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Also referred to as “Rangoon,” Yangon is located in Burma and it’s the biggest city of Myanmar. Aside from being the largest city in the country, the cosmopolitan city of Yangon continues to serve as an extremely important center for commercial use. Before the city became the bustling hub that it is now, it was known as a small fishing village during the 11th century. Today, Yangon hosts 6 million residents and is widely known for its stunning lakes, elaborate architecture and charming avenues.
 
The warming of relations and easing of U.S. sanctions has helped boost Myanmar onto nearly every travel hot list. Cruise providers -- many of them river operators -- have been scrambling to put together itineraries that call on Myanmar's largest city of Yangon. Premium and luxury lines are also including Yangon on select Southeast Asia and world cruise itineraries.
 
Why the rush? Yangon (pronounced "Yangoon") is emerging from its bell jar. But the city doesn't suffer from the glut of modern high-rises and shopping malls that choke other Asian capitals. Many residents wear traditional sarong-type clothing, and women still embellish their faces with a beige paste called thanakha, a traditional makeup and sunblock made from ground tree bark. The region's residents generally are welcoming and curious about visitors.
 
The city features an intriguing conglomeration of crumbling British colonial architecture, a few refurbished buildings hinting at the city's glory days and a smattering of new construction. Impressive Buddhist pagodas and other religious sights are on display in Yangon itself and in the old imperial capitals of Bagan, Bago and Mandalay. Plus, there's interesting food to be tasted and handicrafts to be bought, particularly in the city's sprawling covered market.
 
The city began in the early 11th century as Dagon, a small fishing village. It was founded by the Mon people, one of many ethnic groups in the country. After two 19th-century Anglo-Burmese wars, the British seized Yangon and all of lower Burma in the 1850's. They turned Yangon into their seat of power in Burma, building an infrastructure that was said to rival London at the time. The city fell to Japan in World War II and entered years of political turmoil following independence in 1948. The military took power in 1962, and the repressive regime only began to relinquish control in 2010.
 
The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, and is known for its colonial architecture, which although decaying and beyond appreciation, remains an almost unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital. New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s (and some are scarily unoccupied and left as ghost skyscrapers and hotels as seen along Upper Pansodan Rd) as the government began to allow private investment (while former national government buildings such as the massive Secretariat Building, as the capital is shifted to Naypyidaw, have been left to rot). However, Yangon continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its longyi-wearing, betel nut chewing and spitting pedestrians, their friendly or even familial attitude towards strangers, its street vendors and its pungent smells.
 
Yangon's former name is not the only victim of symbolic changes in this country. For one, the country's name has been changed. To add up to this identity crisis going on in this country, this city has been stripped of its capital status, the capital relocated to a secluded new site called Naypyidaw built from scratch. The flag too has been changed, recently redesigned in 2010, replacing the old one which replaced another one slightly more than a decade earlier.
One noticeable observation is seen along Yangon's southern streets perpendicular to the river. Diagonal parking is set off against the traffic direction in these one-way streets.
 
Today, the expanded city of an estimated 6 million residents spreads northward from the Yangon River. While Myanmar is home to 128 different ethnic groups, the Burmans make up the majority in Yangon. The old colonial area also contains bustling Chinese and Indian sectors. (Indian workers were brought in by the British.)
 
Most cruises are timed to call on Yangon during its dry season, which runs from December to March. Temperatures can reach the low 90's during those months, dropping into the mid-60's at night.
 
Tourism infrastructure is still developing in Myanmar, so a cruise ship is the perfect way to ensure your travels are comfortable. Not every ship will be able to dock in the heart of Yangon, though. The river port is about a four-hour journey through the Irrawaddy River delta, then up one of its tributaries, the Yangon River. Larger ships are restricted to the Thilawa deep sea port, about 15 miles south of Yangon.
 
Myanmar or Burma? Yangon or Rangoon? The British referred to the country as Burma, a name derived from the majority ethnic group, the Burmans. They called its major city Rangoon, most likely a misunderstanding of "Yangon." The military regime changed the country's name to Myanmar and the city's name back to Yangon. However, neither the opposition party nor the U.S. State Department recognizes the nation as Myanmar.
 
