Myanmar has been one of Southeast Asia’s mysteries for years. Even after becoming increasingly modern over the last decade, the country retains the power to amaze and charm even the most jaded of travellers. After five decades of operating in isolation thanks to its politics, Yangon has slowly been opening up and the city’s progress is deeply reflective of the changes since then.
After all, it was once the capital city of Myanmar and is still the country’s most important commercial hub.
Even so, it has a long history. The city was first founded in the 11th century (1028–1043), and retains a colonial-styled urban core that plays host to a curious dynamic between the old and the new. The numerous award-winning restaurants and private hotels will prove that Yangon should be your next city destination.
If you don’t know where to start planning, here’s everything to get you started on your first trip to Yangon.
Attractions in Yangon
No trip to Yangon is complete without a visit to one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Asia, the Shwedagon Pagoda. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was constructed more than 2,600 years ago and was originally only eight metres tall. Today, the structure stands close to 110 meters. It is one of the most sacred and impressive site for Buddhists all around the world and is home to strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics.
Chauk Htet Kyi Pagoda
A 65-metre long reclining statue of Buddha lies at the heart of Chauk Htet Kyi Pagoda. A magnificent sight, this statue is a fascinating reveal into the relationship between the Burmese and their faith. Any first-hand experience will make anyone feel like a mouse next to this giant beauty. The detail on the statue is a sight to behold: 108 unique symbols are inscribed on the Budhha’s feet, each representing the Buddha’s former lives before attaining Enlightenment.
For insight into the regular lives of the people in Yangon, head to Kandawgyi Park. It’s home to one of two major lakes in Yangon, the Kandawgyi Lake. Stroll along the boardwalk at sunset, and catch a glimpse of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda as it reflects on the calm waters. On the eastern side of the lake, check out the Karaweik Hall, a reinforced-concrete reproduction of a royal barge that resembles a mythical bird, a classic in Burmese architecture.
Food & Drinks
Seeds Restaurant and Lounge
The brainchild of Michelin star Chef Felix Eppisser and his wife, Lucia, SEEDS is the gateway to contemporary fine dining in Myanmar. With direct access to Inya Lake, the restaurant features dishes made from local, organic and sustainable suppliers that pivot around the concept of healthy dining. Here, traditional and innovative European techniques using local Asian ingredients forms a harmonious union. The chef is most fondly known for running favourite among locals for a Michelin star, Seeds is one lakeside restaurant sure to impress.
Le Planteur Restaurant and Bar
Be transported into France when you step into Le Planteur. The architecture and interior of the vintage building directly translates to its elegant menu: Primarily French yet peppered with Burmese elements. Although the menu changes according to the availability of ingredients, our favourite has to be the Crispy River Prawns with Green Tea Lahpet Salad, served with saffron espuma and a sorbet.
Padonmar is definitely one of the more humble restaurants on this list, but that does not mean that it loses in terms of flavour. Unlike the other two, Padonmar serves up authentic Burmese dishes like the curry and pork with pickled mangoes. The menu is also prepared with light use of oil and salt, perfect for milder palates.
Where to Stay
LOTTE Hotel Yangon
A towering building of glass and steel is setting a new standard for 5-star accommodation in Myanmar. LOTTE Hotel Yangon is part of South Korea’s award-winning hotel group chain, LOTTE Hotel and Resorts, ensuring premium quality when it comes to service and accommodation. It is located on the banks of Yangon’s breathtaking Inya lake and provides a comprehensive range of spaces to satisfy the various needs of different guests. Serviced apartments are also available for travellers who prefer a longer stay. Apart from an infinity pool, a spa and numerous quality dining options, LOTTE Hotel Yangon also has a shuttle bus service for all its guests.
Savoy Hotel Yangon
Location is key here at Savoy Hotel Yangon. This beautiful heritage hotel is situated just moments from the Shwedagon Pagoda and the city centre. All 30 contemporary deluxe rooms feature snippets of Burmese culture, with exquisite Myanmar antiques and locally woven fabrics. For guests who don’t want a tan, the iconic courtyard pool and lounge area are protected from the direct afternoon glare by the verdant trees, encircling a silent oasis in the heart of Yangon.
Belmond Governor’s Residence
The romantic, colonial-style design of Belmond Governor’s Residence is Yangon’s most timeless and luxurious hotel. Each of the 49 rooms and suites has a view of their verdant garden dotted with lotus pools, pampering visitors for an indulgent hideaway after a day of adventure in the city. Dine alfresco in the balmy evening air as you feel the tropical breeze beneath the dreamy lanterns. The hotel also provides tours to the city’s most visited sights, as well as tours to the countryside for guests who want to get away from it all.