10.03.2016 - 10.03.2016
My first visit to Mynmar was when I travelled to the lesser known small border town of Tachileik slightly more than 5 years ago. Tachileik is a tiny little town which is located at the border of Mynmar and Thailand. I arrived at Tachileik from Thailand's northern most town of Mae Sai situated in the Chiang Rai province, the northern province of Thailand, which also borders another country that is Laos. Crossing the border here at Tachileik and Mae Sai at that time,a tourist visa was not required but I need to pay THB 500 entry fee and my passport deposited with the Mynmar immigration officials until the time I exited the country. Travel outside of Tachileik was however restricted at this overland border crossings. Getting to Yangon definitely brought yet another chapter of travel adventure which offer some of the most exciting discovery on this land of gold that deserve its share of wonderful, awesome and exotic travel stories to be shared. Yangon is the commercial centre and formerly the capital of Mynmar. What turned this former capital city into something which worth to be slowly and surely to be ventured upon were due to the diverse culture, which has the element and mixture between the largely Buddhist Mynmar community as well as the Indian Hindus together with that of the larger Indian continents' religion and culture which has huge Islamic influence. As well as due to the close proximity to China, Mynmar's food, costumes, beliefs and culture were also being strongly associated to that of the Chinese. Apart from that, Yangon was formerly a colonial administrative hub during the British colonisation period where a huge number of colonial government buildings could be found scattered around the city. These structures were evergreen and standing proudly at their spots even until this modern day. Though there were many pagodas that dotted the city of Yangon, I was surprised that despite the pagodas and the Buddhism religion being the official and most important culture of Mynmar, I do not feel it as much as when I was in Bangkok or Thailand. This I thought also what made Yangon special because despite it being a Buddhist country, due to its vast mixture of culture that blended into Mynmar's community and their way of life, the city is such an exotic place to be. The most convenient way to travel within Yangon city is with the taxi which vehicles mostly were used Japanese cars. The costs of travelling with Yangon taxi within the city or slightly further is inexpensive, approximately between 2,000 to 3,000 kyat. From Yangon International Airport to downtown Yangon, the taxi fare was about 7,000 to 8,000 kyat. There were various things to do in Yangon and the best way to start is to:
A minibus in downtown Yangon
Sule Pagoda view in downtown Yangon
1. Walk through the city to admire the heritage buildings
As I mentioned above, a walking tour within the Yangon city should not be left out when you are at the city simply because of the awesome, terrific and charming colonial buildings and architectures that would bring you back to the British rule era. One of the most important thing that I noted in Yangon when I get a close look at the old colonial heritage structures was that, most of the buildings were not confined to shop houses unlike those found in Phuket, Thailand, Penang and Melaka in Malaysia and Singapore but these former British colonial buildings were rather huge in size and mostly being colonial government offices during the British rule period. Some of the most notable colonial structures were located within the Maha Bandula Park and Sule Pagoda areas including the former High Court building, the AYA Bank building (next to the City Hall), the City Hall building, the Telegraph Office building and some of the shop houses scattered around. There were also some notable heritage buildings located at Strand Road including the Strand Hotel and the Central Post Office.
Yangon City Hall building
The old High Court building in Yangon
The former Telegraph office in Yangon
2. Try some of the local food
There were many street food vendors in Yangon which offer local snacks including the dosa, pancakes, mohinga (Mynmar national dish which is a type of noodle dish), street skewers snacks, deep fry snacks or simply just step into the small restaurants that dish out Shan noodles (with soup or dry version, a type of noodle with Chinese influence) or onh o khauk swe (similar to the northern Thailand's khao soi, a type of curry noodles). I had a try on another Chinese influence noodle called kaw yay khauk swe, which consist of noodle topped with thick soup base with eggs, chicken, ginger and mushroom ingredients. I also had a taste of the dry version of Shan noodles where noodles being topped with sweet and sour gravy (close to tomato sauce) that also mix with chicken meat.
A bowl of kaw yay khauk swe noodle
A bowl of Shan noodle
A dosa street vendor in Yangon
A skewers seller in downtown Yangon
3. Take a stroll along the Chinatown street market
The Chinatown of Yangon was in no comparison with that of Bangkok's size and version or that of any other Chinatown of South East Asia's standard but it is still worth to take a look and experience the scene and activities within the area. There was a Chinese temple located at the start of the street market, which also have a fair share of fruits and vegetables vendors offering some of the freshest items available to customers of this night market. Other than trading of fresh produce, the other highlight was the street food items including the BBQ seafood. Dining at Chinatown's street market can be yet another exciting experience where tables and stools were set just next to the main road, so you will dine while seeing cars run through or get stuck on the traffic.
FRESH FRUITS VENDORS AT YANGON CHINATOWN STREET MARKET
BBQ SEAFOOD AT YANGON CHINATOWN
A Chinese Temple at Yangon Chinatown
4. Stroll through the Maha Bandula Park
One of the most notable park in Yangon is the Maha Bandula Park situated just across the road from City Hall and Sule Pagoda right at the centre of downtown Yangon. At this park, people can be seen crowding in to do some early morning light work outs or just relaxed and chatting with friends. This park is also where the independence monument was located. Some of the most impressive sights at Maha Bandula Park were the heritage High Court building, the City Hall building, the AYA Bank building, Sule Pagoda and a cathedral.
