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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrYangon, or as it was previously known as ‘Rangoon’, is the former capital city of Burma or Myanmar. Yangon is also the capital city of the Yangon region in Burma.
Although during the military government’s rule in Burma, the capital city of Burma was relocated to Naypyidaw since March 2006, but still as of today, Yangon continues to be the country’s largest city that is home to a population of over 2.5 million people living in Yangon.
Apart from that, Yangon is also the most important commercial center in Burma.
Yangon City is located at the convergence of the Yangon and the Bago rivers, about 19 miles away from the Gulf of Martaban in Lower Burma.
Although due to political unrest in Myanmar, Yangon’s infrastructure is much more impoverished and underdeveloped than most of the other cities in Southeast Asia, but nevertheless, Yangon has the largest number of colonial buildings in the region, still as of date.
EtymologyThe name Yangon is a combination of words, which are “Yan” which means ‘Enemy’ and “Koun” which means ‘Run out of’ respectively. The name Yangon can also be translated into English as “End of Strife”. The British imitation of the noun “Yangon” was erstwhile pronounced by the Englishmen during their colonial rule in Burma y as “Rangoon”.
HistoryThe present city of Yangon was founded in the 11th century when it was known as Dagon by the Mon rulers, who ruled Lower Burma during those times. In the bygone eras, Dagon was just a small fishing village which was centered on and around the famous Shwedagon Pagoda which still remains as the arch landmark of Yangon.
It was late in 1755 AD that King Alaungpaya conquered Dagon City and renamed it as Yangon.
The British occupied Yangon several times during its history.
Rangoon fell under Japanese occupation during World War II, and also incurred heavy damage However, the city was retaken by the Allies in 1945.
After Burma’s independence, several colonial names of the streets and parks in Yangon were changed to more Burmese nationalistic names, and in 1989, the current military junta also changed the city’s former English name from Rangoon to Yangon.
Nevertheless in 1990, although the current military government’s open market policies in Burma bought modicum of modernity to the town, Yangon became more indigenously Burmese in its ethnic make-up since Burma’s independence and many South Asians, Indians and Anglo-Burmese were forced to leave Yangon by the Ne Win’s xenophobic rule.
The People Power Uprising in 1988 and the Saffron Revolution in 2007 is a silent witness to the death of thousands of Burmese citizens who flooded the streets of Yangon and were gunned down by the junta regime. The Burmese junta government used the crematoriums in Yangon during these violent times to erase all the evidences of this genocide of crime committed against unarmed protesters, monks, journalists, and students in Yangon.
In November 2005, the military government of Burma shifted its capital city from Yangon to Naypyidaw, which lies 199 miles away.
Later on in May 2008, Yangon was hit by the Cyclone Nargis , which destroyed a greater part of Yangon’s infrastructure, with an estimated loss of $200 million USD as a result of the natural catastrophe. In present times, Yangon is still a city which lacks basic municipality services such as 24 hours electricity, proper garbage collection, and public welfare services. However, in spite of all these ups and downs, Yangon still remains the largest city in Burma, which is also the most important commercial hub of Burma.
ArchitectureDowntown Yangon is well-known for its fin-de-siècle architecture and leafy avenues. The former Secretariat Building, High Court, St. Paul's English High School, the Strand Hotel are some of the fine examples of the decaying colonial buildings in Yangon.
Unlike other metros in Southeast Asia and India, Yangon does not have a skyline, apart from a very few modern buildings, most of the other buildings in Yangon are either condos or high-rises that do not go beyond the 10th floor. The new satellite towns in and around Yangon, like North and South Dagon, still maintains ur's reputation as essential slums which are yet devoid of proper municipal facilities.
Sightseeing in YangonYangon is a city that is dotted with several remarkable visiting places which are not only beautiful and spectacular, but are also enriched with historical facts and records that marvels the interest of the tourists. A few of these places are:
Shwedagon PagodaThe Shwedagon Pagoda which is also known as the Golden Pagoda or the Great Dagon Pagoda, is one of the main landmarks of Yangon City. It is located to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on top of the Singuttara Hill.
