Whilst I actually spent 4 days in Yangon I know that many travellers only allocate 48 hours in which to explore the City and so I have used my time there to create a 48 hour itinerary including all of my personal highlights. I must say that I found the City very tiring and as such this itinerary could easily be spread out over 3 or even 4 days as you will definitely want to spend more time wandering around exploring or simply relaxing at your hotel in order to escape the oppressive midday heat.
07:00 – Even if you are not an early bird I would highly recommend getting up earlier than usual as the early mornings are so much cooler and noticeably less frenetic. I was up and out by 7 am every day and found I enjoyed myself the most in the hours between then and 11am and in the evening hours from sunset onwards. Most tea houses and restaurants are open from 6am so grab yourself a bowl of Mohinga (Rice Noodles in a Spiced Fish Broth, garnished with anything form boiled egg to fish cake and split pea or onion fritters) in order to set yourself up for the long day ahead. I recommend Thone Pan which is on the corner of 32nd street and Mahabandoola Road as it is just a stones through away from the impressive Sule Pagoda which you should absolutely take time to walk around (entry fee is 2000 Kyat – aprox $2 usd) afterwards.
Suitably energized after breakfast make your way east along Mahabandoola road and take a right onto Pansodan Road down across The Strand where you can catch the Ferry to Dallah from the terminal almost directly across from Customs House. The terminal is accessed by walking through a small market so do make sure to grab a bottle of water ( 1litre costs anything from 200-400 Kyat) to take with you. A return ticket to Dallah is 4000 Kyat and ferries run approximately every 20 minutes.
The easiest way to explore Dallah is either by hiring a bicycle or a rickshaw driver (1 hour is around 4000 Kyat – you can negotiate quite a lot on this, but anyone happy to pedal my heavy bulk around for $4 in that heat deserves every cent!) They generally have a good idea of where to go – the local market is definitely worth a quick look as are the pagodas but I would recommend avoiding the bamboo village as the sole purpose of this seems to be photographing the young children who inevitably run out to greet visitors – something that I felt very uncomfortable about and I asked my rider to leave very quickly.
13:00 – Grab some refreshing watermelon from one of the ladies selling snacks on the ferry back to Yangon and grab a taxi (2,000 kyats) or make the 15 minute walk to 34th to lunch at 999 Shan Noodles where you can enjoy some of Yangon’s best cooking. The menu is one of the few I saw that had English on it as well as Burmese script so take your time and choose wisely! I would recommend trying either their name sake Shan Noodles (served wet, dry or with oil) or the delicious polenta like Warm Tofu with noodles and pork along with a side order of simple stir fried greens or Lahphet Thohk – pickled tea leaf salad ( you can see my blog post on 5 Must try Burmese Dishes here )
After the long morning I would recommend heading back to your hotel for a bit of a rest as the next stop on your itinerary is best enjoyed in the run up to sunset and you will not need to leave the hotel until around 5pm when you head for the impressive gilded Shewedagon Pagoda. Depending on who you believe this mesmerizing Buddhist monument is anything from 1,400- 2,600 years old and is home to 4 holy relics making it the most sacred of Burmas many pagodas. The stupa is made from real gold plate and is studded with an incredible 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, not to mention being crowned with a staggering 76 carat diamond. The beauty of the golden stupa is enhanced further by the warm glow of sunset and I watched in absolute awe as the sun’s rays created a beautiful rainbow across the golden surface – it is worth waiting for absolute darkness before leaving.
19:30 – From here it is just a short taxi ride to Feel Myanmar, part of a successful Burmese restaurant group, which is housed in an attractive wooden Burmese home. Whilst the menu is only written in Burmese script, you can head to the counter and see the many dishes they offer for yourself, pointing out the ones you want to try to the friendly, helpful staff. Expect to pay anything from 3,000 to 9,000 kyat for dinner depending on which dishes you try and whether or not you wish to partake in a local Myanmar beer or two ( which of course I did!) I would highly recommend asking your hotel to write down any of your destinations in Burmese script as naturally, many taxi drivers don’t read English and as you can imagine my Burmese pronunciation leaves much to be desired!
21:00 – It is safe to say that Yangon’s nightlife is still a little on the sedate side but if you aren’t ready to call it a night yet then grab another taxi to what I reckon is the best bar in the City, Gekko on Merchants street. Choose from local beer on draught, local wine, sake, spirits from their extensive list which specialises in Japanese whisky or one of their excellent cocktails like the Shiro Barrel Aged Negroni which would not be out of place in Bangkok’s – or London’s top bars. They have a great live band on Friday nights and the crowd is a fun mix of locals, expats and tourists alike meaning there are plenty of fun people to chat with as you sit at the bar assuming you are not chatting with one off their lovely staff members.
