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(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

Flights to Myanmar and Yangon

A variety of airlines serve Yangon International Airport, which opened a large, spanking new terminal early 2007. The most frequent flights are out of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Singapore business collaborates with Myanmar in maintaining Myanmar Airways International (MAI, www.maiair.com), a part government, part private-owned operation that runs services into Yangon from Bangkok daily, Singapore three times a week and Kuala Lumpur four times a week.

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

MAI flies smaller Boeing 737s and two MD-82s, which are long narrow workhorses with a 3-2 seating configuration in economy and eight big leather business class seats clearly taken from somebody else’s airline.

MAI is a cheerful experience with expatriate pilots and overseas trained cabin staff who work with great courtesy and concentration. Food on board is generous and tasty if not exactly a sensation and the rich lubrication of the pork fillet with fried noodles was a useful preparation for Myanmar cuisine. Alternatively Air Bagan (www.airbagan.com) has a variety of aircraft – including an Airbus A-310 and a Fokker 100 jet – and flies an intricate domestic network, as well as to Singapore, Bangkok, Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Kunming in China.

The international airport sits in fields about 30 minutes out of the centre. Business Class passengers get their own bus for the 30-second drive to the terminal. You require a visa, which can be surprisingly fast to get from a Myanmar consulate. They are even available online (www.myanmarvisa.com). The consulate will also give you a form to be kept with it and presented to the immigration officer along with the landing form. These are neatly folded, put away somewhere, and you are let in very quickly for a maximum of 28 days.

Changing Money and Devilish Exchange Rates

There seems to be no requirement now to purchase US$200 of Foreign Exchange Certificates at the airport. This cumbersome interloper, after the old Chinese model, seems to be disappearing. We are now down to the two real currencies, the local kyat (pronounced “chat”) and the US dollar.

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

The kyat is divided into 100 pyas. On paper (and outside of Myanmar) the official exchange rate is approximately US$1 = 6.42 kyat, but farcically, this rate is not actually available in the country. Most places, including five-star hotels, will offer a much more reasonable “unofficial” rate, currently approximately US$1 = 1,250 kyat. You will often get a better rate for changing large US dollar bills, but these must be spotless. Even banks are reluctant to take notes with any mark or tear. Most substantial establishments like hotels and transport agencies take US dollars and more modest operations do too but you are likely to get change in kyat. You need a judicious mixture of both currencies in your wallet. Your hotel will help with this. Apart from in the major hotels, credit cards in Myanmar come from Mars.

Getting around Yangon

If you do not have a pick-up arrangement with your hotel, a taxi from the airport for the 30-minute drive into town should cost between US$5 and US$8 depending on negotiation and the presence of air-con. Although there is nowhere in Yangon you would want to go that is more than 15 minutes from anywhere else, you might look at the town in three segments. To the south is the grid-work layout of the old centre by the river. A little to the north, is a “midtown” around the Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda, the above all, must-see masterpiece of Yangon. A little further to the north is the semi-suburban recreational area around the larger Inya Lake.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Inle Lake
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Inle Lake

A fairly standard rate for a short taxi trip is US$1. From The Shwedagon down to the river it would be US$2 and from the river up to the Inya Lake possibly US$3. Car hire with driver (not a hotel limo) should be between US$35 to US$40 for a 10-hour day. The more days you hire for, the more negotiable this becomes. A knowledgeable driver, possibly recommended by a hotel, could be worth his weight in kyat.

Yangon shopping tips

Yangon specialises in precious stones, pearls, silver, handicrafts and lacquer ware. There are some fine specialist shops that hotel concierges will guide you to. The Strand has a printed recommendation list. To just plunge in, go to the BogyokeAung San Market or Scott Market of yore. It is a huge closed market surrounded by a cloister of small, mostly trendy shops selling fashion accessories. In the market proper, stalls sell stones, jewellery, handicrafts, ropes of pearls and antiques, some for real and some not quite. The place is wide, clean, cool and unhurried. One offbeat stall belongs to Zaw Win Ni (Samuel) who used to be a dentist in Hongkong and let his passion for Burmese animist spirit figures get the better of him. He is now in business there with these engaging items. He can explain them with great fluency at Evergreen, Stall No.103 in the Central Arcade (tel: 256-411).