The awesome stupa of Shwedagon Pagoda, which is gilded pagoda, and is 325 feet in its height, dominates the skyline of the Yangon city.
According to the Burmese legends, it’s said that the 2,500 years-old pagoda is one of the oldest pagodas in Burma and also all across the world.
Sule PagodaThe Sule Pagoda, which is also as old as the Shwedagon Pagoda, is located in the heart of the downtown Yangon.
Apart from being a stupa of great religious importance, the Sule Pagoda also plays an important role in the ideology and politics of contemporary Burma.
Sule Pagoda was the rally point of both the 1988 Uprising and the Saffron revolution in 2007.
The Sule Pagoda, which was built in the Indian style, is situated right in the middle of the Yangon city.
Botataung PagodaThe Botataung Pagoda, which is also as ancient as the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda, lies in downtown Yangon near the Yangon River.
The Botataung Pagoda was completely destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt thereafter.
The shrine is hallow within and it is believed that it houses a few stands of the sacred heirs of Lord Gautama Buddha.
Chauk Htat Gyi PagodaChauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is a beautiful pagoda that houses a six storeyed, high, reclining Buddha statue is located in the Shwe Gon Taing Road in the Tamwe Township in Yangon.
The statue of the reclining Buddha, located inside this Buddhist temple, is often called by the foreigners as “The Sweet Eyed Buddha” because of its large expressive eyes.
Aung San Suu Kyi's HouseLocated in the north of Yangon in 51, University Avenue, Aung San Suu Kyi's House is often visited by the tourists who wants to experience the spirit of the freedom fighter, to have a glimpse of her house and hopefully, witness her presence.
The old colonial house, which lies on the opposite side of the Inya Lak,e is where the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and leader of the National League of Democracy was kept under house arrest for 15 years, since 1989.
However during the recent years, owing to severe international pressures Aung San Suu Kyi got released by the ruling military junta in 2010.
KaraweikThe impressive barge, which was designed by Burmese architect, U Ngwe Hlaing, lies in the eastern shore of Kandawgyi Lake. The barge houses a buffet restaurant in the present times.
Both the Karaweik Hall and the Kandawgyi Lake is worth a visit since it is a place of most photographer’s dream.
Musmeah Yeshua SynagogueThe beautiful Synagogue of Musmeah Yeshua, which is situated in downtown Yangon, stands as a testament to the once thriving Jewish community that lived during the first half of the 20th century in Burma.
Allied War Memorial CemeteryThe old cemetery, which is located in Taukkyan, is another beautiful place to visit while traveling to Yangon. The Allied War Memorial Cemetery commemorates the death of 300,000 British Commonwealth soldiers who died in Burma during World War II.
Yangon ZooLocated in the north of downtown Yangon, near Kandawgyi Lake, Yangon Zoo, a recreational park which encompasses 69.25 acres, also includes an aquarium, a museum of natural history and an amusement park.
Now operated by a private firm, the Yangon zoo, draws approximately 2.2 million visitors every year.
Yangon Zoo is a wonderful recreational spot in the Yangon city that remains open from 8 AM till 6 PM.
The Yangon zoo exhibits more than 145 land animals, however in the recent times the roller coaster in the amusement park inside Yangon Zoo has been closed indefinitely.
Bogyoke Aung San MuseumThe Bogyoke Aung San Museum, where General Aung San lived, with his wife, Daw Kin Kyi, and their three children, is also a notable landmark for the tourists and visitors in Yangon. Bogyoke Aung San Museum is a colonial villa where Aung San Suu Kyi grew up as a child, and includes the memorabilia of her late father who was assassinated by the present military junta regime. The museum remains open for only three hours every day. However, on the Martyrs' Day, which falls on 19th July, the museum remains open from 9 AM until 4 PM.
The National Museum of MyanmarThe National Museum of Myanmar is a five-story museum which has an extensive collection of works of art, ancient artifacts, historical inscriptions and memorabilia and ancient ornaments relates the culture, history and the growth of the civilization of the Burmese people.
It also displays the exquisite Royal Lion Throne of King Thibaw who was the last monarch of Burma.
