Dust, sweat, dirt and noise. That is how trip to Yangon can be best described based on my experience. Although I totally fell in love with Myanmar otherwise, Yangon just did not manage to win me over. After several changes in our itinerary, thanks to Air Asia flight cancellations and fully booked over night busses, we ended up having 2,5 days in Yangon instead the original 1,5 we had planned. And that ended up being 1,5 days too much.
After Myanmar we headed to Sri Lanka, where I met a danish girl who had visited Myanmar some time ago. When she heard we had just been in the counrty, we started exchanging our experiences and opinions. We both had fallen in love with Myanmar and were nodding approvingly to each other whenever the other told about the past experiences. That was, until I mentioned I really did not like Yangon that much. For a while she was all silent and then cried out loud ”Oh, but I LOVED Yangon!” And I frantically started wondering what was it that I did not get about the city, just like what happened with Paris – I had read so many good things and was told the city was the best, but I still did not manage to see the beauty of it.
There certainly is a lot to do and see in the city. There are dozens of beautiful Pagodas, but truthfully, after more than a week of intense pagoda-spotting, there is a limit of how many pagodas you can get excited over. There were interesting market areas and the city center was packed with beautiful, colonial era buildings. But, since I’m not a bit architecture-freak, nor was I feeling like shopping, these were quickly seen. Plus, the heat, the crowds and the noise made sure I felt anxious and exhausted even after a short walk. It was actually rather surprising how burning the sun and heat were in the city, especially as the weather in Mandalay and Bagan was so pleasant.
I loved taking a quick tour in Dala across the Irrawaddy river. Seeing a totally different side of Yangon with extreme poverty and happy, smiling people really was worth the trip. As was taking the circular train around greater Yangon area. But these were easily ticked off the list in 6 hours. The most impressive part of the city was the Shwedagon pagoda. Several people claim your visit to Myanmar is not complete without a visit to this breathtaking sight – and I agree.
Although we had already seen hundreds of pagodas on our trip, not one of them was as impressive as the Shwedagon was. Honestly, with a height of nearly 110meters, completely covered with gold plates and the top of the stupa being encrusted with over 4500 diamonds, with the biggest one with a 72 carat diamond, I really think this should make any person in the world speechless. And as photos always distort the partitions, below you’ll get something to compare this structure to – those little dots on the walls surely are no flies, but two monks waling around the stupa as the sun is setting – pretty impressive, huh?
Shwedagon pagoda is best visited during the sunset. Sure, it’s beautiful any time of the day, but as the sun sets and the sky changes colors, and as the candles are lit around the base of the stupa – the place is simply stunning, it almost feels like the place is out of this world.
Although the Shwedagon pagoda was impressive, the train ride around the city interesting, and the visit to Dala to see the different side of Yangon made you feel humble, Yangon did not manage to win me over otherwise. Maybe the reason was that I had already completely fallen in love with Bagan and Mandalay, and after those Yangon did not feel that different or was able to offer anything completely new and exciting. Or was it simply because of the burning heat combined with the crowds and no possibility to cool off anywhere? Or maybe it was just because I felt like we had too much time there with not that many interesting attractions to visit. Who knows. All I know is that Yangon was the least favourite of the places we visited in Myanmar. Still, I’m not saying I wish we had not visited Yangon – I’m glad we did, I just wish we had been able to use that ”Extra” day somewhere else as the country is just full on other interesting destinations.