Where You're Docked
Once you’ve arrived in Yangon, your cruise ship can dock at two locations. Depending on the size, some cruise ships dock in the center of Yangon at Bo Aung Kyaw Jetty. The other docking option is Thilawa Port. This port caters to bigger ships and it’s an hour away from Yangon’s center. Cruise ships that visit the port belong to cruise lines such as Viking River Cruises, Swan Hellenic Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises and more.
 
In the city: Ships up to 613.5 feet can dock in the heart of Yangon, at Bo Aung Kyaw Jetty (or, in some cases, nearby Nanthida Jetty). This concrete pier is located at the foot of Bo Aung Kyaw Street, just below Strand Road. (Look for the label "Myanmar Port Authority" on Google Maps.) From dockside, it's about 500 feet before you reach the gate of the port on Strand Road. If you go out the gate on your own, be prepared to show your ship ID card to re-enter the port. The port offers no terminal or services.
 
Thilawa Port: Bigger ships, up to 853 feet, have to dock at this deep-sea port 15 miles south of the city. (Plans are under way to expand capacity to handle ships up to 984 feet.) It's about an hour's drive to reach the center of Yangon. The port has no services.
 
Docking and sailaway times must conform to the tides, and tide tables are only released a month in advance, so schedules may vary a bit from advance itineraries.
 
Hanging Around
If you're docked in the city, colonial Yangon awaits just outside the port. Head left on Strand Road from Bo Aung Kyaw Jetty, and in five minutes, you'll encounter the Strand Hotel. Head straight up Bo Aung Kyaw Street, and you'll pass a variety of retail outlets and colonial buildings. On the next major street east of Bo Aung Kyaw, about a 10-minute walk away, is Monsoon restaurant, a favorite of expats and travelers. Clustered around the gate of the port are numerous street vendors, selling tea and snacks to locals using the nearby ferry services. Taxis can be hailed at the port gate, and kids hawking postcards probably will pounce the minute you hit the street.
 
If you're docked at Thilawa, you're pretty much isolated, but taxis are available at the port.
 
Getting Around
On Foot: If you're docked in the city, you can explore the colonial area near the port, as well as Chinatown and the Indian area. We even walked from the covered market back to our ship (a leisurely one-hour stroll). Sidewalks can be very irregular or nonexistent, so wear sturdy walking shoes, and consider carrying an umbrella to shade yourself from the sun.
 
On foot
Exploring Yangon on foot, gives you the opportunity to stop and watch something interesting, or to notice the details of what’s happening here and there. Downtown Yangon is such a busy place, and though it may look a bit disorganized, somehow the city functions and flows.

Distances in the tourist areas are not large and, provided you take it easy, you can walk almost anywhere. The pavements can be very crowded though, particularly on Anwaratha Road, so expect to be constantly bumped into and to have to negotiate your way across vendors selling everything from hot samosas and curry to screwdrivers and TV remote controls to jeans. Also be aware that a lot of the footpaths and sidewalks have large holes, mismatched pavers, or missing/unstable covers over drains. Walking on the footpath after dark can be treacherous, so either carry a torch or, like most locals, walk on the edge of the roadway which normally in a (marginally) better state of repair. There are not many pedestrian crossings with traffic lights and even there drivers sometimes go on red. Streets are poorly lit so for crossing better join a bunch of locals.
 
By Taxi: The easiest way to get around the city is by taxi and Yangon is the city where Toyota cars come to live out the rest of their days. Genuine taxis have red license plates, carry a laminated green slip and a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car but all taxis are reliable.

In recent months (as of October 2013) traffic has gotten considerably worse in the city; taxis are ubiquitous and during peak times (8-10am; 5-7pm) taxis may be more expensive because of the traffic. Taxis are always available outside the bigger hotels, on Sule Pagoda Road outside Cafe Aroma, and, during the day, outside the Southern entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Away from the city centre, for example near the budget hotels in Pazundaung Township, you may have to wait a bit before a taxi shows up and it may be easier to ask your hotel to call one for you. If you're traveling in the wee hours (for example, to catch a 4AM train or flight), arrange one with your hotel the previous evening. You will always, at all hours, find a taxi outside the Central Hotel on Bogyoke Aung San Road.