Myanmar Gems MuseumThe Myanmar Gems Museum building, which is the place for semi-annual Myanmar Gems Emporium, is visited by jewelry merchants from all across the world, is dedicated to the famous Burmese gem stones.
It is located near the Kaba Aye Pagoda and one can buy impeccable Ruby, Pearls, Sapphires, Jade and other precious stones from the area that remains open from 9 AM until 5 PM from Tuesday through Sunday.
Other places of VisitThe Bogyoke Aung San Park, Hlawga Wildlife Park, People's Square and People's Park (near the Shwedagon Pagoda), Kan Taw Mingalar Park, Independence Monument, the Mahabandoola Garden, and The Hlawga Wildlife Park are also some of the most notable parks in and around Yangon City which are worthy of a visit.
One can also visit the 1901-built colonial Strand Hotel in Yangon, which has been quoted as the “finest hostelry East of Suez" by John Murray in his ‘Handbook for Travelers’, written during the early 20th century.
Languages spokenAlthough Burmese is the main language spoken in Yangon, Mandarin Chinese, followed by French, Korean and Japanese is also spoken by a few people.
Due to the former colonial rule, English is by far the preferred medium for second language, which is understood by people of the educated class.
FoodsNoodle dishes are to the Burmese what pasta is to the Italians.
Along with traditional Burmese delicacies, which is most often fish, chicken, and rice, one can also find several Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean and western food outlets in Yangon.
Dining in Yangon reflects a more cosmopolitan character than any other cities in Burma. One can also find fast food restaurants serving burgers and pizzas.
Tea and coffee bars can also be seen in modern Yangon, which serves these beverages with different types of cuisines.
Where to StayThere are several hotels and hostels in Yangon that can fit all budgets. While Hotel Strand, Savoy Hotel, and Parkroyal Yangon are some of the most popular five star hotels in Yangon, one can also stay at Mother Land Inn 2, Alamanda Inn; Three Seasons Hotel, White House Hotel; Summit Parkview or per say, even at Belmond Governor’s Residency which is an excellent resort in the town.
Festivals in YangonAs a spiritual town, there are several festivals held in Yangon throughout the year. Some of the notable festivals held in Yangon city are Thingyan, or the ‘Myanmar Water Festival’, which honors the Burmese New Year and is also a major festival celebrated in this town.
Apart from Myanmar Water Festival, on the occasion of The Birth of Buddha, Enlightenment, and Nirvana at his death, which is celebrated around April and March, is also another important festival held in Yangon.
In addition, Waso festival, Shwedagon festival, Thandingyit or the ‘Festival of Light’ and the Tazaungdaing festival are some of the other important festivals celebrated in Yangon.
It may be mentioned that being a former British colonial city, Christmas and English New Year is also celebrated with pomp and grandeur.
SouvenirOne can visit the Bogyoke Aung San Market and the Mingalar Market to buy souvenirs and also experience an authentic Myanmar marketing experience while travelling in Yangon.
How to Reach
AirYangon International Airport, which is located 12 miles away from Yangon City, is the main gateway for domestic and international air travel to Yangon.
Dhaka, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Guangzhou, Seoul and others, are some of the major international locations which are connected with Yangon by air.
In the domestic segment, Bagan, Ngapali, Naypyidaw, Heho, and Mandalay, along with 20 other destinations are also connected to Yangon through its domestic airlines services.
RailwayYangon Central Railway Station is one of the main terminus of the Myanmar Railway.
Yangon Circular Railway connects Yangon with all the satellite municipalities.
Buses and CarsAs car prices are among the highest in the world in Burma, cars are not used by most of the common people living in Burma.
However, private taxis and buses are the most frequently used modes for tourist transportation in Yangon.
RiverOne can also avail a tourist river cruise over the Irrawaddy River, which is a spectacular trip if one visits Burma.
Best Time to VisitAs Yangon is hot and humid during the summer and monsoons months, the best time to visit Yangon is in-between the months of November and February.
However, if one visits Yangon in the month of April, one can see the Thingyan Water festival and the Shwedagon festival which falls in and around April.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Mar 07, 2016