I reached Yangon from Bangkok at about 8.30 am on a rather cloudy morning. The rainy season had started and I had my worries about the trip getting hampered as I had only 9 days to cover Myanmar. Not having much information on Myanmar except that it was a dictatorship till the recent past, had recently opened up to tourism and that democracy has been restored, I hadn’t the faintest idea what was in store. Travellers I had met and blogs I had read, all suggested that its one of the best countries to visit in Asia and that one should go before mass tourism takes hold. I didn’t find many tourists, at least as compared to other south-east Asian countries, which most of them are, and maybe the fact that it was the rainy season helped. It actually turned out to be a beautiful surprise though, as I was to find out from my travels through the country during the next nine days.
Yangon seemed smaller and less developed compared to other big south-east Asian cities that I had visited. Yangon, though, is no longer the capital of Myanmar after the military moved the capital to Naypyidaw in 2006, but it still is the biggest city and main commercial center of Myanmar. It is an interesting city, with a laid-back charm and fewer people and vehicles on the road, though it’s slowly opening up to the outside world after years of military rule. The modernization even though slow, is still visible as many Chinese, Korean and Japanese companies are setting up businesses here and new high-rises coming up in the newer parts of the city.
The Chinatown area, which is in downtown Yangon is an interesting and bustling place with a positive energy to it. It is also where most of the hotels are located, so it is the tourist district as well but there weren’t many tourists in July. There are many local markets, shops, small restaurants and roadside eateries here. Close by there are a couple of boat jetties on the Yangon river if you fancy a boat ride or just want to hop into one of the boats that the locals take to cross over to the outskirts. The only Jewish synagogue in Asia and Sule Pagoda are both at walking distance from Chinatown and both are well worth a visit. The 99 meters tall Shwedagon pagoda is the most important and sacred pagoda in Myanmar and dominates the Yangon skyline. Both the Shwedagon Pagoda and the National Museum are interesting too and is just a short taxi ride away from the tourist district.
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