I found myself with 5 days off in a row after my trip to Houston, and with a bit of planning decided to head to Myanmar. Emirates started flying to Yangon (and the flight then continues on to Hanoi) a few months ago, so it was an easy decision, and at under 5 hours quick to get to from Dubai.
My friend Kirsty arrived a few hours before me from Hong Kong, and was waiting at the airport as I arrived. I managed to get a few hours sleep on the flight, so after a quick stop at our hotel to drop off our bags and freshen up, we made our way out to the city.
Yangon, also know as Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar, is the country’s largest city with a population of over 7 million, and also has the highest number of colonial buildings in the region.
Most of the colonial buildings are located in downtown Yangon, and we strolled through the streets admiring the mix of old and new, as well as some of the typical Burmese streets.
Starting at the Strand Hotel, we passed by the City Hall, Custom House, High Court Building, and many others, which were built in the late 19th Century during the British colonisation, when Myanmar was still known as Burma.
We spotted these gentlemen typing up notes on an old typewriter – this is definitely something you don’t see much of today!
Kirsty and I popped in to Rangoon Tea House to have a break from the heat and get a quick coffee to take with us. If we’d have been feeling a bit more hungry, we could have stopped for longer to try some of the traditional Burmese cuisine which is readily available in all teahouses.
An institution in Myanmar, the Burmese teahouses are on every corner, little plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the sides of the street, open all day, every day. They serve up sweet, milky tea and often an assortment of fried pastries, samosas, and small breakfast items.
These ones were being fried in front our eyes at a small stall on the corner of a street, so we had to try a few!
We continued on our walk through downtown Yangon, passing by Maha Bandula Park, where the Independence Monument is located.
To commemorate independence from the British in 1948, this huge obelisk was installed in the centre of the park, replacing the statue of Queen Victoria, which was sent back to England.
Just around the corner, on our way to the Shwedagon Pagoda, we happened to pass by a stall serving up some delicious looking Burmese food.
For only a dollar each (roughly 1000 Burmese kyat – pronounced “chat”) we tried a tasty meal of chopped fried samosas, chickpeas and tomatoes, in a thick, flavoursome broth.
Served with fresh mint and coriander, it was absolutely delicious and the perfect lunch!
Our next stop was the Shwedagon Pagoda, which according to legend was built over 2600 years ago, which would make it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world.
At 99 metres tall, the Pagoda towers over Yangon, glittering in gold. We paid the small entrance fee for foreigners, and spent the rest of the late afternoon wandering around admiring the beautiful golden temple.
All around the pagoda are small statues for each day of the week, you can pour water (we were told 19 times!) over them at your respective day of birth to bring peace, good health and luck.
I thought I was born on a Thursday, but after a quick google it turns out I was actually born on a Friday, so hopefully this doesn’t bring bad luck!
As the sun began to set, the golden pagoda started to shimmer in the evening light, and we took a moment to sit and enjoy it.
As our first night in Myanmar was coming to and end, we headed back to our hotel ready for an early morning flight to Bagan the next day. An incredible first day exploring Yangon!