Although no longer capital, Yangon remains Burma’s cultural and spiritual centre as well as its largest city, its vast and turbulent heritage making it a fascinating place to explore. Wandering Yangon’s (also known as Rangoon) streets you cannot help but be struck by its charms - whether it’s the dilapidated grandeur of the colonial architecture, the vibrancy of the bustling streets or the magnificent Shwedagon Paya.
The 99 metre tall, gold leaf-encrusted Shwedagon Pagoda dominates Yangon’s skyline from its perch atop Singuttara Hill. This is Burma’s most sacred landmark, said to enshrine 8 hairs of Buddha, its crown encrusted with diamonds and rubies. Whilst a pagoda has stood on this spot for hundreds of years it has had to be rebuilt on a number of occasions – the current incarnation is 17th century. For pure peace and tranquillity, visit the pagoda at dawn or admire the flaming red reflections of the setting sun in the evening.
Located in the heart of Yangon’s downtown, legend says Sule Pagoda is around 2,500 years old. The pagoda is, oddly, part of a huge roundabout but still manages to offer a fairly peaceful atmosphere within its walls. This particularly pagoda has been a focal point of politics with both the 1988 uprising and the Saffron Revolution of 2007 using the sacred space as a meeting point for anti-government/pro-democracy protesters.
Even with all the turmoil Yangon has witnessed since Burma gained its independence in 1948, there is still plenty of magnificent colonial architecture in the city to enjoy. In the area around the Sule Pagoda you’ll find the old City Hall and a former department store that was nicknamed the ‘Harrods of the East’. Continue to Pansodan Street for the High Court and the Internal Revenue Department with its Art Deco touches. The Strand Hotel, built in 1901, is also worth a visit – it is still one of the city’s grandest hotels.
For a fascinating journey through Burma’s art, history and culture spend an hour or two perusing the treasures of the National Museum. An excellent showcase for the country’s heritage, admire a collection that ranges from ancient artefacts and ornaments to art and inscriptions.
A huge covered market made up of over 2000 stalls and shops, Bogyoke Aung San Market is a souvenir and handicraft heaven. Selling everything from hill tribe textiles to lacquerware and jewellery, just taking an hour or two to walk through the market will have all of your souvenirs sorted. If you work up a hunger whilst you shop the food stalls here are also excellent.
In the very heart of Rangoon, just a five minute walk from the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Summit Parkview offers guests the pinnacle of Burmese hospitality. As you make your way through the classically Burmese architecture of the entrance foyer you will be personally welcomed before settling in to enjoy the range of excellent facilities whilst soaking up the ambiance of the vibrant city around you.
Embrace the romance of the colonial era in this fresh yet timeless hotel housed in a gorgeous 1920’s mansion. Replete with fan-cooled verandas, teak furnishings and sunken bathtubs, stroll through the landscaped gardens and sip a signature cocktail at the Kipling Bar after a busy day of exploration.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.