It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip but, other than tacking on an informal tourist surcharge, you'll very rarely be cheated. Most taxis charge a minimum fare of 1500 kyats, increasing in increments of 500 kyats the further the destination. You should be able to get anywhere around the main Yangon area (downtown, Kandawgyi, major hotels) for 2-3000 kyats. 'Tourist' destinations such as the Shwedagon Pagoda will usually require harder bargaining to get a decent fare. Approximate fares as of October 2013 are: airport to/from city centre 8000 kyats or US$10 (official rate); city centre to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal 6000 kyats; city centre to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal 4000 kyats. Expect to pay more, when it rains and late at nights. Taxis will often try to charge more for aircon or for more passengers; try to discourage this practice.

Most taxis will be only too happy to negotiate an hourly (5000-6000 kyats) or daily (US$50-60) or longer rate. It all depends if you hire an aircon taxi or not. Taxis will take you anywhere and you can, in theory, hail a taxi and negotiate a trip to Pathein or Bago or other destinations at a much lower price than through a travel agency. See the Get out section below for sample fares.
 
Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Just don't expect luxury. Old Japanese cars come to Myanmar to die, so there are plenty of raggedy Toyotas, with windows that might not work or grungy decor. Seatbelts? Ha! Rates are negotiated, not charged by the meter -- so make a deal before you get in. Hotel or restaurant staff can help.
 
By Bus: Riding the bus is absolutely safe. The only drawback is the lack of understanding. Most of the locals can't speak English and the signs are written in Burmese text. As you would expect, Yangon has an extensive and chaotically crowded bus system. Most are privately run and will not move until enough people are falling off the sides of the bus. Buses are cheap, but high yearly inflation is chipping that cheapness away. Most routes originate and terminate on the eastern side of the Sule Pagoda so head there if looking for a bus to the airport or to the Shwedagon Pagoda. If you don’t know how to read the Burmese numbers, announce your destination before boarding. The driver/assistants seem intrigued that foreigners are taking local busses and are willing to help. Take bus 51 for the airport, they will drop you off a little past the entrance gate. You can return from the northern bus station using bus 43. This is a great option as the bus station is one of the first stops and you will have no problem getting a seat (200K).
 
More than 300 public and private bus lines operate an estimated 6,300 buses around the city. Most are crowded and not air-conditioned. Our advice: Stick with taxis.
 
By trishaw
Trishaws are scarce in the city centre (and not permitted before 10AM) but more readily available in the surrounding townships. Negotiate fares in advance but 500 kyats(60 cents) for a short ten minute ride, while higher than what locals would pay, is appropriate.
 
Watch Out For
Yangon is generally safer than many large cities, but take the usual precautions when walking at night, and be sure to count your change carefully -- particularly if you visit a money-changer.
 
When visiting religious sites, modest dress (shoulders and knees covered) is required for both men and women. You will also have to remove your shoes and socks before entering.
Water is unsafe to drink, and be cautious about ice cubes, as well, unless you're at a reliable establishment. Think twice about eating street food; sanitation is iffy.
 
Toilets are usually of the squat variety (aside from those at hotels), and you'll need to bring your own toilet paper.
 
The U.S. State Department warns, "It is illegal to take pictures of Burmese officials and of certain buildings, such as military installations and government buildings. ...Do not photograph or videotape the military or police, or anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest -- such as bridges, airfields, government buildings or government vehicles. Burmese authorities might interpret these actions as being provocative and may question and/or arrest you." Got that?
 
Traffic lights, including the one just outside the port at Strand Road and Bo Aung Kyaw Street, might not provide enough time for a pedestrian to cross the street. Proceed with caution.
Street dogs are ubiquitous, particularly around the port, but seem very timid for the most part. Just keep an eye out for their little "gifts," especially at night when outdoor lighting isn't the best. You'll probably also want to avoid stepping in the orange splotches left when betel nut chewers spit.
Beware of "beer gardens" you might find listed in guidebooks. The women there might be for sale. Want more info? Here's a detailed guide to cultural "dos and don'ts" from the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
 
Attractions
 
Yangon Circular Railroad Ride
Trains are a fairly common form of public transportation throughout Myanmar, and there’s a circular loop route in Yangon, which was built by the British back in 1954.
 
