Yangon, also known as Rangoon in English spelling or Dagon in ancient Burmese language, is one of the most important cities in Southeast Asia as well as the British Empire’s history. Although it only started to develop when the British decided to choose a new city by the river and also near the Andaman Sea form the ease of trade, Yangon had accumulated in itself the beauty of various cultures: Burma, England, China, and India. Since Myanmar has awakened after reopening to the world in 2011, Yangon has grown constantly, welcomes more tourists and the city has modernized a lot. Old apartment buildings began to be replaced by gleaming buildings. But Yangon was not in a hurry, it steps forward slowly like the people here. Let’s explore Yangon’s opposing colors.
1. Yangon or Rangoon? Myanmar or Burma?
Although since 2015 the new Capital of Myanmar has changed to Napidaw, many people believe that Yangon is still the capital and indeed Myanmarese still considers Yangon the heart of this multiethnic nation. Most of the companies and economic groups are still based in Yangon, except for the state agencies that moved to Naypyidaw. Some Embassies also moved to the new capital, including the US Embassy. In 1989, the dictatorial Military Government changed the capital’s name from Rangoon to Yangon because the old name bears the imprint of imperialism. However, the flight code of Yangon is still RGN, short for Rangoon, the former colonial name of the city.
During the British colonial period, Myanmar was called Burma, derived from the name of the Barma people. This is the name that Burmese people call their country colloquially and Myanmar is the name used in writing and historical documents, standing for “a strong man”. In 1989, the dictated Military Government changed the Nation’s name from Burma to Myanmar, also changed the capital’s name with the argument that Myanmar represents a country of various ethnic, not only Burmese. However, because the military government is not accredited in terms of diplomacy, many countries such as Britain, the US, and Australia still call this country by the name Burma, while the European Union uses both names and the United Nations uses the name Myanmar.
2. Why we should visit Yangon?
Yangon is a city of opposing colors and symbolizes a gradual Myanmar integration with the world. Despite being the largest city in Myanmar, people here still wear national costumes every day, chew betel and preserve the slow pace of life in a Buddhist land. Do not miss this interesting destination in your travel bucket list.
3. Best time to visit Yangon
Myanmar weather is hot and dry all year round. However, because of its location near the river and the sea, Yangon is quite wet and has evergreen trees. Best time to visit Yangon is winter from November to March next year.
There are not many skyscraper buildings and streets still broad in Yangon, buildings only have 5 to 10 stories which were built in the 90s, so the atmosphere is still quite airy.
4. Useful Tips
It only takes up to one day to visit Yangon because the historical sites are not so many as in other cities, and they are quite close together.
When visiting Shwedagon Pagoda, clothing regulations are more stringent than other temples. Clothes should not be too tight or have sexy details. The control unit will give you pieces of cloth or longyi to cover. The pagoda is 50,000 m2 so if you go with a group, be careful not to get lost. If lost, you should only stay around the stupa, do not go downstairs because it would be much harder to find your group.
Like other Southeast Asian cities, Yangon also has areas of Chinese and Indians, but it is not very vibrant and so you can ignore them.
– Our Yangon journey started from 10 am when the air has started to be hotter, with a visit to Chaukhtut Gyi- the Reclining Buddha Pagoda. This is a fairly new temple built by a wealthy man.
– Lunched at Yangon trade center, opposite to Scott Market.
– Next, we visited Bogyoke Aung San Market, also known as Scott Market. This is a market with a colonial architecture built in 1926. In the market, there are kiosks selling all items from handicrafts, gold and silver, and souvenirs. The market is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
– Opposite to Scott Market is a modern commercial center, in stark contrast to the humble old look of the old market. If you have a need to buy gifts for your loved ones, stop by the supermarket inside the trade center with items such as milk tea, candy, palm sugar, Thanaka wood cosmetics, not only with reasonable price but also air conditioners.
– At 4 pm we strolled around the city center with a series of mossy colonial buildings such as British Ship Company, KBZ Bank, Strand Hotel – Myanmar’s oldest hotel and finished at Sule Pagoda, a temple located in the bustling Yangon intersection. This crossroads not only reflects the ancient characteristics which still stand among modern life but also a place that converges diverse architectural features from four different styles: Supreme Court with colonial architecture, Yangon Evangelical Church, Cathedral India, and the Muslim Church.
– At 5 pm we arrived at the most important place to visit, Shwedagon Pagoda, the national treasure and the largest temple in Myanmar. The temple is a complex of stupas, in which there is a 100m-high gold inlaid stupa can be seen from afar, with a bag of 1800-carat diamonds top. The temple also possesses countless large and small Buddha statues inlaid with gold or made from precious metal. You will surely be overwhelmed by the magnificence and brilliance of this national treasure. In the evening, the temple becomes more crowded because the vibrant electric lights make the temple even more brilliant. You can stop at the corners, which symbolized each day of the week, to bathe the Buddha statue to pray for good luck.
– At the end of the trip, we walked around Chinatown. The trading area is quite hustling but not too special compared to other Chinatowns in the world.
6. Good hotel & restaurant in Yangon
– Hotel: Rose Garden Yangon Hotel, with a view overlooking Shwedagon Pagoda.
– Restaurant: The Envoy with European dishes.