Myanmar

   


Places of Interest in Myanmar
Bagan
Yangon
Travel Guide




Yangon

Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is the largest city and former capital of Myanmar (previously known as Burma, prior to 1989). The city is located at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers about 19 miles (30 km) away from the Gulf of Martaban.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellyphotos/83004857/<< Shwedagon Pagoda, in Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon is a combination of the two words "yan" and "koun", which mean "enemies" and "run out of" respectively. It is also translated as "end of strife". "Rangoon" most likely comes from the British corruption of the pronunciation of "Yangon" in the Arakanese dialect of Burmese.

History

Yangon began as a small Mon village known as Dagon. It was captured by King Alaungpaya and was renamed Yangon, "end of strife". The town remained insignificant until the British colonial capital by the British in the 1850s, after the capture of Lower Burma. The British knew it as "Rangoon", the Anglicised form of Yangon.

The city grew rapidly during the colonial period, which left a legacy of solid 19th-century colonial architecture. Burma attained independence in 1948, but it's true 'modern' period begins with the 1962 military coup and the institution of an isolationist Socialist regime in 1964, resulting in the steady decay of the city and its infrastructure.

People

The majority of the city's population is Bamar (ethnic Burmese). The largest minorities are the Chinese and Indians, two immigrant groups that arrived during the 1800s. Ethnic groups such as the Shan and Kayin are also present. Kabya, or persons of mixed heritage, are common in Yangon.

Climate

The climate is monsoonal, with three distinct seasons: a rainy season from June to October, a cooler and drier "winter" from November to February, and a hot dry season from March to May.

The winter season from November to January is markedly less humid and cooler than the remaining months, and hence sees the greatest number of visitors. Nevertheless, major festivals occur throughout the year, notably Thingyan (the water festival, equivalent to the Thai festival of Songkran), in April. (Festivals are keyed to the lunar cycle, specifically to the full-moon days of each lunar month, and therefore fall on different days each year of the Western, solar-based, calendar).

Getting there

By plane
Yangon International Airport (Mingladon) (RGN) is located approximately 30 minutes north of the city centre. Currently undergoing a major upgrade and renovation of existing facilities, it contains both international and domestic terminals. There is no accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the airport. The only transport between the airport and the city centre is by taxi (see below).

International: There are direct flights to RGN from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Taipei. Airlines servicing RGN include Thai Airways, Bangkok Air, Korean Airlines. Arriving passengers are advised not to change money at the airport - the black market exchange rate is better downtown. Toilet facilities in the arrivals area are minimal. The only transport from the airport to the city centre is by taxi - there is a desk at the exit door of the arrivals hall, and the fixed fare as of November 2006 was USD6, while the domestic black market rate is about 1200 kyat per USD1. There is a USD10 international departures fee, payable in foreign currency.

Domestic: Try not to allow porters to carry your luggage, as they will demand specified tips and hassle you. This is especially a problem in the domestic terminal as there is no customs to pass through with your bags. If a porter has not attached himself to a hapless tourist, he may take random bags off the luggage cart, hoping someone will follow him.

Getting around

Taxicabs are readily available in the city. It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip - as of October 2006 the trip from downtown Yangon to Shwedagon was about USD2. Genuine taxis carry a laminated green slip and a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car. Foreigners on tourist visas are not permitted to self-drive in Myanmar, but taxis can be hired (with driver) at daily or weekly rates.

Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted within Yangon (although they are permitted elsewhere in the country). "Sidecars" (saik-ka), three-wheel bicycle-taxis, can be used for short journeys.

Walking is feasible but distances are frequently long, footpaths are in poor repair, and humidity is high.

Passenger ferries cross Yangon River from the Pansodan Street jetty to the working-class suburb of Dala, which has road connections to Twante (site of a pottery handicraft industry).

Key Buddhist sites in Yangon

Shwedagon Paya
Myanmar's foremost pilgrimage site, is a 100 m gold-gilded stupa located on the outskirts of Yangon. The core of the pagoda is believed to house many Buddhist relics, including a few strands of Buddha's hair. The pagoda is surrounded by many zedis, and is an excellent shopping location.

Sule Paya, located on a roundabout downtown is at the center of the city. A 46 m octagonal-shaped stupa that houses a strand of Buddha's hair. It is gold-gilded, and is surrounded by an array of smaller chedis and Buddhas.
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