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

Nightlife in Yangon

It exists, even for foreigners, be sure of that. Mostly you’ll find it in hotels from about 6pm to 11pm. Paddy’s Bar, an Irish pub with music and a lively crowd, is in the basement of the Sedona Hotel (tel: 666-900). The Kandawgyi Palace Hotel has its Disco Pub (tel: 2492455) and The Grand Plaza Park Royal has the Music Club, a place of some revelation. They say it is popular with diplomats. It is a big square bar with a Filipino band. There are an inordinate number of beautifully turned-out local women wandering around in urgent need of a drink. Don’t take the wife.

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

Open all day to midnight, the 50th Street Bar and Grill, behind an impressive colonial facade on 50th Street, is a big, well laid-out pub with its wall scrubbed down to the brick, a mixed Western and local clientele and live music at the weekends. It is a very easy place to hang out and snack. Mr Guitar on Sayar San Road is similarly popular with locals and foreigners, open from 7pm to midnight and features unplugged music, mega screens, installations by its artist-owner and an outside courtyard. In both you might get a decent conversation. A Mr Guitar 2 opened up a year or so back on ShweGon Dine Road – it is more of a restaurant (serving Thai hot pot and Chinese food) than a bar. Taking a different tack altogether is BME 2, an independent outfit watched over by the biggest Burmese lads in suits you’ve ever seen. It stands in a large lot next to the Summit Parkview Hotel at 350 Ahlone Road. There is a bar, attentive waiters, a big disco dance floor and of all things in Myanmar, a local girl rock band. And, again, a grazing herd of tightly clad young women without a drink.

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

Mandalay, Bagan and beyond

“Yangon is a gateway,” says George Ehrlich-Adam, general manager of travel agency Exotissimo. From it, he says, the standard travel pattern is a flight to Mandalay (the train can take up to 18 hours and so will a car), a boat to Bagan and a flight to Inya Lake. Visitors spend between five and 10 days doing this. To do justice to Bagan, you need a minimum of two days. To relax in a hotel on stilts on the lake and go back in time a bit, you need at least another two or three days. “So, if you’ve only got four to five days, you should drop Mandalay,” says Ehrlich-Adam. The city itself is worth half a day at best. The main historical point of interest is the deserted ancient capital around it.

A good travel agent in Yangon can arrange an itinerary for you within hours. If you are outside Myanmar, it takes a little longer but they can also arrange, through faxes, a visa on arrival. Top-end hotels in Mandalay are the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel at the foot of Mandalay Hill and the fully serviced Sedona Hotel. In Bagan, you could stay at the beautifully landscaped Bagan Hotel or the Thiripitsaya Sakura, which has rooms and bungalows.

Myanmar Travel Agencies

Diethelm Travel. 1 Inya Road, Yangon. Tel: [95-1] 527-110, fax: 527-136, (e-mail: leisure@diethelm.com.mm or www.myanmar-tourism.com/diethelm.htm).
Tour Mandalay.Room 02-03, 2nd floor, Pearl Condominium, 1 Pearl Centre Kabu Aye Pagoda Road, Yangon. Tel. [95-1] 540-27, fax: 545-220, (e-mail: res@tourmandalay.com.mm).
Columbus Travel and Tours. 586 Strand Road, Yangon. Tel: [95-1] 221-881, (e-mail: tours@columbus.com.mm).
Exotissimo Travel. 0303 Sakura Tower, 339 BogyokeAung San Street, Yangon.
Tel: [95-1] 255-266, fax: 255-428, (e-mail: george@exotissimo.com or www.exotissimo.com).

Yangon Hotel Guide

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

DusitInya Lake. Tel: [95-1] 662-866, fax: 665-537, (e-mail: inyalake@dusit.com or www.dusit.com). From US$46.
Kandawgyi Palace Hotel. Tel: [95-1] 249-255, fax: 280-412, (e-mail:
fom@kandawgyipalacehotel.com.mm or www.kandawgyipalace.com). From US$80.
Grand Plaza Park Royal. Tel: [95-1] 250-388, fax: 252-478, (e-mail: enquiry@parkroyalhotels.com.mm or http://yangon.parkroyalhotels.com). From US$100.
Hotel Nikko Royal Lake. Tel: [95-1] 544-500, fax: 544-400, (e-mail: nikko@nikkoyangon.com.mm or www.nikkoyangon.net). From US$100.
MyaYiekNyo Royal Hotel and City Club. Tel: [95-1] 548-310/17, fax: 548-318/19, (e-mail: zayco@mptmail.net.mm or www.myayeiknyo.com). Double rooms from US$45.
Savoy Hotel. Tel: [95-1] 526-289, fax: 524-891, (e-mail: res-savoy@myanmar.com.mm or www.savoy-myanmar.com). From US$85.
Sedona Hotel. Tel: [95-1] 666-900, fax: 666-911, (e-mail: rsv@sedona.com.mm or www.sedonahotels.com.sg). From US$90.
The Governor’s Residence, Yangon. Tel: [95-1] 229-860, fax: 228-260, (e-mail: yangon@orient-express.com or www.governorsresidence.com). Rates from US$140, including breakfast and transfers.
The Strand. Tel: [95-1] 243-377, fax: 243-393, (e-mail: info@thestrand.com.mm or www.ghmhotels.com). From US$450.
Traders Hotel. Tel: [95-1] 242-828, fax: 242-800, (e-mail: thyn@shangri-la.com or www.shangri-la.com). From US$80.
Sedona Hotel Yangon. Tel: [95-1] 666-900, fax: 666-911, (e-mail: rsv@sedona.com.mm or www.sedonahotels.com.sg). From US$95.

