Taxi from Airport
Took 45 minutes or so and cost 9,000 kyat.
Where We Stayed
We got a private double room (shared bathroom) at Sleep In Hostel. The room was a tiny windowless box and there were 68 stairs up to the floor it was on but it had strong A/C and was clean. The bathrooms were clean enough. The location in Chinatown was interesting to view local life – not many tourists around – markets, street food, old city architecture. Hotels are expensive in Yangon so this was a good budget choice for us at $30 USD per night. It included breakfast though we didn’t care for it. They have dorm rooms as well.
Where to Eat
We had some traditional Burmese food at Aung Thukha…it was good, not great. We had some drinks and snacks at KOSAN 19th St. Snack & Bar and what we’d recommend is getting some skewers first at one of the many places on 19th street, then some 80-cent mojitos at Kosan afterwards. Down the street from Sleep In Hostel was Ya Kun Coffee and Toast with delicious coffee and food (not just toast).
How to Get Around
Taxis are cheap and easy to get. We paid 3,000 kyat for a ride from Chinatown to the Pagoda. You can also check out the circular railroad.
What to Do
Check out Mark Wein’s list of 11 things to do in Yangon and The New York Times articles 36 Hours in Yangon. Unfortunately, we were both sick in Yangon and did not get around as much as we wanted to. Leave some time to simply wander around the streets, check out the decaying architecture and local life – it is fascinating.
Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda
This tops everyone’s must-see list and it is spectacular. It’s also a huge complex so we’d recommend you leave at least 3 hours to visit and enjoy it. Bring water/snacks as there is nothing around there. Dress conservatively and no shoes or socks allowed so it’d be best to bring light sandals and a bag to carry them in while you walk around. The entrance fee is 8,000 kyat and they provide an informative brochure and map to guide your visit. There are 4 different entrances: South, West, North and East. The West is the only one with an escalator and is the best exit as it’s off the main road (so easy to get a taxi). Official website: http://www.shwedagonpagoda.com/
Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda During Thadingyut (Festival of Lights)
We timed our visit to Yangon to witness the special activities at the pagoda and in the city during this time. Thadingyut marks the end of the Buddhist lent and lasts for three days: the day before the full moon day, the full moon day and the day after the full moon day. In 2015 this will occur at the end of October. The day before full moon day you should arrive at 4:30pm. You’ll get some nice light for photos as the sun goes down and you’ll be there in time to see the huge procession that starts around 5:30pm. This is also the time they start lighting 9,000 candles around the pagoda. Later, people take part in a group chant under a tent. If you have the energy, go again the next morning at 4:30am to witness the alms offering and other religious activities.
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