Yangon: Myanmar’s big city

Yangon-a city of food

We liked Yangon.  We liked it so much that we stayed an extra day.  A lot of people begin their Myanmar trip here and are quick to travel to the smaller towns.  But because we started in Mandalay, (which isn’t the most impressive city) and had seen a fair share of small Burmese towns and villages, we were excited to be in the country’s cultural and commercial hub.

Arriving into Yangon from Bagan on the nightbus

The nightbus bus pulled into Yangon at 5am.  The bus station turned out to be in the very north part of town near the airport, far from central Yangon where our hotel was located.  We were accosted by the usual horde of over-eager taxi drivers prodding and yelling for us to follow them.  We did our usual “play it cool” thing, got our backpacks and ignored them.  An especially persistent taxi driver didn’t seem to want to take no for an answer and followed us to a nearby bench.  He wanted 20,000 kyat to bring us to our hotel in town.  I managed to talk him down to 11,000 kyat but with him adding another passenger to the taxi.

The cab driver found another passenger and soon we were driving through the outskirts of Yangon.  The morning air was cool but his cab was full of mosquitos.  We were dazed by lack of sleep but content to look out the window and see our first glimpse of Yangon.

Yangon Myanmar Burma

Its 7am when we walk into our hotel . A little early for check-in.  They informed us that our room wasn’t ready but after some shuffling, they gave us a different room that was ready immediately.   We showered and hit the streets, taking advantage of the cool morning air.  We heard it gets hot in Yangon.

Chain and Parathas in Yangon 1
Chain and Parathas in Yangon

Lucky 7

Breakfast was the first stop.  Just down the street was the Lucky 7 tea shop.  Outdoor seating in a crowded garden setting.  I had the “Lucky 7” tea (a flavorful masala chai) and a paratha with potato curry.  Felt nice to have breakfast outside of the hotel.  And tea and breakfast for both us us only cost about 2 US dollars.

We walked through town, happy for two things: sidewalks and no motorbikes.  The lack of motorbikes made for a lot less noise And who doesn’t want to have a sidewalk to walk on?

Yangon seemed like a real city.  We were into it.  Lot of street food.  Lots of cabs driving around.   Lots of people.  A lot to look at.

We skirted the river and walked through town to Sule Pagoda at the city center.

Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda

It began to get hot. So we headed for the Bogyoke market.  A huge market to get lost in but also a good place to hide from the afternoon sun.  Jewlery, fabrics and any sort of touristy-craft you’d expect is here.  We found some great pillowcases and bought a couple.  At this point the lack of sleep was getting to us.  An iced espresso (real coffee!) didn’t help much.  We got a cab and headed back to the hotel for a nap.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda at Evening
Shwedagon Pagoda at Evening

We went out at 3pm.  The heat of the day surprised us.  We got a cab to the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s most famous Buddhist pagoda.  We climbed the stairs and paid the 8,000 kyat entrance fee.  They made us rent Lungis too, as we were both wearing shorts.

Shwedagon Pagoda with crowds

Shwedagon Pagoda with crowdsAfter wandering in circles and taking the usual photos, we sat and people watched.  Very entertaining.

People at the Shwedagon Pagoda
People at the Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon Myanmar Burma
Sun sets at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

The colors of the gold stupa changed with the sunset and soon it was dark.  Outside we caught a cab back downtown (2,000 kyat).  They dropped us off near the popular 19th Street area.  Beer station after beer station packed with tourists and locals eating and drinking.  We found an empty table and joined them.

Evening on a trashy Yangon street
Evening on a trashy Yangon street

Circular Train Ride through Yangon

Map of Yangon Circular Train
Map of Yangon Circular Train

The plan today was the circular train ride.  Its known as an inexpensive way to see Yangon. Before walking to the train station. we ate at the Lucky 7 for breakfast again.  Our hotel seems confused and maybe offended that we didn’t want our complimentary breakfast.

Riding theYangon Circular Train
Riding theYangon Circular Train

There were a dozen tourists at the station already when we arrived at about 10am.