The circular railroad runs for just under 50 kilometers, stops at 39 station, and takes about 3 hours to complete.
 
Taking a ride on the Yangon circular railroad is not really a traditional attraction at all, but it’s a great way to experience and observe the life and culture in around the outskirts of town. Actually once you left the main part of Yangon and got a brief glimpse of the countryside.
 
If you have a half a day to spare when you’re in Yangon, and if you’re interested in seeing the culture and life that surrounds Yangon, taking the circular railroad is a pretty cool thing to do.
highlight of the ride was Danyingon station, which was almost in the middle of the route, where there was a huge market, full of fresh vegetables waiting to be transported.
 
How to get there: The train departs from Yangon Central Railroad station, which is located just north of the Sule Pagoda, in-between Sule Pagoda road and Pansodan street. I walked from the Sule Pagoda, and it took about 10 minutes.
Open hours: Trains should leave from Platform 6 (but the attendant will tell you exactly), about every 30 minutes – 1 hour starting in the morning
Price: 300 Kyats ($0.30) for a ticket.
 
National Museum of Myanmar
The National Museum was a little on the old side, and it could do with a re-model soon, but overall, I thought the actual collection at the museum was very interesting. There was a wealth of artifacts, religious relics, artwork, cultural explanations and ethnicities, and tons of golden objects from the royal courts of Myanmar.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Myanmar, and if you enjoy a museum type of environment, I would say visiting the National Museum is one of the worthwhile things to do when you’re in Yangon.
 
Tip: Just around the corner from the National Museum is Feel Restaurant (more info coming soon), a wonderful place to sample all thing Myanmar food. I ate at Feel Restaurant before walking over to the museum.
How to get there: The easiest way to get there from downtown Yangon is by taking a taxi, should be about 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) from central downtown
 
The National Museum exhibits the treasures of the last king of Myanmar, including his 26-foot-high Lion Throne, ceremonial costumes and jewel-encrusted articles from his household. The museum's labeling, displays and lighting aren't the best, though, and no cameras are allowed inside. (26 Pansodan Street; daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 951-282-563 or 951-282-608;) Sunday, closed on Monday and government holidays Price: 5,000 Kyats ($5.05)
 
Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Chak Htat Gyi Buddha) – Reclining Buddha
Chaukhtatgyi Paya, which is also referred to as the Reclining Buddha, is an absolutely massive 65 meter long reclining Buddha. Originally there was a standing Buddha statue in the same place, but about fifty years ago it toppled over, and was eventually replaced with a reclining version.
 
The Buddha is housed in a giant metal shed, that reminded me of an airplane hanger (it’s so big). The crown of the statue is decorated with diamonds and other gems, and the feet are etched with inscriptions showing the characteristics and symbols of the Buddha.
 
There’s a lot of floor space surrounding the Reclining Buddha, and when I was there, I noticed a lot of people having lunch with their friends and family. I wanted to join.
 
There’s another famous temple, directly across the street from Chaukhtatgyi Paya, called Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda, that you can also visit if you’re interested.
 
Tip: You have to leave you shoes at the entrance, and there’s a polite shoe rack guard who will take care of your shoes – what I liked is that the shoe guard doesn’t pressure you to give a tip, but there is a tip jar at the front if you wish to give a small donation.
How to get there: Taking a taxi is about the only way to get to Chaukhtatgyi Paya and from central Yangon it cost us 2,500 Kyats ($2.53)
Open hours: All day and all night – 24 hours, but daytime is best
Price: Free
 
Kandawgyi Park
Walk around, relax, have a drinkThe downtown area of Yangon is chaotic, hectic, and there never seems to . be a quiet or dull moment.
 
That’s quite the exact opposite from Kandawgyi Park, one of the lush green lake parks in Yangon.
 
There are a couple of different options to take when you visit Kandawgyi Park. On the east side of the park, there are a number of restaurants, including the Karaweik Palace, but also a few other lake-side relaxing restaurants where you can eat and have a drink (Ying and I ate at Malihku restaurant). The entrance price to this area is 300 Kyats ($.30).
 
