Out of the Shadows
The broad roads of Yangon these days seem to be crammed with traffic; the latest model cars having largely replaced the older machines that once tootled about the capital, before Myanmar opened its doors to the world. For all that, however, Yangon seems not to have lost any of its former charm.
The Shwedagon Pagoda, at a height of almost one hundred metres, remains the country’s spiritual center for Buddhists, just as it has always been. Worshippers fill the grounds of the Pagoda even on rainy days to pay tribute to the hair relic of the lord Buddha enshrined within. Besides paying tribute to this most sacred site in Myanmar, visitors will be astonished by its exquisite architecture; the radiant gilded spire is a sight you can never forget, making it one of the most familiar religious sites in Southeast Asia. As you might expect, this ancient pagoda is also rich in history and legend.
The scene of the faithful praying and chanting at the Pagoda from dawn to dusk demonstrates that religion is a spiritual anchor and essential to the life of the Burmese. The best time to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda is just before dusk, when its golden spire glows in the evening light. When night falls, candles and lights illuminate the Pagoda, creating a magical fairy tale atmosphere. Looking up from the west entrance, you can see the lights reflecting from precious stones which adorn the pagoda – a breath taking sight!
Besides the Shwedagon Pagoda, there are plenty of other religious sites in this old capital worth visiting, such as the nearby Chaukhtatgyi Paya with its exquisite reclining Buddha more than 70 metres long.
Another is Botatung Paya, a pagoda located near the Yangon River on the other side of Yangon city. It too houses a sacred relic of the Lord Buddha. Other important religious artefacts include Myanmar’s most beautiful Buddha image, recovered from the British, the sacred Nat Bo Bo Gyi with its attendant crowd of worshippers making offerings, and the Mya Nan New or ‘Angel of Whispers’, reputed among Burmese and Thais alike for its power to grant wishes.
It is enjoyable to stroll along the roads in the heart of Yangon; beautiful colonial style architecture and the western-style city plan from the days of British rule dominate the cityscapes and might have you wondering for a while where you actually are.
Going shopping at the many markets in Yangon is also fun; stalls are set out along roads and lanes and also at large and small markets. There are fresh food markets, and markets for clothing, such as Theinzgi Market, where locals go for low-priced goods. One of the largest markets, and a major tourist attraction, is Bogyoke Aungsan (or Scott Market) where you can shop for antiques, Burmese handicrafts, sarongs, shoes, jade and other precious stones and exchange currency in more than two thousand shops. Make sure to choose and bargain well.
Yangon is a charming city with its own character; an ancient city with a rich and long history that has passed through the hands of many different rulers. Yangon has survived and grown through these turns of fate, and now welcomes tourists from all over the world to visit its wonders.
Thai Airways International and Thai Smile Airways offer direct flights from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Yangon.