Beat the heat with another early morning wake up call and head to Lucky Seven on 49th street for what is probably my favourite Mohinga in Yangon! Not in the mood for more Mohinga? No worries! The Samosa Salad and the Nan Gyi Thohk (Chicken Noodle Salad) are also exemplary here, just grab a spare seat and order from the wide English menu available. The Lucky Seven Tea is a strong brewed Burmese style tea with condensed milk and is a much better accompaniment to breakfast than the frankly poor coffee they serve, it packs a real caffeine hit too so don’t worry about missing out on that!
From here you can wander the 20 blocks to the Morning Street Markets or “Zei” along 26th street or hop in a taxi for 1,500-2,00 kyats. Stall after stall of fascinating local produce from fresh and preserved fish to all manner of fruits, vegetables, meat and more line the bustling street and you can watch the local shoppers on their morning rounds whilst stopping to enjoy some of the many street food dishes on offer such as these split pea pancakes fried up by the side of the road. Continue to explore the side streets as you make your way to Bogyoke Aung San Market for more souvenir shopping for an hour or two. Burmese Longyi (decorated skirts) are on sale from as little as 6,000 kyats and you should stop by the high end Yangoods stall inside the market too for a really unique purse, wall hanging or my favourite, the bright pop art style cushion covers.
11:00 – Yangon’s main Train Station is located just next to Bogyoke Market and if time allows it you can catch 11:30 (train times can be a little fluid – mine left 10 minutes early!) Circle Line Train for a 3 hour, 200 kyat round trip which takes you out through the city limits and past the airport before returning to Yangon. The train barely stops for 30 seconds at each station so be careful not to get off until you reach the end unless you are happy getting a taxi back to the City but the route offers plenty of attractions from local markets to pagodas and the beautiful Burmese countryside.
14:15 – Make the 10 minute walk to famous Shan Noodle restaurant Aung Minglar on the corner of Nawady Street and Bo Yar Nyunt Road in time for a late lunch of Fried Dumplings and whichever of the other speciality dishes take your fancy but the Pork Shan Noodle Soup takes some beating! If you are still up for some exploring – good for you! – but I would take the opportunity to head back to the hotel for a shower and a rest after your long morning.
17:00 – Head to Union Bar on the corner of The Strand and Bo Galay Zay Street for their happy hour (5-7pm daily) It is well worth eating here too if you are in need of some Western food; the burgers and pizzas are absolutely delicious and there is also a good selection of Burmese curries & vegetarian dishes as well. The service is some of the best in Yangon & both the aircon and wifi is strong – what more could you want?! Try to pop into the bar at the historic Strand Hotel just down the road, which was opened in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers – also behind Raffles in Singapore and the E&O hotel in Penang where you can enjoy the famed Pegu Club cocktail invented in the Victorian British gentleman’s club of the same name back in the 1880’s.
18:00 – Be sure to sneak in some last minute souvenir shopping at Hla day just above Sharkys on Pansodan (middle block) This wonderful social enterprise has unique fabrics, jewellery, clothes and homewares for purchase and you can be safe in the knowledge that your money is going to a good cause. my favourite gifts are the papier-maiche elephants and dogs, as well as the repurposed jewellery and the lovely handprinted bags with old maps of Yangon on the back. Whilst prices start at just a few dollars I would take plenty of money, I find it impossible to leave without spending at least $50 a visit, you don’t want to get back home and regret not making a purchase or three! While you are at it you could also buy some locally produced artisan Ngapali fleur du sel (salt) at Sharkys as you admire the creativity and drive of this Burmese Deli selling locally made cheese and charcuterie amongst many others.
19:00 – When you leave Hla Day just walk across to Rangoon Tea House (at present located opposite Hla Day but soon to move to street level next to Sharkys) where you can try both classic and updated versions of Burmese dishes, from Samosa Salad, Crab Rangoon and Lahphet Thohk to Biryani and Pork Belly Baos. My favourite dishes are the Lahphet Thohk (ask for it spicy) the Samosa Salad and the Nan Gyi Thohk is also well worth trying. Wash it own with a Pimyiana Pimms or a Mandalay Rum Sour and if you still have room be sure to squeeze in the Chocolate Samosa or the Falouda.
For a more budget alternative, you could round off your night by taking a taxi to the Chinese Night BBQ on 19th Street where you can eat like the locals enjoying freshly grilled BBQ meats, Myanmar beers and whisky for less than 8,000 kyat a head. As with all street food, look for a stall that is well maintained and busy and ensure you can watch the meats being cooked to order in front of you and select your own fish in order to lessen the risk of “Travellers Belly” but of course the (relatively small) risk remains.
I hope you enjoy my Yangon itinerary – feel free to contact me via my Facebook page or Instagram should you be visiting and want more advice! Things in Yangon change so quickly so this post was written in 2014 and then updated in July 2016 to reflect all the great new openings and additions to the Yangon scene. Do let me know how you get on!