The other section of Kandawgyi Park is the lake boardwalk, a nice elevated platform where you can walk or exercise with beautiful views of the lake, the Karawiek Palace, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. If you go in the evening, on a nice day (when it’s not raining), you’ll have a fantastic sunset view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
 
Visiting Kandawgyi Park is one of the great things to do in Yangon because it’s such a change of pace and a haven of calm in the usually buzzing downtown of Yangon.
 
How to get there: It’s easiest to take a taxi from downtown Yangon for 1,000 – 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 300 Kyats ($.30) for restaurant area, 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) for boardwalk
 
Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is not only a religious and historical pagoda landmark in Yangon, but it’s also a city navigational landmark as well; It seems that all roads in downtown Yangon eventually lead to the Sule Pagoda.
 
The area is also home to numerous government buildings and offices, and a center for bus and road transportation. The Sule Pagoda is not only recognized and cherished for its long history, but in the more recent history of Myanmar, the pagoda has served as a strategic space for politics, rallies, and protests.
 
If you pay the entrance fee of $3, you’ll have the chance to enter the gates and see the pagoda up close. However, there’s not really much to see inside the pagoda (it’s not as impressive as the Shwedagon Pagoda), so I actually think it’s better to just see the Sule Pagoda from the outside and explore the area around it.
 
How to get there: If you’re in central downtown Yangon, you really cannot miss the Sule Pagoda, it’s the main roundabout intersection right in the middle of downtown. Open hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily -- Price: $3 for entrance into the pagoda.
 
Shwedagon Pagoda
Without doubt, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important religious sites in Yangon, and all of Myanmar.
 
The golden chedi of the pagoda, which reaches a height of 99 meters, is visible throughout the city, and it shimmers in the sun with its incredibly golden surface. I could hardly even look at the pagoda without squinting my eyes, there was so much gold!
 
The Shwedagon Pagoda is a very well preserved heritage monument, and a sacred religious pilgrimage site for many Buddhist followers in Myanmar.
 
When you’re there, you’ll see people performing a series of rituals according to the day they were born, and people will also walk circumferences around the base of the pagoda.
 
One of the interesting things, things to dream about, is that on the top of the pagoda, within that little golden umbrella looking thing that’s called a hti, is gold, jewels, and thousands of diamonds. Though there are some binoculars on one side of the pagoda, unfortunately it’s still hard to see the beauty of the top umbrella of the pagoda. A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the things you must do when you’re in Yangon.
 
How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Shwedagon Pagoda from downtown Yangon is to take a taxi. From downtown, we caught a taxi for 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily (but closed on certain holidays, check website for details)
Price: 8,000 Kyats ($8.11)
 
Shore Excursions
Best for First-Timers: A Yangon highlights tour is the perfect orientation to the city, with typical stops at Shwedagon Pagoda, Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda with its giant Buddha, the National Museum, Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market and drive-bys of colonial buildings and the Karaweik barge. Full-day versions often include lunch at the Strand Hotel. 

Best for Buddhist Culture: Several tours include monastery visits. One 4.5-hour option combines a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda with a meditation session at the Chan Myae Yeiktha monastery; another five-hour tour lets visitors witness a novitiation ceremony at Kalaywa Monastery, where future monks symbolically relive Buddha's journey as he renounced his life as a prince in search for enlightenment. After a procession, the young men, dressed lavishly as "princes," accept humble monks' accoutrements as gifts from onlookers. 
Best for Local Life: The traditional enclave of Thanlyin lies between the deep-water port and Yangon. As part of this visit, you see a monastery, take a pony-cart ride, wander a vegetable market, take a trishaw ride to a village and have refreshments at a local restaurant. 
Best for History Buffs: Bago, the second imperial capital, is about 50 miles from Yangon. Day-trips typically include visits to a monastery, a giant reclining Buddha, the country's tallest pagoda, a World War II Allied Forces cemetery and lunch at a local restaurant. Some tours also include visits to a market and a typical village. 
 
