One Tuesday, Cathay Pacific posted flights to Yangon on their cheap fanfare deals, so unable to resist a good deal, I bought a flight ticket there for just the weekend. Randomly, I asked my mum if she wanted to go thinking the likelihood of that was quite low since they were red eye flights. Surprisingly she said sure.
Since I was going with mother, I went looking for a semi decent hotel instead of the usual hostel joint. I found out Yangon hotels are not a good value compared to the rest of SE Asia. Probably due to the fact it only really became an assessable country post 2011 when democracy started and foreign investments are still in their early stages. Anyways, we ended up staying at the Best Western Chinatown due to its location and arrived at 2am Saturday morning.
After a slow morning we took a walk around Yangon. There aren’t really many sites in Yangon so we just wandered the markets and streets. Yangon buildings are quite eclectic and a lot better to walk around and wander than in Phenom Pehn, Cambodia. Yangon is one of the older cities in Myanmar and the most populated one as it was the capital until the military government randomly decided to move the capital to Nay Pyi Taw in the middle of nowhere in 2006.
We also checked out the Sule Pagoda in the heart of the city. But it was utterly not worth the entrance fee of 4000 kyat + 1000 kyat shoe fee. However, the sule pagoda is marked as the centre of the city and all distances are calculated from there. After lunch at 999 Shan Noodle house (#2 restaurant listed in Tripadvisor), we took a nap before heading to Shwedagon Pagoda. It is amazing and even though the site was quite busy, everyone was really quiet and felt peaceful. We went just at the time the sun was setting so we could see the pagoda at daytime and nighttime when they turn on the spotlights. The ambience at both three times are totally different. Perhaps I dare say this is the prettiest religious place I have ever been to, and to think it has been around since the 1300s.
We ended the night at a restaurant totally for expats called Monsoon. Normally I would never go to these restaurants but my mother likes cleanliness and not street food. It wasn’t bad and the prices were quite cheap compared to HK for the same type of service.Then we went for a Burmese foot massage near our hotel. $19,000 Kyat for 75 mins ($15USD).
The next day we took it really easy until checkout time since our flight wasn’t until 1am. Then we took a cab to Inye Lake which is the largest lake in Yangon. It was mediocre as there is no facilities built around the lake, they could have at least rented some rowboats or build up more of the boardwalk to circle the lake. But it looks like that won’t happen because developers are building many hotels around the lake.
Then we had lunch at Minn Lan restaurant near the lake which serves food from Myanmar seaside state: Rahkine food. It wasn’t bad and actually quite fresh, but way too salty. Afterwards we checked out the Bogyoke Market. Art is really cheap there and it would be cool to buy some Burmese style art and frame it and decorate it at home.
By that time it was almost 4pm so we headed to city hall to join the “free walking tour” of Yangon. The tour lasted for 2 hours and explained a lot about the colonial history of Burma/ Myanmar, the old colonial buildings that surround Yangon, WWII and the British rule. I highly recommend this tour and the strange thing is the guide didn’t even ask for tips afterwards, which is quite unlike any free walking tour I have ever been part of.
We went back to 999 middle house for a simple dinner and went to get a 2 hour Thai massage for 19,000 kyat (15USD). Then we headed to the airport.
Everyone puts a paste on their face that acts as a sunscreen.
Men and women wear longyi, traditional Burmese dresses which make all the women look classy and elegant.
There are no motorbikes in Yangon. Like zero! Which is unbelievable for SE Asia. Most of the cars are Japnese though, except for the busses which are imported from South Korea because they didn’t even bother removing the Korean route names or advertisements.
When you enter a pagoda, you must walk barefoot. This made for dirty feet.
Too salty, everything is soaked in super salty fish salt but the veggies are good and it’s a lot better than Cambodian food. But not as good as Thai.
Nice people who aren’t out to rip you off (yet) probably because tourism is still so new. At no point did I feel unsafe or feel like a cabbie was cheating me even when walking in strange alleys.
Definitely not yet a GAP year SE Asia backpacker destination yet. The majority of the tourists were old retirees.
Should I go?
For sure it is worth 2 days . More than that, it better to check it Mandalay and Bagan. It’s also nice to see a SE Asian country that isn’t full of tourists so people are genuine.