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Home > Myanmar Highlights > Yangon & Surroundings > In-city highlights

Yangon & Surroundings

In-city highlights Bago Twante

Yangon, the melting pot of old & contemporary cultures & traditions

Yangon, as it is now called, was formally known as Rangoon till 1989 when the new military government came to reuse what King Alaungpaya named in 1755, Yangon or “the end of strife”, while Okkala was the very first and original name of a small village of Mon people, then later changed into Dagon following the construction of Great Shwedagon Pagoda sometimes around in the 5th century BC. After second Anglo-Burmese war in 1852, Yangon came into international popularity as the “The Garden City of the East” for its charming colonial buildings, chessboard style city layout, and importance of the regional trade centre. For a long time, Yangon was caught in a time warp. Despite Yangon is rush to modernize, the atmosphere of antiqueness and the colonial ambience still lingers on. There were only 20% of Burmese were living among Europeans, Chinese, and the imported Indians at the time of British’s Rangoon. Most frequently mentioned Rudyard Kipling’s phrase from his “Letters from the East” (1889), he wrote: “Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon – a beautiful, winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire. It stood upon a green knoll… ‘There’s the old Shway Dagon,’ said my companion… The golden dome said, ‘This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land that one know about’.” Although Kipling’s visit to Yangon may over 100 years in the past, yet little has altered the people and lifestyles through the ages. Indeed, Yangon may gain its fame from Shwedagon pagoda while there are many attractions that make one wonders, from ageing colonial buildings now using as living quarters and government offices among the high-rises & glittering ancient pagodas, busy bustling side streets with vendor selling various goods, crowded buses of second world war remnants, old churches, mosques, Hindu temples, and even a synagogue, the happening places or the teashops where you can sip a cup of tea or chat with the locals, colorful markets, gems & jewelries to the beautiful grounds of Kandawgyi parks and the Karaweik barge. Furthermore, Yangon is an ideal place to make a base to commence your classic journeys to all destinations of Myanmar and do some excursions to the delta towns of Twentay, 17th century Portuguese’s colonial island of Thanlying, Bago that had been the 9th century capital of the Mons and 16th century capital of the Burmese, the Golden Rock Pagoda, or the Myaing Hay Won elephant training camp and other ecotourism destinations.

Nowadays, Yangon’s 5+ millions inhabitants make the most multiethnic & cosmopolitan city in Myanmar, as the new satellite townships establishing towards all cardinal points except to the south. Being the capital of Myanmar, Yangon is the only most accessible gateway to Myanmar, although the seat of military government moved to the north, near an old town called Pyinmana, and established a new city from the bare land called “Naypyitaw” or literally means “The Kingdom of the Sun”. All in all, Yangon is the gateway to begin your dream journey into the Golden Land, Myanmar.

Sule Pagoda

Originally built by the Mon people, this 48-Meter high distinct octagonal-shaped stupa actually dates over 2000-years. Some suggest that the name was corrupted from Sura, a minister of Mon kingdom who has been stationed here. Once stood on the bank of Yangon River in the muddy swamp land, now Sule is pay homage by the bustling Yangon’s motor traffic of from whichever direction, as British town planners laid out the grid system by setting up the stupa in the centre and made the heart of Yangon. In these days, Sule is an important place for the Buddhists who want to meditate briefly from their routine work or do some religious activities as suggested by the fortuneteller or simply take a short break from the hectic daily life.

Botataung Pagoda

Literally means “Thousand Military Leaders Pagoda”. This pagoda has a combination of two Buddhist architectural traditions, the style of stupa from the outside and the usage of a temple inside. In fact, this pagoda is renowned for its age dating back to over 2500-years, and the relics it contains inside, the hairs of Buddha, which are kept inside the decorated glass case. You can also find antiques offered to this pagoda in the cages along the passage including invaluable votive tablets with Pyu inscriptions. One can attain merits by feeding foods to the catfish and tortoise from a lake next to the pagoda. A highly venerated bronze Buddha image from Mandalay period that was shipped to London Albert museum by the British in 1885 and returned to Myanmar in 1952 is on the north side of the stupa and has an interesting story. The proximity of this pagoda to the Yangon’s paddle ferry port is an advantage to see a little bit of life and also to breathe some fresh air.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha

This colossal reclining Buddha image is a must to see if you don’t have time to see more graceful one in Bago, 80km north of Yangon. According to the Buddhist iconography, there are many different positions from standing, walking, sitting with various hand postures… but reclining style is most difficult to express in terms of architectural beauty if it is especially a gigantic size. Although Chaukhtatgyi Buddha image is a 20th century monument and less proportionate comparing with the other ones throughout Myanmar, it has the length of 70 meters and makes the third biggest in Myanmar. There are also interesting sole marks of Buddha numbering 108 in total.