Best for Once-in-a-Lifetime Visitors: It's possible to take single-day or overnight trips to Myanmar's other fabled imperial capitals, Bagan and Mandalay. Tours typically depart before dawn, with bus transport to the airport to catch one-hour flights to either location. Bagan is home to more than 2,200 11th- and 12th-century temples, and tours visit several of them, in addition to the Archeological Museum, a market and a lacquerware workshop; lunch is at a local restaurant. Mandalay tours visit one of the country's largest monasteries, a silk workshop, the gate of Mandalay's city wall, a former monastery known for 19th-century woodcarvings and a pagoda that's home to the "world's largest book" (729 marble slabs inscribed with the entire text of Theravada Buddhism); a Burmese lunch is included. 
Best for Night Owls: Yangon's golden pagodas are impressive when illuminated at night. Tours drive by pagodas and other nighttime sights, ending with a visit to Shwedagon, which is ablaze at night. 
Best for Dinner and a Show: Dinner and a cultural show with dancing are included in excursions to Karaweik Hall or the more intimate, upscale restaurant Le Planteur.
 
Don't Miss
Shwedagon Pagoda is, without a doubt, Yangon's main attraction for tourists and locals alike. The 2,500-year-old shrine is the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar. Shwe means "gold" in Burmese, and the 361-foot stupa (a dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine, usually containing religious relics) is covered with 11 tons of it, while the top is encrusted with 4,531 diamonds -- the largest of which totals 72 carats. The entire complex contains hundreds of temples, statues and smaller stupas, with untold numbers of Buddhas, large and small. At night, it's a popular and lively place for locals to gather, visit and worship. There are four entrances, oriented to the cardinal directions, each with an impressive staircase. The south side has an elevator, while the east stairway is considered the most interesting with its vendors and views of the main stupa as you climb the steps. (Ar Za Nir Street) 

Bogyoke Aung San Market, also known by its British name, Scott Market, houses more than 2,000 stalls and shops, selling a huge selection of handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, art and even antiques. Yes, the main section is mostly devoted to the tourist trade, but venture further, and you'll find locals shopping and grabbing a snack, too. Lacquerware, carved wood and items from the country's various ethnic groups (Shan shoulder bags, for example) are great souvenirs. If you enjoy markets, allow at least two hours there. (Bogyoke Aung San Road; stalls generally open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) 

It's said that Yangon has the largest number of colonial buildings remaining in Southeast Asia. Most were built around the turn of the last century, and their condition varies widely, from pristine to decayed. The greatest concentration can be found in the old area next to the river. Structures along Strand Road include the Customs House, the Myanmar Port Authority, the Inland Water Transport Building and the beautifully restored Strand Hotel, which keeps up the tradition of afternoon tea. Other noteworthy buildings include City Hall, the High Court, the huge (and currently vacant) Secretariat building and two cathedrals, Saint Mary's and Holy Trinity. 

Been There, Done That
Plenty of other Buddhist sites provide venues to contemplate, many a bit more peaceful than Shwedagon. By the river, Botataung Pagoda is smaller, but you can go inside the hollow stupa to see relics on display. Sule Pagoda(Maha Bandoola Road 95-1) is located in the center of a busy traffic circle, across from City Hall. (Avoid the disreputable money-changers in the circle of shops surrounding this pagoda.) At Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda (Shwe Gon Taing Street), the draw is a large, Indian-style seated Buddha with armor, while Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda (Shwe Gon Daing Road) features a giant statue of the reclining Buddha. 

Architecturally significant places of worship for other religions include Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue (85 26th Street) and Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque (across from Sule Pagoda). Both display their own interpretations of colonial architecture. 

Those who've followed the country's leading proponent of democracy might want to visit Aung San Suu Kyi's House(54 University Avenue), where the Nobel laureate was imprisoned under house arrest. You can't go beyond the gates, but since security was relaxed in 2010, you can take photos and peer inside at the grounds. However, you can go inside the house where Suu Kyi's father once lived, now the Bogyoke Aung San Museum (15 Bogyoke Aung San Lane; open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Considered to be a hero of the movement for independence from the British, he was assassinated in 1947. 