Waiting for the Cirular Train in Yangon
Waiting for the Circular Train in Yangon

We bought our tickets and soon the train pulled up.  Besides us, there was only one other person in our compartment.  10:10am and we were off!

In the Yangon Circular Train
Riding the Yangon Circular Train

The train rolled along and a few people got on and off.   The compartment soon filled up, especially after a stop at a market.  Large bags of vegetables lined the floor blocking the aisle.  The heat began to creep in as well.  Soon we were sweating.

Yangon Train gets crowded
Yangon Train gets crowded

2/3rds though the loop we decided we had enough as it was getting pretty hot on the train.  We decided it would be nice to see a movie and escape the heat.  We got off and found a cab to take us to the movie theatre nearby.  Packed with teenagers we found an employee and asked if any of the movies were in english. No.  Ok, fine.  Got a cab back to the hotel where we found a Thai restaurant for lunch.

Yangon Buidling Myanmar Burma
Yangon Buidling Myanmar Burma

That night we found a beer station restaurant on a side street, with tables on the street to watch the passerbyers.  We drank beers and ordered fried calamari and vegetables.

Fried Calamari and Beer Yangon Myanmar Burma
Fried Calamari and Beer

Last Day in Yangon:  A Movie

We had breakfast again at the Lucky 7. Then bought movie tickets to see Resident Evil.

Movie Theatre in Yangon
Movie Theatre in Yangon

We had time to kill before the movie started to we went back to the market to buy a few more things.  Also had a really good Indian lunch.

Night Market in Yangon
Night Market gets started

That night we were in a cab heading toward town and noticed a night market on the riverside.  We told the cab driver to pull over and we jumped out.  We had a spicy spicy hot pot at one place and a spicy spicy crab at another that left me with burning lips.   Beers were needed.

Hot Pot in Yangon Night Market, Myanmar Burma
Hot Pot in Yangon Night Market

As we drank our beers, we reflected on our Yangon experience.  We stayed 3 whole days, which was longer then we stayed in any other place in Myanmar.  Maybe we were city people?  The next morning we would get the bus to Hpa An.  We were 12 days into our 20 reserved for Myanmar.  Beaches were beginning to sound really nice.

Next: Hpa An

Yangon Budget and Expenses:

day 1
  • 11,000-taxi from bus station
  • 3,700- breakfast: 3 teas, coffee, paratha/curry, samosas (3) and dahl.
  • 2,500-taxi from market to hotel
  • 31,725- Hotel
  • 9,130- Indian Lunch: dosas (2) and chai (2)
  • 2,000- taxi to Shwedagon Pagoda
  • 16,000- Shwedagon Pagoda entrance feee
  • 6,000- Longi for Pagoda (2)
  • 2,000- taxi downtown from Pagoda
  • 5,800- 4 draft beers and bbq veggies
  • 1,800-taxi to hotel
  • 2,430-Dinner: Ramen soup and pot sickers
  • 600- large water

104,385 kyat total ($77.32)

day 2
  • 4,000- Potato Paratha, Glutenous noodle soup, 3 tea, 1 coffee
  • 5,000- 2.5 kilos of laundrey
  • 31,725- Hotel
  • 1,000- Paratha and tea (2)
  • 600- Circle Train
  • 1,500- taxi to cinema
  • 6,000- taxi downtown
  • 12,500- Thai Lunch, red curry, vermicelli salad, fancy drink
  • 800- Large water and can of coffee
  • 7,000- Dinner: 6 beers, tempura vegetables
  • 1,800- ice cream (2)

72,025 Kyat ($53.35)

day 3
  • 2,800- 4 teas, potato curry/paratha (2)
  • 7,000- Movie tickets
  • 4,500 -ice coffee (2)
  • 6,700- Indian lunch, two Thalis, 2 chai
  • 2,350- gummy candy (2) for movie
  • 500- movie soda
  • 7,600- 2 large beers, okra skewers, pork skewers
  • 1,500- night market hot pot soup
  • 6,000- night market whole crab and large beer
  • 1,600- draft beer (2)
  • 2,000- taxi downtown
  • 1,000- ice cream
  • 38, 720- hotel

82, 270 kyat total ($60.94)

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