Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a bustling cosmopolitan city in Myanmar (Burma). Used to be the former capital, it remains to be an economic hub and one of the main gateways of tourists to Myanmar. After decades of isolation, the country is now seeing an influx of tourists seeking exotic places in the Indochina trail. Like other Southeast Asian countries, it’s not expensive to go around Yangon. To help you further in your first time, here are the best free things that you can do around Yangon!
British, Indian, and Chinese influences can be seen alongside Burmese culture and architecture in Yangon. It is not uncommon to see men wearing sarong-like shirts (the longyi is their national clothing), and chewing and spitting the red betel nut. One will also often see women and children with faces covered in Thanaka (yellowish cream that serves as a sunscreen).
The gridlocked city can come as a shock to visitors. But you need not worry because the Burmese remain to be friendly and welcoming to foreign visitors.
10 best free things to do in Yangon:
Walk around downtown Yangon
Walking around a city is certainly one good way to experience it. From taking the side streets to admiring the architecture, taking in the smells, and observing the locals. It surely is an experience that requires all your senses.
Doing your own walking tour of downtown Yangon is best done during the mornings to avoid as much as possible the humid heat. Free maps are available at the airport and in hostels to help you navigate the bustling city.
It is recommended that you start near Sule Pagoda, which is in the city center. Amidst the busy streets, be amazed at the colonial-era buildings, the markets, Chinatown and Little India. All these gives one a different experience compared to walking around in other Asian countries.
If you don’t want to do it DIY, you can sign up for the Free Yangon Walks. It’s on Wednesdays and Sundays at 4 PM. You will get to know about the history of Yangon while walking around guided by foreigners living in the city. You’ll get to know more about the city than what you’ll get to read from guidebooks.
Black & White: Yangon, Myanmar ➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖ This was one of the last few shots I took in #Yangon. We were hurrying to get back to our hostel since we were leaving for Bagan that night. Walking along the busy streets, I looked up and found these birds perched on the electric lines in front of a Hindu temple. It was amazing to see in a street full of people and cars. . Have a great weekend guys! Don't forget to pause and practice gratitude! 💜🙌 . . . #PSwanderlust #Myanmar
Walking along the streets of #Yangon in search of ref magnets and other souvenirs, my feet led me to the sound of singing and live music in front of the mall. Of course I cannot understand anything since it's in Burmese. Nobody seemed able to tell me what they were saying exactly. But from the picture of #AungSanSuuKyi, one can easily tell that it is connected to their upcoming elections. Currently, there is no electricity here. A situation that I'm no longer used to. Still, I do not fear too much walking alone in this streets, not unlike in Manila. I will be leaving #Myanmar tomorrow and I sincerely hope that by the time I come back, life will be better for the Burmese people.
2. Go window shopping at Bogyoke Aung San Market
Although getting more touristy, Bogyoke or Scott Market is still one good market to wander around. Be introduced to the myriad of things that Myanmar offers. from arts, food, clothing, antiques, jewelry and handicrafts. Housed in a colonial-era building are around 2000 shops in its four wings. Do take note however that the market is closed on Mondays.
3. Marvel at the reclining giant Buddha (Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha)
Even if you’ve seen the reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand, Yangon’s enormous reclining Buddha is not to be missed. Buddha’s glass eyes will surely mesmerize you. Along with the details on the statue’s feet. The colors really make the colossal statue stand out.
Be sure to find the platform where you can take pictures to fit the whole Buddha into the frame.
Hit two birds with one stone by going across the street to get to Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda. It houses the large seated white buddha in the golden robe. Keep an eye out for the impressive woodwork.
4. Inya Lake
The largest lake in Yangon is a popular respite from the chaos in the city. Do your morning walk and exercises together with the sunrise. Or wait for the sunset along with the couples from the shoreline.
Inya Lake’s southern side is where you can find some of the most exclusive properties. Most notable are Aung San Suu Kyi’s house as well as the US Ambassador’s.
5. Learn and use a few Burmese phrases
Even coming from decades of isolation, the Burmese people are one of the kindest and friendliest in Southeast Asia. don’t be afraid of talking to locals to practice a few Burmese phrases like Mingalaba (Hello) and Ché Zu Ba or Je zu tin ba deh (Thank you). They do appreciate it, and may even teach you more useful phrases.
6. People watch in Mahabandoola garden
located in the vicinity of important buildings in Yangon like Sule Pagoda, High Court, and Yangon City Hall is a public park famous for its rose garden. at the center is the Independence Monument, a white obelisk to commemorate their independence from the British, surrounded by half-lion mythical creature statues.
Best to go here in the afternoon, for people watching and relaxation. the park is well-kept, with manicured lawn, children’s playground, and a fountain.
7. Join a festival
Another awesome way to experience Yangon is by participating in one of its festivals. one of the most important festivals is Thingyan (Water Festival). It is celebrated around the Burmese New Year (13th of 17th April). it is believed that the water cleanses the sins and evils from the past year.
Like the Songkran Festival in Thailand, this festival involves a lot of water and merry-making. Be prepared to stay wet throughout the day, eat free food given by Burmese locals, and party it up after sunset.
8. Check out the art scene
Art lovers will be delighted to hear that Pansodan Art Gallery does not have any entrance fee. Founded by Aung Soe Min and Nance Cunningham, this art gallery houses contemporary and antique art, showcasing the local artists. If your Tuesday night is free, swing by for their weekly event.
9. Maha Wizaya Pagoda
Located in the vicinity of Shwedagon Pagoda along Shwedagon Road, is another interesting golden pagoda. Maha Wizaya is also called as “The Generals Pagoda” because the ornamental hti (spire) was donated by a previous head of state and military leader.
Few tourists go here because of its proximity to Shwedagon. Do not forget to look up when you’re inside the pagoda and admire the colorful murals in the dome.
Yangon 1/3: Maha Wizaya Pagoda It was my first day in #Yangon and was walking around with my newfound friends: a Norwegian and a French. We had just come from Sule Pagoda and eager to get to Shwedagon before sunset. However, this fairly new pagoda (completed in 1980) caught our attention. All that gleaming gold lured us to take a peek inside. Also called as "The General's Pagoda" because the hti (umbrella) on top of the pagoda was donated by Ne Win, #Myanmar's former head of state and military leader. What's amazing about the central dome are the murals you'll see inside it once you look up. It has depictions of Buddha and animals. #PSwanderlust #aprilcontestforall Photo Contest
10. Taukkyan War Cemetery
An understated and historical place in the northern part is the Taukkyan War Cemetery. It is a serene and well-kept cemetery maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission. it was built to house the grave of the soldiers who died in Burma during the two World Wars. As well as the other servicemen with no known graves or whose graves cannot be maintained.
Beautifully kept and never be forgotten. • Memorial pillars with names of over 27,000 soldiers who perished during WWII. • • • • #yangon #exploremyanmar #taukkyanwarcemetery #sharemymoment #AOV #artofvisuals #vscocam #vscogrid #igsg #sgig #minimalmood #minimalism_world #minimal_perfection #exploretocreate #wanders #wanderfolks #letsgosomewhere
*Featured image: Karaweik by Mg Cthu from Unsplash
Have you been to Yangon? How was your experience?
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