(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips
(Myanmar) – Hanging on in Yangon (Rangoon) – Travel Tips

Mandalay Hotels

Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel. Tel: [95-2] 35638, fax: 35639, (e-mail: mdyhill@mptmail.net.mm or www.mandalayhillresorthotel.com). Rates from US$100.
Sedona Hotel Mandalay. Tel: [95-2] 236-488, fax: 236-499, (e-mail: bc.shm@sedona.com.mm or www.sedonahotels.com.sg).

Bagan Hotels

Rates from US$45, with junior suites from US$55 off-peak. Internet available at the business centre only.
Thiripyitsaya Sakura Hotel. Tel: [95-61] 600-48, fax: 600-33, (e-mail: thiri@myanmar.com.mm or www.bagan-thiripyitsaya-sakura-hotel.com). Rates from US$50 to US$100 for doubles, depending on the season.

(Smart Travel Asia)
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(Myanmar) –Travelling to Yangon (Rangoon)

Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar, is so evergreen and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes it has earned the name of "The Garden City of the East". Though with the atmosphere of a typical Asian city, It stands out in contrast as it is not yet overwhelmed with the global trends of modernity and is making its own progress at its own pace, in its own calm, civic culture. Being the main entrance to the country and principle seaport, it is the hub of business activities and government offices as well as non-governmental organizations.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Shwedagon Pagoda
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Shwedagon Pagoda

It also serves as the center for higher learning as it abounds with educational institutions. The city represents a mixture of diverse communities and cultures, with respect to people, religion, business, and settlement. Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small town called Dagon when he conquered lower Myanmar in 1755. He changed its name to Yangon, which means "End of Strife", but was anglicized as Rangoon by the British when they annexed Myanmar in 1885. The present day Yangon covers an area of 350 sq. km with a population of over 5 million.

The Shwedagon Pagoda

Towering to a height of 326 feet on Theingottara hill, dominates Yangon. Visitors to Myanmar are awe-struck on seeing the magnificence and splendor of this golden shrine. Ralph Fitch, the first Englishman to arrive in Myanmar's in 1558, comment: " it is called Dagon and is of a wonderful bigness, and all gilded from the foot to the topped - it is the fairest place, as I suppose, that is in the world." Rudyard Kipling inscribed "this most famous of all Myanmar shrines as a golden mystery lofty on the horizon, a beautiful wonder that blazed in the sun," in his letters from the east published in 1889. In his Gentleman in the Parlor, Somerset Maugham, at his first sight of the Pagoda was inspired to write that the superb, glistening, golden Shwedagon rising superbly upwards, was ". Like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul.The great golden Shwedagon Pagoda is the prominent landmark visible from miles around, where the holy hair relics of the Buddha were enshrined more than 2,500 years ago. It is one of the wonders of the world and the most venerable pagoda in Southeast Asia.

Karaweik Hall

Karaweik Hall is one of the landmarks of Yangon, standing in the Kandawgyi Lake(Royal Lake ). This modern architecture is built in the shape of the mythical creature Karaweik bird. It has 3 floors including a ceremonial hall. This wholly gilded building is about 20 years old.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Karaweik Hall
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Karaweik Hall

