early in the morning. Learn from our mistake.

all photos were taken with 
Fujifilm XA1, Fujinon XC 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OIS

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