We sincerely hope you’ve been having a productive 2019 because time certainly flies. By the time you’re reading this, you might’ve realized that there are less than two months left in the year. If you’re in the same boat as us, trying to scrape the last bit of your annual leave together for a vacation (eye-roll-worthy 2-week notice request aside), we have a simple proposal — make a short but meaningful stop in Yangon. There are a whole bunch of reasons to visit this underrated and low-key location, and we’ve gathered 4 reasons to back it up.
1. The perfect option for the budget-conscious
You’ve been busy shortlisting countries to visit and scheming for ways to travel without breaking the bank — unless you’re looking to splash out on a luxurious vacay (not that we’re jealous if you do, ahem).
We’re glad to tell you that the flight time to Yangon from Bangkok (either airport) is just an hour, with flights starting from THB2,700 (kudos if you can find cheaper tickets) on a variety of low-cost carriers such as Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, and AirAsia. A perk of being part of the ASEAN community means Thai passport holders will be able to visit Myanmar without a visa, that is, if you stay in the country for less than 14 days.
Meanwhile, an e-visa will set expat travelers back by USD50. That being said, with airfares and visa fees combined, it’s still more affordable than going to, let’s say, Japan and other European countries while still being able to take in a whole lot of culture and gorgeous sights.
As of October 2019, THB1 is equivalent to MMK50.58 — compared to last year’s rate of MMK47.50.
2. Temple hopping
We’re willing to bet that the first results you get when you google Yangon is an array of temple images (likely the same temple shot from different angles). For those who aren’t yet familiar with the iconic temple, that is the Shwedagon Pagoda — the must-visit location for anyone visiting the region. Sure, Yangon still has plenty of temples, many of which have picturesque interiors and unique charm for devoted Buddhists and tourists alike.
Other must-see temples in Yangon include Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda (home of the iconic white jade Buddha image), Kaba Aye Pagoda and Swe Taw Myat Pagoda. Even if you don’t consider yourself a spiritual person, the sights and sounds experienced at these places are still worthy of anyone’s bucket list.
A friendly reminder to always respect the religious premises by wearing long pants or long-sleeved shirts, or rent a sarong as a safe bet.
3. Street eats and more
If Burmese food is uncharted territory for you, fear not. An easy way to think of it is a marriage between Indian and Chinese cuisine, infused with local herbs and spices. You are very likely to find menus of curries with mutton, chicken or pork that’s been stewed overnight, but its national dish of Mohinga (rice noodle in fish broth) usually takes the spotlight.
Lucky Seven (on 49th street) and Feel Myanmar have been unanimously revered by diners, both local and international, with the former known for its teahouse vibes and power brunch-like menus — not to mention their freshly brewed teas to satiate the sweet-toothed. Feel Myanmar, on the other hand, is a little heavier on the savory side, offering a variety of curry dishes and local favorites — and yes, they have Mohinga too.
4. A gateway to Myanmar’s hidden gems
Yangon may be the largest city in Myanmar and hence the first option for many a tourist, but the fame of its neighboring cities has rapidly grown among travel enthusiasts, especially Mandalay and Bagan.
Mandalay offers tourists an insight into Myanmar’s ancient days with culturally rich temples and pagodas to see and pay respects at. FOMO-prone travelers may revel in the joy of capturing the stellar angles of the Hsinbyume Pagoda or the sunset from the top of Mandalay Hill on film.
The sandy city of Bagan will bring out your adventurous side. Rented scooters or bikes are the transport of choice to see temples and monasteries such as Shwezigon Temple, which is Bagan’s tallest temple, or Thatbyinnyu Temple and Dhammayangyi Temple, just to name a few. If you have spare change of approximately USD400, taking a hot-air balloon for a bird’s eye view of the city might give you the adrenaline rush you’ve always craved for.
An ideal way of traveling from Yangon to other cities would be to take a quick domestic flight, as opposed to toughing it out for 9 to 10 hours on a bus.
Comfy and convenient stay in Yangon
Staying in hostels and guesthouses might give you an adventurous edge, but you may feel a little more at home in accommodations that evoke a sense of safety and ease — Rose Garden Hotel Yangon is one such option.
A short amble away from the city center’s attractions such as Kandawgyi Park, Sule Pagoda, the National Museum, and Shwedagon Pagoda, there’s no doubt that the hotel’s location is quite the plus point for any savvy traveler.
The 5-star rated hotel offers a different kind of stay in the colonial city of Yangon, with six room types to choose from — perfect for large families, solo travelers and everything in between. An unexpected yet extremely welcome feature of the hotel is hidden in their signature dining rituals as Rose Garden Hotel Yangon serves up quality themed dinner nights including a ‘Wine and Cheese Soiree’, a ‘Latin Affair’, and the ‘Australian BBQ’ by the pool for those who seek an elevated dining experience right in the heart of Yangon.