We get it.
You’ve only allocated one day for Yangon because you can’t wait to marvel at the ancient temples of Bagan or to chill on a slow boat down Inle Lake.
Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, is often viewed by tourists as a layover city, in comparison to other more popular destinations in Myanmar but give the city 24 hours to enthrall you and you’ll wish that you’ve stayed longer.
Here are a few suggestions on how to see the best of Yangon within a day. Wear comfortable shoes, take your camera along as well as an umbrella, just in case the heat gets unbearable.
8am: Breakfast in Lucky7 Teahouse, followed by a wander around downtown Yangon
Start your day right with a hearty meal. Burmese cuisine may not be as popular as Thai or Vietnamese but it does offer up a great selection for breakfast. Like most Southeast Asian national cuisines, Burmese food is the sum of its regional parts.
The country’s many ethnicities lend special flavours and styles of cooking to its everyday plate with strong emphasis on sour, fiery and pungent flavours. To sample the best of Burmese food, skip the hotel’s touristy fare and hit the streets for some authentic flavours.
Lucky7 Teahouse on the 49th Street is perfect for such samplings. Their English/Burmese menu is thick and offers a good variety of snacks and hot meals. For beginners in Burmese breakfast, you might want to try the refreshing Tea Leaf Salad, Lahpet Thoke, and their delicious fried Shan noodles. Roti pratha and a side of dhal curry is also available if you’re already missing home.
Once you’re fueled up, start wandering around the streets of downtown Yangon. It doesn’t matter where you go because the streets are lively with culture and character. You’ll find buildings painted in bright colours, children playing around on the sidewalk, street food vendors squatting around their greasy offer, tailors working on their sewing machines, sidewalk markets and so on.
If you’re a fan of colonial buildings, you can even go on a heritage walking trail. Notable buildings around downtown Yangon are Former Commissioner’s Building, Customs House and General Post Office. See the older side of Yangon before it disappears.
11am: Hop onto Yangon Circular Train
Once all the walking has exhausted you, take a break by hopping onto Yangon Circular Train line at the central railway station. Here you’ll get to put your feet up and yet still get a local experience up close and personal.
In a true old-fashioned style, the wagons aren’t air-conditioned and the seats are possibly cramped and uncomfortable. However chatting up the locals and tasting what the snack vendors try to sell you, will take your mind off whatever discomfort that you’re experiencing. You might even end up making some friends.
The whole loop takes about 3 hours but your ticket lets you hop and hop off. If you want to see how locals in the outskirts of Yangon live, this is your chance.
Markets and tea shops are aplenty by the railway stations so don’t hesitate to pop out for a cup of sweet tea.
1pm: Shop in Bogyoke Aung San market
When the train takes you back to the heartbeat of Yangon, head to Bogyoke Aung San market nearby. Originally called Scott Market, this market has been around since 1926 and comprises more than 2000 shops. Wander slowly on its cobblestone streets and browse through antique and Burmese handicraft shops, art pieces, clothes, medicine, food and assorted bric a brac.
Bogyoke market also used to be a popular black market to exchange currency, as the jewellery shops there offer a better exchange rate than banks or currency exchange kiosks. However this is no longer the case.
Do note that the market is open daily except on Mondays.
3 pm: Slurp a bowl of mohinga at 52nd Road, Anawratha Road
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about lunch. We figured that you might have probably stuffed yourself with street snacks that you won’t feel hunger pangs till late afternoon. If you could last till this long, then you’re in luck. We want you to treat yourself to a delicious bowl of Mohinga, one of Myanmar’s most popular dish, at a place that tourists rarely frequent.
At about this time, next to the Sri Varatha Raja Perumal Hindu Temple, you’ll see this two Burmese women putting out plastic stools and setting up their Mohinga stall. Here’s a place that locals love to frequent. It’s so popular that it only takes about an hour or two for the shop to sell out its Mohinga and they close up right after.
What exactly is Mohinga? It’s a breakfast staple amongst Burmese but people eat it all day long too. It’s rice vermicelli drenched with hearty and flavorful fish broth, and topped with herb garnish, deep-fried scallions and crackers.
It’s a small portion so be sure to order two.
4pm: Marvel at the ancient Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist shrine in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain the relics of four previous Buddhas. Legends claim that the temple is one of the oldest in world, dating back to 2500 years old, though archaeologists estimate that it was built sometime between the 6th and 10th century.
Whether you’re a Buddhist or not, this magnificent place still deserves a visit. Located just a little outside of Yangon, you’ll see the golden stupa sitting on top of a hill, dominating Yangon’s skyline, at all times of the day, even at night.
The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing more than 7000 rubies, diamonds, topaz and emeralds, positioned cleverly to reflect the final rays of the setting sun, thus making the temple best visited at sunset. As the temple complex is huge, you can easily spend a few hours visiting it.
When you fly out of Yangon at the end of your trip, remember to look out of the plane’s window to catch a glint of gold piercing through the haze.
7pm: Steamed fish and Shan noodles at Nan Htike Shan Restaurant or Myanmar barbeque on 19th Street
The secret is that the best steamed fish is Yangon can be found in Nan Htike Restaurant on Bogyoke Road, between 46th and 47th Street . Locals tend to come here for its specialty in Shan noodles, and also steamed fish with lime. The fish tastes so fresh that you’ll think that you’ve never tasted fish before.
The restaurant gets especially popular during the nights so you might want to get here early.
However, if you want dinner to be a little more exciting, head to 19th Street in between Maha Bandula and Anawratha Road, and join the throngs of locals in indulging in street barbeque.
You’ll find yourself faced with a litany of meat skewer restaurants teeming along the stretch of the road hence the nickname, ‘Skewer Street’.
Each shop front offers a large variety of fresh meats, seafoods and vegetables on skewer for your barbeque pleasure. The bustling atmosphere, the smells of grilled meats and the sharing of space with the Burmese also makes the eating experience more bona fide.
Don’t forget to order some local beers to go with your food, because when in Myanmar, do as Burmese do.
9pm: Night bazaar along Anawratha Road
After dinner, walk off your calories by hitting the night markets along Anawratha Road.
Actually, scrap that.
There are more street food vendors to be found here, so you most likely will end up putting more food in your tummy.
It’s hard to resist though. The atmospheric lights, the abundance of food stalls (and fruits, clothes and toys) cluttering on the sidewalk and the friendly locals will tempt you.
But you’re on a holiday anyway, so you can put off your diet plans to another day.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Yangon as much as we did! Getting so much done in a day around Yangon may be tough but we applaud you for trying. If you get lost somehow or if you’re beat from walking around too much, find a teahouse and recharge your batteries with some sweet tea.