To experience local life, intrepid travelers can take a ride on the Circular Railway, which serves as transport to the city's outer suburbs. You'll rub shoulders with locals as you sit on wooden seats in crowded, non-air-conditioned cars. Vendors toting baskets of produce destined for city markets hop aboard, all sorts of hawkers ply the aisles, and you'll be as much of an attraction to passengers as they are to you. The entire roundtrip takes three hours, leaving from the main train station -- though it's possible to get off along the way and return by taxi.

Eating Out
 Eating local Myanmar food and drinking tea is one the greatest things about visiting Yangon. Walking down the street in downtown Yangon, you literally can’t go more than a few steps without arriving at the next street food stall. There are interesting things to eat being whipped up at nearly every corner.
 
Because most cruise ships call on Yangon for one to two nights, there's an opportunity to eat dinner, as well as lunch, ashore. While street food is abundant, questionable hygiene makes it a risky choice. You can get a taste of local cuisine at a number of restaurants, though. 

One of the most popular dishes in Myanmar cuisine, available nearly everywhere you go, is a dish called mohinga. It’s a bowl of rice noodles submerged in a fish based soup broth that tastes like a mild curry, full of flavorful ingredients and spices.
 
Mohinga is a classic Burmese dish. It's a hearty soup of rice vermicelli, fish stock, onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and other ingredients, usually served with boiled eggs. Ngapi, a fermented fish paste used extensively in Burmese cooking, gives it a fair amount of funk. For many, it's an acquired taste. 
Another popular dish is lahpet thohk, pickled tea leaf salad, which delivers a wonderful variety of textures, including the crunch of deep-fried peas, peanuts and garlic. Fresh slivers of tomatoes, ginger, dried shrimp, fish sauce and lime also are added. 
 
Another Myanmar food you can’t miss when you’re in Yangon is laphet thoke, or pickled tea leaf salad. It’s a common dish that you’ll find at restaurants and at side of the street tea stalls. Finally for food, a trip to Yangon would not be complete without a full on Myanmar curry feast. I went to a number of restaurants while I was in Yangon, specializing in curry of all kinds. Sometimes the curries can be a little on the oily side, but the flavors and the spices are so delicious
 
Meat dishes include chicken, seafood, beef and pork. Long-simmered curries, with seasoning that's much milder than other Southeast Asian cuisines, are typical. Just beware of fiery little green chilies that look quite similar to sliced green beans. (We learned the hard way!) 
There's a tendency for dishes to be delivered to the table haphazardly -- main courses before appetizers or everything all at once -- unless you clearly specify when you order. At better restaurants, the waiters will ask how you'd like the dishes served. 
 
All the restaurants listed below, except for Monsoon, will require taking a taxi from the riverfront area. Some are located in more residential areas outside the city center. 

Monsoon, a convenient 10-minute walk (over some irregular sidewalks) from the city-center port, offers Burmese dishes, as well as those from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos; each country has its own section on the menu. The spare, yet stylish, restaurant is located in an old colonial house, where the high-ceilinged ground-floor room is a magnet for expats, while the second floor hosts larger groups. The third floor is home to a fair-trade crafts shop, which is well worth a visit. Monsoon serves cocktails, beer, wine and interesting fresh juice concoctions. An added bonus is free, reliable Wi-Fi. (85-87 Theinbyu Road; open daily, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; 951-295-224) 

Feel is a food court-style restaurant that offers a vast choice of 50 or so authentic dishes that you order simply by pointing. Then they'll be delivered to your table, along with rice and drinks. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, it's a great way to get a taste of Burmese food at rock-bottom prices. The only downside? Feel is so popular, it's nearly always jam-packed. (124 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Street; 95973-048-783) 

Padonmar Restaurant serves a menu of Burmese dishes and other Southeast Asian cuisine. On a nice night, it's lovely to sit outside in the large garden (apply insect repellent) with paper lanterns strung overhead. We particularly enjoyed the banana blossom salad and beef with pickled mango. Dishes listed as appetizers were just as huge as main dishes, so order conservatively. We noticed that Padonmar is popular with groups, but that didn't spoil the atmosphere. Alcohol is served, and it offers free, high-speed Wi-Fi (password needed). (105-107 Kha-Yae-Bin Road; open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; 951-538-895) 

