(Literally and figuratively). The golden light that pours over the temple rooftops of Myanmar is ridiculously cinematic, as well as the gold leaf detailing that adorns so many of the city's historic temples and pagodas. Hues of yellow and gold seem to be a recurring theme as you make your way through Yangon's highlights.
Whether staying awhile or stopping through on the way to smaller towns, here are a few "pieces of gold" from Yangon that can fit into a day's itinerary.
First things first. Set your alarm early for a dawn visit to Shwedagon, the country's crown jewel. This illustrious pagoda dominates the city's skyline with a height of 326 feet. Early birds will not only beat the hordes of other visitors but be a part of the transition as the lights that illuminate the temple at night give way to the sun peeking over the pagoda's detailed stupas.
5:30AM: Shwedagon pagoda
Built over 2,600 years ago, Shwedagon is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. While there are certainly many visitors there to visit the magnificent structure, there are just as many locals, schoolchildren, and monks partaking in their daily Buddhist rituals. At every turn, there are stalls selling flowers, incense and other items for offerings if you happen to want to say a little prayer or send some good vibes back home. Upon exiting, it is important to note which of the four entrances you arrived through so that you can retrieve your shoes for the next adventure...
9AM: Walking tour of Yangon's colonial heritage
Yangon has the highest density of surviving colonial-era structures in Southeast Asia and in order to keep it that way, the Burmese government has created the Yangon City Heritage List which contains many schools, government buildings and temples from the British colonial era that cannot be demolished without approval.
Walking along Strand Road and the lower block of Pansodan Street is almost like stepping back to it's colonial roots is a great way to get up close and personal with Yangon's history. A few buildings of note within blocks of each other:
- The Secretariat
- Yangon City Hall
- Bogyoke Aung San Museum
- Yangon Central Railway Station
- Myanmar Port Authority
Along the way, stop for some fruit or local treats from a street vendor, or simply observe the pace of life in this historic capital. Pictured directly below- the Immanuel Church.
Pictured above, the facade of Yangon City Hall, just across from the Sule Pagoda. If all that strolling worked up an appetite, refuel with a tasty lunch.
12PM: Lunch at Monsoon Restaurant
A short distance from the riverfront, just around the corner from recently restored Strand Hotel, is Monsoon Restaurant, one of the first shophouses to be converted for commercial use. While the menu includes dishes from all around Southeast Asia, I opted for mohinga, a hot and sour fish based broth widely considered the national dish of Myanmar. To balance out the flavors, we added a cucumber noodle salad with shrimp on the side.
Linger awhile under the wooden ceiling fans, sip your Myanmar beer slowly, (share a snap through wifi if desired) before heading back out for the next stop.
2pm: Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda, which blends right into the heart of the city, can often be unnoticed. It is adjacent to City Hall and Maha Bandoola Park. On this visit, it was nice having a guide who shared details about the pagoda’s history and a few Buddhist beliefs and rituals that were taking place at the Pagoda.
Afterwards, head back towards the riverfront to catch the sunset.
4:30PM: Botataung Pagoda & Yangon River
The Botataung Pagoda sits on the bank of the Yangon River. Enter through the ornate golden arch, and if you're "templed-out" for the day, walk straight towards the waterfront, where the Botataung Jetty is still in action.
As the day winds down, head down Strand Road for a handmade cocktail at the historic Strand Bar, a beloved stomping ground since the hotel's British heyday.
If preparing for a trip to Myanmar, I recommend applying for visa approval online here first before making any nonrefundable reservations or deposits.
Monsoon Restaurant 85-87 Theinbyu Road, Yangon
Strand Bar 92 Strand Road, Yangon