Yangon is a region of importance nestled on the south-central part of Myanmar. Yangon is the capital of the Yangon region and the erstwhile capital of Myanmar. It is also the current commercial capital of the country as well as Yangon’s largest city. The city houses a large number of colonial-era buildings in Southeast Asia and has a unique colonial-era urban core that has been maintained over the years. The area around the Sule Pagoda is more than 2000 years old and is the commercial core of the city. Yangon is a vibrant city in flux and undergoing modernisation and also one of the most attractive cities in southeast Asia. Yangon is home to the nation’s most beloved landmark, the glorious Shwedagon Pagoda. The city was founded by King Alaungpaya of the Kone Baung Dynasty when he took the village of Dagon in 1755. He named the settlement Yangon which means ‘end of strife”. It has a unique charm with tree-lined streets, serene parks and tranquil lakes combined with the hustle and bustle of street vendors and thriving markets. Recent years have seen the modernisation of the urban landscape but Yangon still boasts the highest concentration of colonial heritage in the region.
People from Myanmarese, Chinese, Indian and Engalo lineages live in Yangon. People mostly speak Myanmar/Burmese and English and follow Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
Yangon has a mild climate and is generally warm throughout the year. It is bordered by Bago Region, Ayeyarwady Region, Kayin State and Mon State and extends across 576 km2.
The city of Yangon was founded by King Alaungphaya in the 18th century. Formerly the administrative capital of the country, the metropolis remains the top commercial hub in Myanmar with the port and the international airport as its main point of entry. The national pride of Yangon, the world famous Shwedagon Pagoda is located in Yangon. Besides many pagodas, Yangon also has the National Museum and Bogyoke Market, attractive places for tourists to visit. Yangon has a wonderful array of colonial-era buildings to explore. The best way to discover them and the downtown area is on foot. The vibrant colours of street life, markets and people buy with their livelihoods have to be seen to be believed. Tourists who prefer to be on the move can ride the 46-km long Yangon circular railway and catch the glimpses of the day-to-day lives of the city’s inhabitants and experience their warm and friendly nature.
Yangon is home to innumerable pagodas, some of whom hold tremendous importance in the country’s history. Yangon houses the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most iconic pagoda of Myanmar. It is an integral part of the Yangon skyline. The Shwedagon Pagoda is located beside the Kandawgyi Lake. The view of sunset from this pagoda is breathtaking. Yangon also houses several other pagoda which hold importance in Myanmar. Sule Pagoda is also worth visiting, as are Chauk Htet Gyi (home to an enormous reclining Buddha), Botahtaung, Kabar Aye, Mae La Mu, Koe Htet Kyi, Swal Daw, Ngar Htat Gyi, Arr Lein Ngar Sint and Mindama. Yangon is home to a myriad of sacred places of worship from mosques, Hindu temples, churches, cathedrals and a synagogue. And for those who prefer to commune with nature, the parks offer plenty of opportunities to practice communal Tai Chi and yoga as the sun rises and the mists lift.
Although an incredibly busy city with eclectic architecture and an everchanging landscape, Yangon has a wealth of large verdant spaces such as Bogyoke Park, People’s Park and Inya Lake. Heritage-rich downtown is a bustling hive of activity, yet even here there is an oasis of green with refreshing fountains in Maha Bandula Park, home to Independence Monument and imposing statues of the mythical Chinthe (lion). The area beyond the main city centre of Yangon is suitably surrounded by lush gardens and leafy trees. Tourists can take a gentle stroll in the tropical woods surrounding the big green spaces like Kandawgyi Lake, Bogyoke Park, People’s Park and Inya Lake. Yangon has many markets worth visiting, Bogyoke Market being the most popular. It has more than 2,000 shops and a big selection of handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, gems, jewellery, antiques and art galleries.
Sublimely iconic, and revered locally as the most important place of worship, Shwedagon Pagoda is inspiring to all. Often called the Great Dragon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, this 326-foot tall pagoda is located to the west of the Kandawgyi Lake. A visit before the sunset is highly recommended to capture the beautiful view.
Sule Pagoda is a Burmese stupa located at the heart of Yangon and is an important place for contemporary Myanmarese politics, ideology and geography. Legends tell that Sule Pagoda was built before the Shwedagon Pagoda, during the time of Buddha and is more than 2600 years old. It is a part of the Yangon City Heritage List.
Bota Htaung Pagoda
This is a famous pagoda located in downtown Yangon, near the Yangon river. It was built by the Mon around the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda and is believed to be 2500 years old. The pagoda is hollow within and houses the sacred hair of Gautama Buddha. The pagoda was completely destroyed during World War II but later rebuilt.
Kandawgyi Gardens is a popular 260-acre park, lake and recreation area. It offers a fabulous view across the water towards the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, an orchid garden, a playground for children, a mini zoo, souvenir shops, many local restaurants and Karaweik Hall, an impressive replica of the royal barge where you can enjoy dinner with traditional dances.
There are many markets worth visiting but the most popular one in Yangon is Bogyoke Market. With more than 2,000 shops and a big selection of handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, gems, jewellery, antiques and art galleries, tourists can while away your time browsing, searching for that perfect gift for your family or eating at one of the many traditional Myanmar and Chinese food stalls in the market.
Downtown Yangon is widely thought to have the highest density of colonial period buildings in Southeast Asia. The Yangon City Heritage List consists of nearly 200 edifices including religious structures, ancient pagodas and British colonial buildings. The imposing red brick High Court, the legendary Strand Hotel, the sprawling Victorian elegance of The Secretariat and Yangon City Hall are must visit places.
Hlawga National Park
Hlawga National Park is a 1,540-acre nature reserve with a museum of replica traditional Myanmar buildings, a 62-acre zoo with a rock garden and a lake just 25km from Yangon. It was first established as an environmental education centre in 1982. It is a popular day trip destination for tourists.
National Races Village
The National Races Village is situated in a lush park near Thanlyin Bridge. It has miniaturised landmarks from around the country, a playground, a lake, a crocodile farm and a bird sanctuary. Tourists can feel and experience every state of Myanmar here. Each state of Myanmar is represented here with a garden and a landmark building of that state.
Kyaik Khauk Pagoda
Thanlyin is a major port city of Myanmar, located across the Bago River from Yangon. The main tourist attraction in Thanlyin itself is Kyaik Khauk Pagoda. Built 2000 years ago, this pagoda has four stairways and resembles a Mon-style stupa. Thanlyin also has the ruins of a Portuguese Church built around 1750.
A 2-hr boat ride across the river beside Shwesandaw Pagoda will take tourists to the township of Twante. Tourists can take a trishaw or a horse and cart to the pottery area to see traditional craftsmen at work. The Twante Canal, a short cut between Ayeyarwady River and Yangon River is the longest manmade canal of Myanmar.
Taukkyan War Cemetery
Also known as the Taukkyan War Cemetery, this place is a cemetery for soldiers from the British Commonwealth who died in the battle during World War II. The cemetery is located in the village of Taukkyan, around 25 km north of Yangon on Pyay Road. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.