Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar, is so verdant and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes that it has earned itself the name of “The Garden City of the East”. At the same time it also exudes the atmosphere of a typical bustling Asian city. As the main arrival point to the country by both sea and air it is very much Myanmar’s hub of both commercial and administrative activities as well as the country’s main centre of learning with numerous educational institutions.
The city is home to an extraordinary mix of communities, cultures and religions. Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small town called Dagon when he conquered lower Myanmar in 1755. He changed its name to Yangon, which means “End of Strife”, but this was anglicized as Rangoon by the British when they annexed Myanmar in 1885. The present day Yangon covers an area of 350 sq. km with a population of over 5 million. In many ways Yangon seems to be caught in a time warp.
Despite the apparent rush to modernize, the atmosphere of antiqueness and the colonial ambience still lingers. At the time of British colonialism the city’s population was only about 20% native with the rest of the cultural mix being made up of European, Chinese and Indian and this diversity of ethnicity is what gave Yangon such a feel of uniqueness among Asian cities and gave rise to Rudyard Kipling writing about it in1889.
While Yangon is best known for the Shwedagon pagoda the city has much more to offer from the now ageing colonial buildings to the myriad of glittering pagodas. Its bustling streets are crowded with vendors of all manner of goods while the skyline is dotted with places of worship – temples, churches, mosques and synagogues.
A visit to Yangon is often merely the start of a journey into the wonders and mysteries of the astonishing country of Myanmar and can be used as a base to explore such riches as the delta towns of Twenty, the 17th century Portuguese colonial island of Thanlyin, Bago – at one time the capital of the Mons at another, the capital of the Burmese – the Golden Rock Pagoda, or the Myaing Hay Won elephant training camp. All in all, Yangon is the gateway for your dream journey into the Golden Land – Myanmar.
The best time to go: All year round but the best season is from October to mid May when it is not so hot and not rainy.