Yangon is a hard city to fall in love with. It’s hot, busy, dusty and falling apart. The traffic doesn’t stop for pedestrians, the hotels are terrible value for money (even by Australian standards) and communicating, particularly with taxi drivers and even when you have a map, is almost impossible. Oh and the sewers are open. You must look at the ground whenever you are walking so you don’t fall into an open pit of sewage. Nothing ruins a holiday faster than falling into a pit of sewage.
But Yangon does manage to charm us. The people are friendly and welcoming (we had a lot of locals help us explain where we wanted to go to taxis, they failed too, but it was nice to know it wasn’t just us). The dilapidated colonial buildings manage to still be beautiful. Every evening the car park outside our hotel magically transforms into a series of open air restaurants. We can always be charmed by eating outdoors.
Aside from the amazing collection of crumbling colonial buildings, there aren’t a lot of traditional tourist attractions in Yangon. They have a national museum, an independence monument and Myanmar’s most important Buddhist site, the Shwedagon Pagoda. Foreigners get stung $8 entry, more if you are wearing clothes that show your knees and you need to hire a traditional longyi. You have to remove your shoes on entry, and fortunately rather than having to take the stairs you can take an escalator to the top. Being barefoot on escalators feels wrong, but I’ve seen a lot of bogans do it at the hyperdome so it isn’t unique to Myanmar. Once at the top of the escalator, there is a large platform housing the pagoda and a number of other shrines, including one allegedly housing strands of Buddha’s hair. You can walk around the pagoda and the various shrines at your leisure, though the floor, having been baking in the tropical sun all day, is extremely hot, making it rather unpleasant in bare feet. Like crossing the road from the car park to the beach, you need to run from shadow to shadow to get some relief.
Despite lonely planet’s poor review, we also head to the people’s park, with its amusement park and a log ride (for the bargain price of $1). It’s here we buy our first (and most inconvenient) souvenir, 3 A4 photos of us on the log ride. We look forward to carrying them with us for the next 10 months.