Destination Yangon

Yangon

The government may have moved to the new capital Nay Pyi Taw in 2005, but Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) remains the cultural and commercial heart of Myanmar, and most visitors begin and end their journey to the country here. Yangon is a huge city, by far the biggest in Myanmar, and its ramshackle charms deserve at least a few days exploration.Yangon had itself only been the capital since 1885, when the British conquered northern Myanmar and moved the seat of government from Mandalay. However, as they had long held the city as a key trading post, Yangon's has a wonderful array of colonial-era buildings - many of which are now crumbling, hidden down side streets. But the biggest concentration is on the riverfront Strand Road, around the bottom of Pansodan Street and Sule Pagoda Road. Yangon’s buildings are also awash with colour and reflect the city’s history of ethnic and religious diversity, but no structure stands out quite like the Shwedagon Pagoda, the monumental golden Buddhist shrine that is sacred to so many in Myanmar. The city also has an eclectic range of museums, art galleries and markets, in which you can take in Myanmar culture and haggle to your heart’s content. The diversity which makes Yangon so architecturally intriguing is also reflected in its restaurants and food, which have plenty of native cuisine but are also heavily influenced by some of the countries that surround Myanmar – Thailand, China and India. The city is one of the safest in Asia, and foreigners are seldom robbed. However, the lack of development that has allowed to retain its colonial charm also means that pavements and roads are in a terrible state of repair, you may have a close encounter with a rat or cockroach, and there is often no electricity. But whatever you do in Yangon, you will find a vibrant and overwhelmingly friendly city that is quite different to any other.