A decade after having shed its status as Myanmar’s capital city, Yangon is poised for the limelight again.
Recent visitors have hailed Yangon as a boomtown in the making, with skyscrapers and megamalls making their presence felt. Yet, the city remains steeped in tradition, giving leisure and business travellers the best of both worlds.
Here is our guide to the most popular activities, as well as some fairly unusual things to do in Yangon.
Eat Breakfast like a Local
To begin your day like a Yangonite, order up a bowl of mohinga (fish noodle soup, usually catfish with vermicelli) and attune your senses to the complexity of the fish broth, typically augmented by a dazzling array of spices—lemongrass, turmeric, and coriander, to name a few.
Early birds can head to Myaungmya Daw Cho Mohinga (said to sell out as early as 9:00am; multiple locations), while late risers can partake in the fancier, pricier restaurant renditions, at establishments such as the Rangoon Tea House (visit on “Mohinga Mondays,” when there is a 50% discount).
Dine by the Lake
Image credit: Le Planteur
For fine food with a fine view, head to Yangon’s most prominent upscale restaurant, Le Planteur. Set in a colonial mansion beside Yangon’s largest lake (Inya Lake), the French-Asian fusion restaurant has been namechecked by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and its reputation appears to be stellar. It is favoured by the well-heeled in Yangon, but there is also a bistro for those on a more conservative budget.
Watch the Sunset at Shwedagon Pagoda
One would be remiss to leave Yangon without basking in the golden shimmer of its spiritual centre, Shwedagon Pagoda, which is said to enshrine Buddha’s hair and other significant Buddhist relics.
Visitors should be appropriately attired—with long sleeves and knees covered—and they should leave their shoes at the door as these are not allowed within the premises. Savvy travellers advise waiting till the evening to avoid the heat, and hiring a guide to get more out of one’s visit.
If time permits, take a 10-minute stroll to Kandawgyi Lake to add to your collection of memorable Yangon photos—attempt reflection shots of Shwedagon Pagoda, and capture the picturesque view of Karaweik Palace, a replica of an ancient royal barge.
Discover Yangon’s New Artists
Previously stymied by political and infrastructural constraints, Yangon’s contemporary art scene has finally been given breathing room for growth and experimentation. To engage with the new wave of Yangon art, visit galleries such as New Zero Art Space, Pansodan Gallery Art Space, and KZL Art Studio & Gallery, which provide budding artists with a platform for exposure and creative exchange.
Bring Home a Precious Gem
It can be hard to resist the allure of rubies and other precious gems while in Yangon, but authenticity and responsible labour practices remain primary concerns.
If possible, ask a local contact to recommend reputable gem stores, some of which are located at the Bogyoke Market in downtown Yangon. Check that the store you are patronising has a return policy, and have your purchases appraised by an independent gemmologist such as the Asia Glory Gemmological Laboratory of Myanmar (also at Bogyoke Market). You are entitled to a refund if a test determines that you have overpaid for your item.
However, the far easier way to score a priceless buy is to put aside all investment or profiteering daydreams, and instead, trust your heart.
“Buy what you like, not what you think you are supposed to like,” is the advice of Amber Cernovs, co-founder of Yangon-based jeweller Mia Ruby. “Buy something because it’s beautiful, because you want a memento of Myanmar, and because you want to support Myanmar.”
Take a Slow Walk (or Ride)
One of the best ways to get intimately acquainted with a city is, simply, to walk. In Yangon, the Yangon Heritage Trust conducts 2.5-hour walking tours for a fee.
Use the opportunity to snap photos of the city’s heritage buildings and charming precincts. Proceeds from the tours go towards supporting the Yangon Heritage Trust’s outreach and conservation efforts.
If your preferences veer towards the sedentary, hopping on the slow-moving Yangon Circular Railway as it crawls through a 46-km loop will give you an almost cinematic view of suburban life on your Yangon holidays. Experience the railway in its archaic glory while you can; there are plans to modernise the train system by 2022, and upgrading works begin this year.
Welcome to Yangon! The newly opened Pan Pacific Yangon is connected to the iconic Junction City Shopping Mall. It is also a short walk from the city’s attractions, such as the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Bogyoke Market.
Book now and enjoy 20% savings on Pan Pacific Yangon’s Best Available Rate and complimentary breakfast. This introductory offer is valid for bookings made by 28 February 2018, for stays between 1 December 2017 and 28 February 2018.