The colonial buildings in and around Yangon

In Yangon there remains quite a number of old buildings built in the time of British occupation. These remind us of formerBritish’s presence in Myanmar. They were constructed in the middle of 19th century, before the Second World War in 1940. The colonial residences are substantial castles built of brick, masonry and wood with the multi-gabled roofs, verandas and the porches. These English Style houses are seen in the shady and tranquil compounds in the downtown areas. The Yangon City hall , next to Sule Pagoda faces the Mahabandoola Park . To the East is the building of the Supreme Court. Painted in red, yellow color equally. That Victorian building was constructed between 1905 and 1911. A short distance to the west is the famous Strand hotel constructed in 1901. In those days the Oriental hotel in Bangkok and the Strand hotel in Yangon were among the best hotels in is the south Asia . Later, it was restored and furnished with modern facilities.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Colonial buildings
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Colonial buildings

Advance to the west is the Office of Myanmar Harbor authority with an uprising tower in the Pansodan Street . And the Yangon Division court resembles Queen-Ann-Style English architecture. Other remarkable colonial style buildings are the Yangons station decorated with typical Myanmar traditional arts, the Mee Ya Htar building (used to be Myanma railway office) built of red brick in colonial architecture, the Bogyoke Aung San Market and the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in the typical English colonial style painted in dominantly red color. All these structures are on Bogyoke Aung San Street , as is the Yangon General hospital, which was the first public building in Myanmar and was constructed in 1911. Constructs red brick equalized with yellow, this enormous structure characterizes a lot of large arches and appearing to turrets indistinctly. The other indubitable English time public building is Ministerial office, which occupies the whole block of land surrounded by Anawrahta, Thein Byu, Mahabandoola and Bo Aung Kyaw streets.

Bogyoke Aung San Market

It is a fantastic prewar structure in Yangon known as Scott Market before. It is the most famous shopping place in Yangon . Myanmar arts and handicrafts are best souvenirs available there at reasonable price. Lacquer wares, wood and ivory carvings, tapestries, silverware, brassware, silk and cotton fabrics, and shoulder bags as well as jewelry are some of the most favorite items it has to offer.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon)  - Bogyoke Aung San Market
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon)  - Bogyoke Aung San Market

Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda

Located 10 minutes away from downtown, and 5 minutes from the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, the 72 meters long reclining Buddha image is the biggest colossal reclining Buddha image in Myanmar. Originally built in 1907, it has suffered damage due to climate over the years. In 1957, it was demolished and rebuilt to this structure and completed in 1966. The uniqueness of the image is the glass mosaic on the sole of its feet representing the 108 special characteristics of the Buddha.

(Myanmar) –Yangon (Rangoon) - Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda
(Myanmar) –Yangon (Rangoon) - Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda
Botataung Pagoda

It is a shrine with hollow passages inside to walk through. The name Botataung means "a thousand military leaders". This pagoda was named after the 1,000 military leaders who escorted the sacred hair relics of Buddha, brought from India over two thousand ago. Inside the pagoda, there are glass showcases containing many ancient relics and donated artifacts sealed but visible inside the shrine. The original shrine was destroyed during the World war II bombing. Present day structure is built over the old original one. Above this interesting interior, the golden pagoda spire rises to 132 feet (40 meters).

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Botataung Pagoda
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Botataung Pagoda

Hlawga Wildlife Park
Hlawga Park  is about 45 minutes drive from downtown. The park covers 1,650 acres of land including the Hlawga Lake , which is a home for over 70 kinds of herbivorous animals and 90 species of birds. It has a museum of the replica of Myanmar traditional buildings and a small zoo with rock garden. Flocks of migratory birds frequently visit the park. It is an ideal place for picnickers, naturalists, botanists and bird-watchers. Visitor can also enjoy elephant rides, boating and fishing in the park.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Hlawga Wildlife Park
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Hlawga Wildlife Park

Htaukkyant war cemetery

Located at Htaukkyant, about 32 km from Yangon on the road to Bago, there is a memorial cemetery of Allied soldiers who died in the Burma Campaign during World War II. The cemetery's beautifully kept compound has 27,000 tombstones of fallen Common Wealth and Allied soldiers.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Htaukkyant war cemetery
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Htaukkyant war cemetery

Bogyoke Aung San Museum

A two-story -building where Burma ’s national independence leader General Aung San lived with his family until the time of his assassination was turned into museum in 1962. The furniture, dresses, books, the car and his family photos are kept in the same condition, as he was alive in his memory.

Natural history Museum

Situated near the Kandawgyi Lake, the Natural History Museum has a notable collection of Myanmar's geographical, biological and archaeological diversity including flora and fauna, forest products, minerals and rocks.