5. Walk at the Kandawgyi Lake
The Kandawgyi Lake offers visitors some of the most stunning lake view in which this lake garden is also where the Karaweik, a replica of the ancient Burmese royal barge being constructed on the centre of the lake. This ancient Burmese royal barge replica also doubles as a restaurant offering buffet dining which incorporates the ancient royal cultural show. It was interesting to take a walk along the lake garden and get a close look at the royal barge replica even if you never intended to dine here. There were also restaurants and cafes just to relax for some cold drinks, coffee or food break to enjoy the view of Kandawgyi Lake.
6. Shop at Bogyoke Aung San Market
If you need to get some items back home as souvenirs or some of the most precious items in the world for yourself or your loved ones, head over to Bogyoke Aung San Market. This market which has shops within several blocks of covered buildings is the place to be to get the precious gems ie the jade and its related accessories as well as some souvenir items and local goodies, snacks and sweets. Everything can be found under one roof and you will be surprised on what can be found here.
7. Visit Bohtataung Pagoda
Bohtataung Pagoda is not like any other pagoda because this is the pagoda said to be where the Buddha's hair relic was found and being kept and guarded safely. The main pagoda hall where the Buddha's hair relic being kept has a unique interior structures where the walls and ceilings were all fully built with gold and have zigzag shapes. Within the walls, there were glass panels being built in between with devotees or visitors seen inserting currency notes of any countries they were from into the gap between the gold walls and the glass panels. The highlights of Bohtataung Pagoda was the Buddha's hair relic where devotees or visitors would offer prayers or hope for their wishes to came into reality. Currency notes can be seen strewn all over inside the area where the Buddha's hair relic believed to be kept at. Another highlight at Bohtataung Pagoda is the Lord of Bohtataung Pagoda who was said to be the guardian of the pagoda. Devotees would purchase prayer items from vendors located at the entrance to the pagoda area and placed the item right in front of the guardian sculpture while offering prayers. What was unique about the structure of this Bohtataung Pagoda guardian was, it has its right hand being raised and a finger pointing out to someone. Devotees would also seen having their forehead placed on its pointing finger and ask for wishes to be fulfilled and thereafter placed currency notes on the palms. The main chedi structure was located in between the main hall where the Buddha's relic was placed and the guardian shrine,
8. Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda
This pagoda is where the huge and stunning Reclining Buddha is located. The impressive reclining Buddha structure was within a large covered hall building where the other highlights other than the great Buddha structure was the foot sole of the reclining Buddha which were divided into 59 distinguished spots which also has its own meaning each. A walk around the hall building, one will come across some murals on Buddha, some Buddha figurines and also a small section on the edge of the hall where few Buddha sculptures were placed for devotees or visitors to offer prayers in the hope that their wishes would come true. Here, devotees or visitors would pour water on the Buddha sculptures from the large water bowls placed within each of the Buddha sculptures representing the day of which the devotees/visitors were born.
9. Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda is the most easily accessible pagoda in Yangon as it is located within the centre of down town of the city. Sule Pagoda has very close resemblance of the much admired, well known and majestic Shwedagon Pagoda. It is in fact the mini version of the Shwedagon Pagoda because the structures of the pagoda building and its golden chedi, which was the main highlight of both pagodas. Just as with Shwedagon Pagoda, there were 4 entrance gate surrounding the pagoda building, the East, South, West and North gate. Each of these gate has its staircase which leads up to the main chedi area. On the upper base of the pagoda, there were 4 main prayers hall located on each of the gate. Surrounding the chedi were the small Buddha sculptures stations for each of the day within the week, where devotees or visitors could bath the Buddha sculptures, praying and asking for wishes to be fulfilled on the station of day which they were born.
10. Shwedagon Pagoda
One of the most impressive, massive and marvellous pagoda found in Yangon or Mynmar. This is definitely the main highlight of every travellers itinerary in Yangon and should not be missed out at all. As the saying goes, you wouldn't have been to Yangon or Mynmar if you have not visited Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon Pagoda can be termed as a gem of Mynmar because it is so well recognised by people around the world that they came to this land of gems and gold to step their foot on the ground of this golden, magnificent and majestic holy structure, not only to admire its shiny, yellowish and grand pagoda. They also came for the second reason which was to ask for their wishes to be fulfilled. You probably wouldn't want to get your eyes off from the main chedi of the Shwedagon Pagoda just as you walk on the circular flat walkways on the ground of the chedi as the view was simply amazing and outstanding. It was even much enhanced during the evening as the sky turned dark and the chedi was showered with spotlights. As I mentioned, Shwedagon Pagoda is the larger version of Sule Pagoda as the design and structure were very close or in fact similar other than the size between these 2 most visited pagodas in Yangon. There were 4 main gate to get to the ground of the Shwedagon Pagoda namely East, West, South and North Gate. To ascend the ground of the pagoda, visitors can either take the elevator or walk up from the staircase on each of the respective gates. Aside from the great pagoda structure, visitors and devotees flock to Shwedagon for another important reason, which was to offer prayers and hope that their wishes could come true. Several altar stations representing each day of the week were seen along the circular walkways on the ground of the chedi. The altar consists of a small Buddha sculpture and an animal structure below it with water bowl. Visitors would offer prayers at the altar of the day they were born in the hope that whatever they wish for would come true. This is done through bathing the Buddha and the animal sculpture with the water from the water bowl. At each of the access gates to the Shwedagon Pagoda, there were each a mid-size prayers hall for visitors or devotees to offer prayers. These halls consists of several huge and a smaller Buddha sculpture. The night view at Shwedagon Pagoda was awesome and this is the best time to visit because the weather was cooler without the scorching heat from the sun. Shwedagon Pagoda is definitely not to be missed places to visit when in Yangon.