Sep 8, 2016

Your guide to Yangon

Equally famed for its colonial buildings and one of Asia’s most breathtaking temples, Myanmar’s largest city provides an intriguing blend of cultures to experience before a cruise on the country’s renowned Irrawaddy River.

Yangon remains one of the world’s best examples of a 19th century British colonial capital, with over 100 examples of grand public buildings lining the wide boulevards of the Asian capital once known as Rangoon.

It’s also revered as the home of what many believe to be the oldest pagoda on earth. At 99 metres high, the magnificent gilded Shwedagon Pagoda casts it golden glow across the city day and night from on top of Singuttara Hill.

Though there are no official records, legend has it Shwedagon is over 2000 years old. The huge complex attracts millions of visitors from across the nation and neighbouring countries with worshippers flocking to take part in sunrise offerings, evening candle ceremonies and day-of-birth rituals whose origins go back centuries.

A sunrise or sunset visit will be among the highlights of any trip across this mystical, beautiful part of the world.

Relatively unaffected by western influences compared with neighbours like Thailand, daily life is heavily informed by ancient Buddhist rituals and beliefs. Monks in their deep red robes and nuns in pink can be seen walking all over the city each morning to receive alms from locals.


Modern trappings such as mobile phones, ATMs, the internet and even western television channels were virtually unknown in the city even five years ago, but things are changing rapidly since the military government was dissolved in 2011.

The restoration of more than 100 formerly grand colonial buildings – left to crumble during decades of military rule – is part of a host of positive of changes being planned in today’s Yangon. A handful, such as the magnificent Secretariat building, have been handed over to foreign developers who have plans to return them to their former glory in consultation with heritage experts. It's easy to imagine what splendour could be returned to the wide boulevards of the old business district as you walk around the once powerful port city.

That delightful colonial ambience is being reimagined in new bars and restaurants all over town such as the Rangoon Tea House, which is an upscale take on a beloved Burmese tradition of taking tea. With their own bespoke blend of tea leaves, cocktails and a fine dining menu, the Tea House is among the most popular new meeting places in the city.

Food in Myanmar is a reflection of the many ethnic minorities who have come and gone over the years – Indian, Chinese and Thai flavours have all left their mark on Burmese food. An eclectic, spicy mix of dishes is the order of the day at most restaurants in town.

A touch of colonial elegance co-exists with exotic Asian design motifs at the Sule Shangri-la, which will be your base for exploring Yangon.

The hotel is located near many of the city’s major attractions: the Scott Market, where stunningly affordable and beautiful examples of the country’s famous lacquerware are on sale; the riverside People’s Park which provides a verdant respite from busy streets as well as many colonial grand dames of the British Empire era. And best of all – the hotel is a short ten-minute drive from Schwedagon, and offers views of the golden stupas from many of its rooms, leaving guests with a unique memory of a stay in this city on the brink of reinvention.