Yangon

Overview

Introduction

Although the capital city has moved north to Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Myanmar—the city formerly known as Rangoon, located 350 mi/565 km south of Mandalay—remains Myanmar's cultural and commercial hub.

The city's foremost attraction is the Shwedagon Pagoda, set in a 14-acre/6-hectare plaza of shrines and temples. The 326-ft-/98-m-high pagoda, which reportedly holds eight hairs from the Buddha, is topped by a spire covered with 5,000 diamonds. Shwedagon is, in some ways, as striking as the Taj Mahal, though it's as cluttered as the Taj is simple. The spectacle, colors and wind chimes are enough to leave a visitor breathless. Much of the central section of Yangon—particularly the government buildings—retains the feel of the Raj (Burma was part of British India).

Other points of interest in Yangon (pronounced yahn-gone) include the lively covered Bogyoke Aung San market (also known as Scott Market) and the Botataung Pagoda (with its maze of mirrored walls inside). The best way to explore downtown Yangon is on foot, starting at the central Sule Pagoda and taking in the colonial buildings, Hindu and Chinese temples, lively street markets and chatty streetside cafes. The beautifully restored Strand Hotel is a good place to stop for a snack or catch your breath in the air-conditioning.

The National Museum includes an interesting collection of treasures, including a throne that belonged to the last king of Burma. Once a year on Martyr's Day (19 July), the former home of late General Aung San, the slain freedom fighter and Aung San Suu Kyi's father, opens to the public.

Yangon also has a number of world-renowned meditation centers. Special arrangements can be made ahead of time to visit one.

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