Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, is Myanmar’s biggest, busiest and most commercialized city. That said, it isn’t like any other place you’ve visited – just as writer, poet and seasoned traveler Rudyard Kipling observed over a hundred years ago. Despite the modernization of so many parts of the planet, there’s still plenty of mystery in Myanmar. The good news is that some of the most exciting adventures to had anywhere are on offer. But at the same time, it’s worth doing a little preparation to ensure a smooth and rewarding journey. Here are some tips.
Most of Yangon’s chief tourist attractions are close enough to one another be visited on foot. The catch is that such geographical proximity means, inevitably, a super-concentrated population. The city is home to five million people, after all. In other words, the streets are really REALLY crowded. Plus they’re not particularly well-maintained. So, if you’re a keen walker who doesn’t mind bumping into people, dealing with a relentless stream of touts and navigating pot holes, you can get around on foot. It’s actually a rather exhilarating, immersive cultural experience.
However, if you’re sufficiently well-acquainted with yourself to know that such obstacles are highly likely to drive you mad, stick to taxis. To avoid dirty interiors and dysfunctional seat belts, opt for shiny new Toyota Mark 2s. A taxi from the airport to the CBD should cost about $US10. Negotiate your price before committing to the ride.
There’s a train that runs around the city in a circular fashion. It’s crazy-cheap for just $US1 and is worth catching for its people-watching potential alone. However, it’s not particularly well-connected to tourist sites, so if you’re using it for this reason, factor in some walking and/or taxi fares.
Where to Stay
There are some ridiculously cheap accommodation options available. But, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. So if you opt for a super-bargain, don’t be surprised if facilities are less-than-adequate – and even dirty and disheveled in some places. What’s more, prices are so much lower than they are at home, that most international travellers can afford to treat themselves by staying in luxury hotels in Yangon Myanmar. Plus, after a long day in the dusty, frenetic streets, having a clean, tranquil oasis to escape to can prove welcome relief.
ATMs are less prevalent in Yangon than in other cities. You will find an ATM in the baggage section of the international airport that accepts VISA and Mastercard, but relying on one machine isn’t wise. So don’t jump off the plane cashless. Before leaving home, get yourself some of the local currency (the Burmese kyat) and be sure to carry a few days’ worth with you at all times, in case you get stuck somewhere without cash flow. Some US dollars are also useful, as they’re pretty handy for paying fees.
Bogyoke Aung San Market (previously named Scott’s Market) is definitely worth a visit. Cobbled stone streets and colonial architecture provide a charming back drop for numerous stalls, selling wood carvings, jewellery, antiques, artworks and clothing. Note that it’s closed on Mondays. For consumer goods, from fresh food to stationery to cosmetics to electronic gadets, head to Theingyi Market.
If malls are more your style, there are several to choose from. Try Yuzana Plaza, open between 8:30am and 5pm and found on Banyadhala Road in the Tame township; the air conditioned FMI Centre, situated next door to Bogyoke Aung San Market; or Dragon Centre Shopping Mall, 262-264 Pyay Road, Myaynigone.
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