Backyard Travel’s General Manager Maeve Nolan recently spent time in Myanmar researching tour options for some of our inspirational tailor-made trips. Upon her return, she shared her thoughts about her experiences of Yangon:
Yangon is one of my favorite cities in Asia. A diverse melting pot of people (68% of the population are ‘Bamar’ while the remainder are a mix of diverse sub groups) makes the city a destination packed full of assorted cuisines, eclectic architecture and a unique ‘west-meets-east’ feel.
Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Yangon twice and my favorite way to see the city is on foot – not only to avoid the city’s unpredictable traffic jams but also as it allows a soothing pace to accompany the charming sights.
A city packed with a rich history, the older section of town has many fascinating religious structures, most of which are still used as places of worship but are still open to visitors. I admit I’m fascinated by religion, so on this visit to Yangon I felt compelled to discover the city’s history through its places of worship.
As with most cities in Asia, Yangon features a Chinatown near to the river where several large, ornate temples can be found. Always fascinating to visit, these temples are a short stroll from the center of the city in an area bursting at the seams with old traditional shop-houses and noodle shops.
My next stop was within walking distance from the Chinese temples where I discovered a handful of mosques, some of which date back hundreds of years from when Yangon was a major trading town. There’s a colorful contrast between the Muslim and Chinese neighborhoods which really accentuates the feeling of transcending cultures within such a short distance.
Yangon’s only synagogue, located down a small backstreet, is the main place of worship for the country’s tiny Jewish community – which apparently numbers just a small group of 25 people!
From the synagogue it’s a short stroll through the bustling streets to Sule Pagoda, a revered Buddhist pagoda which offers a calming serenity after Yangon’s noisy streets. Along the way I enjoyed losing myself in the small network of lanes connects the city’s main boulevards and offers glimpses of apartment buildings in various states of repair, with many dating back to times of British occupation.
Adding an eclectic element to an already fascinating city, close to Sule I discovered a collection of fortune tellers who predict the future of anyone willing to have their destiny read. Incredibly popular amongst Burmese, many locals use these astrologers on a regular basis; but as someone who likes a surprise, I turned down the invitation!
Around sunset I was treated to an unexpected experience as the church bells and Muslim call to prayer sounded out across the city simultaneously, underlining the feeling of cultural co-habitation – a beautiful moment by which to end a day of insightful exploration!
A walking tour of Yangon (as Maeve has just done) is a fascinating way to experience local culture and history at a peaceful pace and ensure no detail is missed. Contact one of our expert Travel Specialists based in Yangon to find out how you can add a walking tour with a local Backyard Travel guide to your Myanmar holiday.