Strolling down the streets of Yangon

While Yangon in Myanmar may not be an ideal tourist destination, it does have some hidden treasures worth spending a day or two seeking out. This article highlights a few that are worthy of a visit and rather memorable, especially the Buddhist temples.

But first, bear in mind that there are a few oddities in Myanmar as well. Drivers here use the right side of the road (apparently they switched to the right side in the 1960s to break from the practice during British colonial days). That’s fair enough, as many other countries have done the same.

However the majority of the cars on the road are ancient second-hand Japanese models, with steering wheels on the right side. This makes overtaking very dangerous as the driver has to pull out into the oncoming lane in order to see if the road is clear.

While Yangon traffic moves rather slowly, it must cause lots of accidents up-country. A case of two rights making a wrong.

Taxis however, are plentiful and cheap and drivers are probably less roguish than in many other countries. The taxis are very ancient and clapped-out though.

Bogyoke (Scott) Market is a good place to change money to the correct currency and a good place to spend it. Gems, wooden carvings, local lacquerware, and embroidered fabric products made by the minority Kachin people are some of the attractive goods on offer.

Yangon has more examples of British colonial-era architecture than probably any other city in Asia, though some of the buildings look rather dilapidated.

Quaint, old colonial buildings aside, the real highlight of any visit to Yangon has got to be the exquisite Shwedagon Pagoda. This impressive Buddhist temple complex comprises dozens of pagodas and hundreds of Buddha statues surrounding a massive golden stupa said to contain some real strands of hair from Buddha’s head.

Covered with solid gold plates and gold leaf, the pagoda reaches a magnificent height of almost 100 metres. The top is encrusted with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires including a monster diamond of 76 carats.

Chauk Htet Gyi Pagoda is another place worth visiting. It houses what must be one of the world’s largest reclining Buddhas, at a staggering length of almost 66 metres.

The National Museum can be quite interesting if you have an hour or two to kill. The building itself is very ugly and the displays inside are rather dated, although the exhibits themselves are worth a visit.

The people in Yangon are overall very nice; reserved, polite and helpful and the standard of English is quite good.

Decent places to eat are not abundant here unless you are brave enough to sample the street food.

The city is well worth a visit for a day or two but it’s also understandable why most tourists do not linger in Yangon but instead head straight for places like Mandalay and Pagan.

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