May 29, 2013

Myanmar : Yangon Sightseeing

While walking to the city, I passed by a booth set up in front of Orchid Hotel, which is just at the corner of the street to my hotel. There's a few people talking in front of the booth so being busybody curious, I stopped to have a look. 

It was actually a travel agency promoting their tour packages. They promoted tour to Kyaikhtiyo, Bagan, Mandalay and others, and also Yangon city tour. Kthxbai. Cos I usually prefer to travel and explore the city on my own.

But part of me urged myself to take the brochure and go through it, to get an idea on activities to do from the tour itinerary. The package was kinda ok, it covers some of the places that I wanna go but too lazy to take the public transportation, and the price was affordable at only USD 20.

In the end, I signed up for it, registered myself for the trip on the following day. haha..

The tour started as early as 7.30 am. There was only 5 person in the group. Great! Small group means we got extra attention from the tour guide.

Our first stop was Sule Pagoda, located at the very heart of downtown Yangon.

Sule Pagoda is open daily. 
Visiting hours : 4 am to 10 pm
Entrance fee: 2000 kyats or USD 2 
Direction: It is located on a roundabout in downtown Yangon

night scene of the pagoda

The pagoda is located right in the center of the city. In fact, the golden pagoda itself is in the middle of a large roundabout. Despite its location, the pagoda is of great antiquity. Legend says it was built during the lifetime of Buddha and enshrines one of his hair.

It is surrounded by some of the important landmarks in the area such as the Yangon City Hall, Bengali Sunni Jamae Mosque, Emmanuel Baptist Church and Mahabandoola Garden.

Right opposite Sule Pagoda on Anawrahta Road is Bengali Sunni Jamae Mosque.

I was surprised to find out that Yangon is home to a number of mosques since it is a deep Buddhist country. There are more than 10 mosques in Yangon itself, and most famous of them all is probably this Bengali Sunni Jamae Mosque. It was built by the largely Bengali Muslim population that came to Myanmar during the British colonial era.

The downtown area comprises a densely packed diversity of faiths. Just a short walk away from the pagoda and mosque, stands Emmanuel Baptist Church. Founded by an American missionary in 1885, it is one of the oldest churches in Yangon.

Emmanuel Baptist Church

Near the church, the imposing Yangon City Hall is considered a fine example of Myanmar architecture. Listed as one of Yangon City Heritage Building, it is designed by the same architect who designed the Central Railway Station, thus their resemblance.  

Yangon City Hall

Opposite the City Hall is Mahabandoola Garden which offers pleasant strolling in the city centre. Occupying the centre of the park, the Independence Monument marks the traditional centre of Yangon and was the rallying point of the pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 and 2007.

Next, we headed to one of Yangon's big three pagodas, the Botataung Pagoda.

Botataung Pagoda is open daily. 
Visiting hours : 4 am to 10 pm
Entrance fee: 3000 kyats or USD 3 
Direction: It is located at the end of Botataung Road, facing the Yangon river

This pagoda is actually quite near to my hotel but I didn't plan to visit it as I thought it's just another pagoda. Had enough of Buddha already. -_-

But it turned out to be worth a visit. Unlike many pagodas where their stupas are solid or inaccessible to visitors, Botataung's is unusually hollow. We can walk inside the stupa, going through some sort of maze-like walkway with glass mosaic walls to view the sacred Buddhist relics enshrined within.

the maze wall

sacred hair relic of Buddha

it's inside there


A short walk from the pagoda is the Botataung Jetty where you can watch ferries and water taxis cross the Yangon river to the Delta region.

Well.. if you have more time than just watching the ferries, you can actually ride it. But from what I read, you need some sort of permit to visit the Delta region as some of the areas are off limits after they were damaged in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis. You can apply for this permit at Myanmar Travels & Tours (MTT) office at Mahabandoola Garden Street.

 OK the post's already quite long.. will continue in part 2... 

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