Le Planteur offers the perfect splurge restaurant for those seeking a European-style fine-dining experience. Run by a Swiss couple, it offers "French Indochine" cuisine in an old, colonial manor. Le Planteur features a five-course, fixed-price menu and an extensive wine cellar. (Liquor is also served.) Small rooms and a magical, candlelit garden make for a highly romantic meal. They also offer complimentary transportation via vintage car within Yangon and have free, high-speed Wi-Fi. (22 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road; open daily, noon to 11 p.m.; 951-541-997) 

Mandalay Restaurant at the Governor's Residence might be the ultimate colonial-style dining experience. The main restaurant at this Orient-Express-owned hotel offers a garden, fish ponds and verandahs, making it a pleasant (though pricey) oasis from the city's bustle. Though some might complain that the menu of Western and Asian food is less than authentic, others praise the near-perfect atmosphere. (35 Taw Win Road; 951-229-860) 

Karaweik Palace (or Hall) Buffet Restaurant, located inside the lavish replica of a royal barge, offers a Myanmar lunch buffet, plus a pan-Asian dinner buffet with a cultural show. This restaurant is government-owned, so some may choose to not patronize it for that reason. (Kan Pat Street, on Kandawgyi Lake; Myanmar lunch buffet 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner buffet with performance from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 951-290-546) 

Tea plays a major part in the social culture of Myanmar, and basically every sidewalk throughout Yangon is occupied, at some point throughout the day, by a tea stall.
 
All you have to do is find an empty plastic stool, order a snack that’s available, and tea, which is Chinese style tea, is served complimentary. Drinking tea on the side of the road, sitting on a micro stool, is one of the great joys of visiting Yangon.
 
Afternoon Tea at the Strand Hotel is a pleasant respite if you've seen enough pagodas. The colonial landmark offers tea with either British-style or Burmese-style accompaniments in the Strand Cafe. (92 Strand Road; tea served 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 951-243-377)
 
Safety Note: Hygiene is not always the greatest when it comes to street food in Myanmar, so you do have to use your own discretion, and try to choose food stalls that are busy with customers and where the food looks fresh. I particularly like the street food stalls just north of the Sule Pagoda around the backside of the Yangon City Hall, where there’s a high food turnover rate.
 
Shopping
Handicrafts, precious gems, clothes & collectible. Shopping is fun in Yangon because of the variety of things available and because, unlike in neighbouring India, the hard sell and hassle is missing. Bargaining is expected, although tourists will be charged significantly higher prices. Street vendors in the centre are not allowed to open shop until 18:00, by government mandate. At the front of Bogyoke Aung San Market a little on the touristy side, and prices are little high as well. But that being said, it is a good place to come if you’re looking for jewelry (just use discretion), Burmese dresses and fabric, souvenirs, artwork, or handicrafts.
 
There’s a large selection of things to purchase all in one area, and it’s a nice clean market in a good location.
 
A Chinatown side street Although not as well known as Bangkok or Hong Kong, Yangon is an excellent place to have a shirt tailored. One can have a shirt with a traditional Burmese collar (mandarin collar) made for around US$6. 4-5 days should be sufficient for a shirt to be made.
Chinatown offers a wide selection of street vendors, where colonial coins, paintings and other souvenirs can be bought. Open 15:00-21:00.
 
Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) is an excellent source to buy Burmese handicrafts, such as wood carvings or lacquerware. Beware, however, because some lacquerware is not traditionally-made, and will wear away quickly. The market is also known for its clothing and fabrics. This is a site to see by itself and expect to get approached by many shop owners all around. They're surprisingly not as willing to haggle as you might expect. The vendors on the street leading South towards Sule Pagoda have a lot of the same things as inside the market and are much more affordable (great place to get t-shirts especially)
 
Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) Shwedagon Paya's entrance hallway offers many 1-room shops that sell Burmese antiquities, including paper mâché owls, wood-carved statues and Buddhas. There are several shopping malls in Yangon, such as the Dagon Centre and the FMI Centre. Many of the items sold are from Thailand and China, and usually have fixed prices.



 
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