A guide to 24 hours in Yangon

This article originally appeared in Outlook India

Since the political and economic reforms of 2011, Myanmar has become one of the newest tourist hubs of Southeast Asia, as it has opened its doors to the rest of the world and commercialisation. With less than a decade of development under its belt, the country is growing rapidly, while retaining parts of its colonial heritage, which can be found in abundance in its largest, most popular and erstwhile capital city – Yangon.

If you’re visiting Myanmar, chances are that you will spend some time in this city of contrasts, so here’s a guide on what you can do in Yangon in 24 hours.

Morning

Start your day like a Yangonite by having a mohinga breakfast. Mohinga, a soupy noodle dish, is the unofficial national dish of Myanmar and a favourite breakfast choice of the locals. Similar to the Vietnamese pho or Malaysian laksa, it is a rice noodle soup flavoured with fish, aromatic herbs and spices. A morning staple, it can easily be found in traditional roadside stalls as well as high end restaurants and cafes.

Start your day with a bowl of soup goodness!

After a hearty breakfast, head over to the National Museum to learn about Burmese history and culture. While it is not well known, Myanmar shares a deep historical connection with its bordering countries such as India, China and Thailand, and this is well showcased in this five storey museum.

At the National Museum in Yangon (no photos allowed inside the museum)

Interestingly, Burmese history began with the Indus Civilisation and in ancient times, Indian scripts such as Pali and Brahmi were used in the region. I was surprised to learn that the first three alphabets of the current Burmese script are Ka, Kha and Ga, which are exactly the same as those of Hindi, India’s most widely spoken language.

The National Museum also provides great insight into Myanmar’s more recent opulent history, with dazzling showcases dedicated to the time of King Thibaw Min (the last King of Myanmar) and his court. With more than a couple of textbooks worth history on display, it’s fairly easy to lose track of time and spend a couple of hours there.

Afternoon

For lunch, make your way to Rangoon Tea House (RTH), a stylish teahouse that serves traditional Burmese dishes with a modern twist and has become somewhat of a local institution. Don’t skip the dessert section after your meal – the carrot cake and chai tea cheesecake are completely worth the calories.

The Pansodan Ferry Terminal is within walking distance of the RTH, and after lunch, hop onto a ferry that will take you to the nearby town of Dala. As soon as you alight at Dala, you will find numerous taxi, auto and bike drivers waiting to show you around. You can strike up a reasonable deal with one of them to drive you around town for a couple of hours.

Cruising along the Yangon river

Located on the other side of the Yangon River, Dala is a prime example of what rural life in Myanmar looks like – with small villages scattered along the river bed, narrow roads, and paddy fields on either side of the road. Given the time constraints, you can limit your visit to two things – a visit to the Kan Paw Aye Pagoda, and a tour of the traditional pottery village at Twante.

A visit to the Snake Temple at Dala – not for the faint hearted!

At Kan Paw Aye Pagoda aka the Snake Temple, you will find 20+ pythons curled around idols of the Buddha, and afternoon is the ideal time to visit as they will most likely be asleep at the time. After that, take a drive down to the pottery village at Twante, where you will be able to see a centuries old pottery kiln and also observe local artisans making traditional earthen pots at one of the many pottery workshops.

The pottery village at Twante

Evening

Once you’re back in Yangon city, it is time for the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, without which any visit to Yangon is considered incomplete. Set atop a small hill, this 99 metre high gold plated pagoda with a bejewelled spire is the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in Myanmar and is said to contain the Buddha’s hair relics.

An evening at Yangon’s holiest Buddhist site

The pagoda complex is visited by thousands of devotees daily, and is also a popular tourist attraction. It looks especially beautiful in the evening, as the setting sun reflects on the gold plated pagoda and surrounding stupas. For a more meaningful and spiritual visit, do get a guide to take you through the complex.

Night

After a long day, you deserve to unwind and there is no better place than Babett Eatery and Bar, a popular hangout spot for the locals and expats. With its assorted wine collection, locally inspired cocktails, delicious western food preparations, and occasional live music performances, Babett has the perfect recipe for a night out in Yangon.

To make things easier, you could stay overnight at the chic boutique hotel in which Babett is located – Hotel G Yangon. Its strategic location in downtown Yangon, reasonable pricing and cosy rooms make it a popular choice for travellers to Yangon.

Click here to read more about Hotel G Yangon.

Information Box

Getting ThereFlight: From India, Indigo Airlines has direct flights from Kolkata to Yangon daily. In order to reach Yangon from any other Indian city, you will have to fly via Kolkata. 
From Singapore, numerous airlines like Jetstar and Singapore Air ply directly to Yangon on a daily basis.

Visa: Indian citizens must apply for a Myanmar eVisa online prior to their visit via the Official Myanmar website . The application process is fairly simple – the approval is received within 3 working days and costs USD 50

Local Currency: Do exchange money beforehand, as many money changers in Myanmar do not accept Indian currency

Local SIM: If you want to get a local SIM, then there are several telco stalls at the Arrivals section of Yangon International Airport and they all offer competitive rates and services 

Transportation: The easiest way to get around the city is via Grab Taxi
VisitNational Museum: Open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and closed on Mondays. Entrance fees for foreigners is 5000 kyat (~USD 4)

Dala: Ferries for Dala depart every 20 minutes from the Pansodan Ferry Terminal and a round trip costs 4000 kyat (~USD 3). The ferries run from 5:30 am to 9 pm, and the ride itself is about 10 minutes. The local drivers in Dala should charge anywhere between 10,000 to 30,000 kyat (~USD 7 to 20) for a few hours of sightseeing, but it depends on the type of vehicle and number of sights you choose. 

Shwedagon Pagoda: The complex is open daily from 4 am to 10 pm. Entrance fee for foreigners is 11,000 kyat (~USD 8). There is a strict dress code as it is a place of worship. Traditional longyis are also available for rent near the entrance (if you are wearing shorts)
Eat Breakfast: at a traditional tea stall along the street or you can try it at popular restaurants like Myaung Mya Daw Cho or Ba Ya Thae. Cost of this meal can vary from 500 kyat to 10,000 kyat, depending on where you eat.

Lunch: at Rangoon Tea House. Open from 7 am to 10 am daily, and is completely packed during lunch time. Best to call and make a reservation in order to avoid waiting time. Average cost of a meal here is ~ USD 20 (even higher if you have cocktails)

Dinner: at Babett Eatery and Bar. Open daily from 6:30 am to 1 am. It is one of the few places in town to have live music and they also make great steaks. A complete meal including a couple of drinks and dessert can cost ~USD 40 to 50.
StayHotel G Yangon: great choice for leisure and business travellers. Average cost per night is ~USD 70 (including breakfast). Discounts can often be found on the hotel website as well as Agoda and Booking.com

Note: Content and photos on this blog, unless credited, belong to the owner of this blog. Reproduction or usage without prior permission is prohibited.

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