Shwedagon Pagoda, the fairest place on earth

A golden dome, which rises above Yangon’s skyline… call it a golden mystery or a beautiful winking wonder… or a magical vista… Shwedagon is the essence of Myanmar and the most important & sacred religious site of all Myanmar. The pagoda is 98m above its base set on the highest point of Yangon at the altitude of 58m above sea level. Although the current style dates back to 1770s, the original stupa was built 2500-years ago when two brothers from Yangon area (at that time called Okkalapa) met with Gautama Buddha and received eight hairs, then built a stupa of 18.5meter to house the hairs together with three other relics of three former Buddhas. The stupa was rebuilt several times, enlarged the size & raised the height by the successive Mon & Burmese kings after a serious of earthquakes throughout centuries. However, the earliest solid record was made only in the 1485AD by King Damaceti of the Mons. To the date, Shwedagon is covered with over 53 tons of gold plates & gold leaves; over 2200 carets of diamonds excluding various precious stones and jewelries, not to mention a single 76-carets diamond at its very top. There are several interesting buildings where you can find both ancient and refined Myanmar arts and architectures in many forms, and many interesting stories to be heard from your guide. The most convenient time to visit this place is before sunset to see the soft orange dome while the last rays of the setting sun hit the great Shwedagon with its dazzling mix of pavilions, stupas, images, & bells or to observe a group of volunteers sweeping the platform in rows and experience the magical scene as the pagoda wonderfully light up as the twilight enters… Shwedagon is the fairest place on earth and never fails to enchant.

Kabaraye, the world peace pagoda and Maha Pasana, the great cave

A contemporary pagoda, built in 1952 by the first prime minister of independent Myanmar, U Nu who’s also a renowned politician, to commemorate the sixth Buddhist synod where the world leaders of Buddhist religion came to gather and recheck the entire holy Buddhist canon from 1954 to 1956. The stupa-temple style monument has 34m height and 34m circumference. The striking Buddha image made out of 500kg silver is kept inside the inner sanctum together with relics of two disciples of Buddha.
The Maha Pasana or the Great Cave is an artificial one, where the sixth Buddhist synod was held to coincide with 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It was constructed by the voluntary labors and finished just before the conference started. Inside around 10,000 people can be seated and it is now used for the state level religious occasions and ceremonies like rewarding of highly achieved Buddhist monks. The cavern measures 139 x 113 meters.

Bogyoke Aung San Market, the oriental bazaar

Built in 1920s, the sprawling market has almost every item that produces in Myanmar. Virtually, it is cheaper and make sense to buy things from the place where they are produced, Bogyoke Market (aka Scott Market) has wide range of Burmese handicrafts, woodcarvings, lacquerware, musical instruments, shoulder bags, precious stones & jewelries, longyis, and various imported goods. It is also a good place to try some typical Burmese snacks and seasonal fruits.

National Museum

The new national museum is relocated to the present site in 1996 and has a range of interesting cultural & historical exhibits, including 8m-hight Lion Throne (Sihasana) used by King Thibaw of Mandalay; royal regalia, furniture, paintings, inscribed stones of Pyu & Bagan periods; prehistoric findings; woodcarvings; folk cultural items; archaeological findings; and mannequins dressed ethnic groups in the country.

Bogyoke Aung San Museum

This museum itself dates from the 1920s and was in fact the home of General Aung San and his wife Daw Khin Kyi and family lived. The museum exhibits the old photos of the Burmese most distinguished national hero and independence leader General Aung San and his family including the widely publicized state’s enemy Aung San Su Kyi. The books in the library, furniture and items used by the General are kept in the different rooms as it has been arranged in the old times.

Zoological Gardens

Kandawgyi Gardens




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