1.YANGON IS THE FORMER CAPITAL CITY
Yangon is originally a small fishing village called Dagon. People before lived around the big pagoda called Swhedagon Pagoda. Yangon became the independent capital of Myanmar from 1948 to 2005. And Naypyidaw is the new capital of Myanmar since 2005. However, Yangon is considered one of the the largest city and the industrial and commercial of the country.
Yangon and Bagan are the main tourists attractions in Myanmar because of the plenty of beautiful pagodas. People call Yangon is “the city of Golden Pagodas”, and the biggest pagoda here is Swhedagon Pagoda which is a must- see spot for all tourists visiting Yangon.
2. YANGON IS A VERY OLD CITY
Yangon, former name is Ragoon, in my first impression is a very old city. Yangon is the 19- century British colonial capital. Most of the buildings were constructed from 1990s, that’s why you can see how old the buildings are and even the transportation ( cars, trains, bicycles, motorbikes, etc).
Wandering around the city gives me a feeling like a real journey exploring the historical city where people are really kind and welcome all strangers and tourists, where people are still wearing the sarong or longyi, where people are comfortable with walking barefoot.
We spent a day to wander around the city, to enjoy the street food and we took the only train to explore the further areas in the city. The train is really old, there are no doors and windows, the train’s sofa is almost damaged. You can sit at the entrance and enjoy Yangon’s life along the railway. And you can stop at any local markets or areas and enjoy the food here. People are really curious about tourists and always keep smiling with us.
3. IT IS A MUST TO DRESS APPROPRIATELY AT THE RELIGIOUS SITES
Myanmar is a Buddhist country, there is 98% of the population following and practicing Buddhist. Thus, there is plenty of pagodas around Myanmar.
Dress code is a must for all visitors to enter the pagoda, the rules are usually more relaxed in Thailand but in Myanmar, if you dress inappropriately, you cannot enter the holy site. Knees and shoulder need to be covered and shoes have to be taken off. If you don’t bring any clothes to covers, then you are asked to rent a sarong to cover your knees and shoulders before entering the holy site.
4. MEN WEAR SKIRTS( LONGYI)
Myanmar is an eye- opening experience for anyone visiting the country, especially the way how they dress. In Yangon and all other parts of Myanmar I suppose, men wear either trousers or Longyi. Actually it is not a skirt, it is a sheet of cloth tied around the waist, worn by both men and women. And actually, the longyi is somehow very suitable in the summer with the temperature up to 40 degree in Yangon.
5. APPLY THANAKA MASK TO PROTECT THE FACE
Thanaka face mask has been used by Myanmar women as a beauty product for such a long time. Local people use it for several reasons. As I mentioned, it is seemly like beauty cosmetic for women in Myanmar. It is also used as sun cream for cooling the skin and avoid the sunburn of the hot weather here.
Thanaka is a yellowish powder made of thanaka tree. People mixed it with water and apply on their face or sometimes even their forehead, their nose, their arms.
6. DRIVING IS CHAOTIC
In 1970, Myanmar made a super change from driving from the left side to driving on the right side of the road.
There are a lot of cars in Yangon while the street is not big enough. In the rush hour time, the traffic become chaotic and crazy, you should avoid booking your flight around the rush hour. Peak hour is from 7-9 am and 4-7 pm in the evening. A 10 minutes trip could be a 2 hours trip because of the traffic. And usually, the traffic become worse because many drivers do not obey the traffic rules and drive carelessly without caring the safety of other road users.
7. MOST PUBLIC BATHROOM DON’T HAVE TOILET PAPER
In Yangon, the squat toilets are the norm and usually set behind a house. Some public toilets charge a small fee for using it.
It was hard for us to find a public toilet in Yangon, if yes, then the toilet was not really clean and there was no toilet paper. Besides, there are a number of street food vendors, street cafes in Yangon and similarly, there is toilet here. So, always remember to go toilet before you leave your guest house and bring the antibacterial gel and tissue with you.
8. THERE IS NO ELEVATORS FOR MOST HIGH BUILDINGS
As I mentioned, Yangon is a very old city with a lot high buildings without elevators. When wandering around the downtown you can easily come across these buildings with a basket- rope like in the pictures below. Without lifts, people are not willing to frequently go up and and down, and that’s how the ideas come out. People use a rope with a basket, so that others can put food or whatever things they need in the basket. And all they need to do is just pull it up. That’s very creative and funny, right?!
9. STREET FOOD IS EVERYWHERE
Myanmar food has been influenced by their neighbor countries like China, India, Thai and ethnic minorities. Yangon street food vendors are mobile every a few hours.
Most restaurants and food vendors are on the 19th street or in the China town, however you can walk around the city and experience new things that no other tourists did before. We did take the train and stopped at a local market, and it was totally an interesting food trip. The authentic local food there is very cheap, and the people are super friendly.
10. LOCAL PEOPLE UNDERSTAND YOU EVEN THEY DON’T SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE
Yangon people blew us away with their friendliness and hospitality. The people is the highlight of our trip, everyone seems to be there to help. Staying in Yangon for almost a week, we received a lot of help and smiles from the locals.
I remember one night when we took a taxi to a well-know restaurant in Yangon for our late-dinner, but unfortunately, the restaurant was close early that night. The people in the restaurant immediately recommended us another restaurant and one waiter happily gave us a ride to the restaurant. We were very happy and surprised with their kindness.
Another funny story, when we stopped by a local food vendor and decided to eat street food, eight of us could totally finish her vendor just in a few minutes, the owner was very happy and kept talking with us by her language. Whatever we asked her, she replied like she understood our language. This interesting conversion between 2 different languages was one of the most beautiful memory of our trip.