Yangon was my favourite place in Myanmar… And I wasn’t there very long! I will definitely be going back. We had a bit of a list of things we wanted to see, but didn’t get to see them all. We crammed as much in as we could.
Here’s a few other bits and pieces we went to see in Yangon.
Here’s a new one for you. A pagoda (yes, an actual functioning place of worship) is perched in the centre of a busy roundabout in downtown Yangon. Sule Pagoda is an easily recognised landmark and also lends its name to the extremely busy and hectic Sule Pagoda road, which funnily enough, runs the the Sule Pagoda roundabout.
Borrowing some of its style from the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Sule Pagoda can look like a scaled down version of the former to the untrained eye. However, there are subtle differences in cultural influences and worship rituals. Like the Shwedagon, there are planetary posts arranged around the stupa and one can ‘water’ their corresponding Buddha and animal, as well ring the small bells hanging from the post.
Once again, the pagoda complex is dotted with smaller stupas and temples donated by families as a way to earn merits and good karma. Buddhist devotees can also be seen applying gold leaf to various Buddha images.
Entry for foreigners to the Sule Pagoda is about $USD1 each, and is valid for multiple entries in the day. Keep your sticker and ticket to do this. To get there, simply ask a taxi driver or rickshaw rider to take you to the Sule Pagoda. We, however, walked because we were staying just up the road at East Hotel. You could also take a bus, as there is a bus stop quite near by on Sule Pagoda road. Bus number 43 stops there very briefly.
Buses are entertaining in their own right. They pull up to the station or stop with the conductor shouting the destination or route of the bus. Meanwhile, passengers scramble to disembark as people push and shove their way on. The last passengers will have only just got on or off the bus as it begins to pull away, and the conductor jumps back on board, holding onto the rails on the still open doors so he doesn’t fall off. Absolute pandemonium which all happens in about 20 seconds.
Tomb of the last Emperor of India
This is a must for the history buffs. Tucked away off the beaten track, is the tomb of the last Emperor of India, who died in November 1862. Mirza Abu Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon (Yangon) in 1857 after his involvement in the Indian Rebellion. His grave was thought to be lost, until it was discovered in 1991 when work began on the site. Burmese Muslims declared him a saint and built a shrine. His wife and granddaughter are also enshrined in the tomb.
It is a haunting and interesting insight into a different culture and religion. I was also surprised to be allowed to enter the tomb; I fully expected to be asked to view it from a different section.
Entry is free, but getting there can be a little bit of a challenge, especially when you speak next to no Burmese and cannot direct your taxi driver! Lesson learned for next time: ask your hotel or guesthouse to write down “Tomb of the last Emperor of India” in Burmese!
Lonely Planet was right – poorly lit! It was, however, an interesting look at Burmese history (minus the unsavoury political arguments, as this is a government run enterprise). Burmese art, scripture, archaeological artefacts, flora and fauna, ethnic groups and religion are all on display here.
Yes, poorly lit, but plenty of fascinating displays to see.
Entry is $USD5 each, which does go to the government. We were extremely careful to avoid government charges as much as possible, by eating and shopping locally, and avoiding big hotels. You must leave your bags and cameras outside in a locker guarded by a local, which we were a bit uneasy about. But this is Myanmar, and to be branded a thief is seriously bad news.
The Strand Hotel is to Yangon as the Raffles Hotel is to Singapore. Resplendent in its tropical colonial style decore, the Stand Hotel is worth a look. Delicious cocktails at the bar are far more pricey than any of the bars back near to Sule Pagoda road but it is worth it to say you have been there.
A nice place to escape the heat too!