National Museum

Located on Pyay Road, about a few minutes away from downtown, the newly built five-storied museum will let you know the glory of Myanmar. It exhibits the Lion Throne of the last Myanmar king, royal regalia of 19th century Myanmar kingdom, artifacts of various ancient periods, articles of cultural heritage and archaeological value, art and craft articles, weaponry, musical instruments and paintings.

Myanmar Gems Museum

Located on Kaba Aye Pagoda Road , Mayangon, Yangon . This Gems Mart display the whole range of Myanmar ruby, sapphire, Peridot and a variety of assorted colored stones, jade, pearls in lots or embedded in exquisite jewelry, gold ware, silverware and jade figurines. Out of 100 counters altogether, only two counters on the ground floor are occupied by the Myanmar Gems Enterprise and Myanmar VES Joint Venture Co., Ltd. The other 30 on the ground floor and 34 counters each on the first and second floors are run by private. These are sold in Myanmar Kyats, US$ or foreign exchange certificates (FEC).

Strand Jetty

The jetty is situated in front of the famous Strand Hotel. From there, you may observe the daily lives of people who came across the river from the other side of the city for working or selling their local products. You can cross the river by ferry boat, which takes about 10 minutes to return.

Sule Pagoda

The landmark at the Yangon City center and symbol of downtown Yangon is situated right at the heart of the city. The Sule Pagoda is said to be over 2,000 years old, enshrining a hair relics of the Buddha. The golden pagoda is unusual in that its octagonal shape continues right up to the top terrace. It stands 46 meters (152 feet) high and is surrounded by small shops of all the familiar non-religious services such as astrologers, palmists, photo studios and watch repair. From there, you may observe the atmosphere of the Yangon center with crowed people from all walks of life in various trades, and busy traffic.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Sule Pagoda
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Sule Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda (World Peace Pagoda)

Locates about 20 minutes drive to the north of downtown. Built by U Nu, one of the earlier prime ministers of Myanmar not long after her independence from the British, in 1954 in dedication to the Sixth Buddhist Council (1954-56). This 111-feet-high pagoda measures 34 meters around the base.

Kyauktawgyi Pagoda

Lawka Chanthar Arbayar Laba Muni Buddha Image craved from the one piece of white is marble rock was done in year 2000 CE, which is flawless and of hight quality measuring 37 feet long, 24 feet wide and 11 feet thick was found at Sakyin Hill, Madaya Township, Mandalay Division. This huge Image is now at Mindhamma Hill, Insein Township, Yangon Division. This Buddha Image will be the highest and biggest of all in the world.

Zoological Garden

Located near the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, the Yangon Zoo is noted for its collection of wild animals from around the world, rare species, flora and fauna, which have been collected over the years since it was opened in 1906. On weekends and public holidays, snake dance and elephant circus are performed for visitors. The Zoological Garden Amusement Park is also a well-known spot for children and teenagers.

Thanlyin (Syrium)

Once the center of foreign trade for all lower Myanmar. In 16th century Syrium was home to trading port of Portuguese, Dutch, French and British merchants. Later the Portuguese adventure de Brito established his own private kingdom. The ruin of a Catholic church built by an Italian missionary in the 18th century can still be seen today. During the colonial days the British have imported some one millions of Indian for rice cultivation. Syrium still host a great numbers of Indian population though Myanmar citizen but their customs and way of life are still very much determined by the Hindu religion.

Kyeikkhauk Pagoda

Yele Pagoda (a pagoda on a small island) at Kyauktan are worth visiting. You may also observe the local ways of making ceramic products at Bogyoke Village.


24 km from Yangon, reachable by road in an hour or by boat in about two hours on the Twantay Canal. The boat trip provides a view of the life along the canal while Twante itself provides interest as a center of pottery and hand-woven cotton cloth. There are over fifty pottery works. This craft has been handed down from generation to generation and is still carried on in the time-honored tradition. Twantay pottery is recognized and distributed throughout the country. Thousands of water pots flower pots, basins, jars of from 5 to 25 viss capacity are produced daily.

(Myanmar) –Yangon (Rangoon) - Kandawgyi Lake
(Myanmar) –Yangon (Rangoon) - Kandawgyi Lake

Let-Khok-Kone Beach

Located 30 km from Yangon, Let-khok-kone beach is the nearest beach and is therefore a popular weekend picnic site. It is reached by a ferry boat ride to Dallah followed by a 3 hours' drive. This beach can get very busy at times, especially on public holidays.

(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Inle Lake
(Myanmar) – Yangon (Rangoon) - Inle Lake
(Journeys Myanmar)
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