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Yangon (Rangoon) is the main gateway to Myanmar, perhaps the last remaining authentic example of a tropical city still true to its former colonial origins. Yangon owns two great natural lakes, Kandawgyi Royal Lake and Inya Lake, as tranquil and calm as reflecting the city’s charm. Added to such nature’s gifts is the remaining of colonial era buildings harmoniously mixed together with graceful pagodas and monasteries. Most famous is the unique and glittering Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon’s landmark and Myanmar’s treasure. Like Angkor Wat of Cambodia and Borobudur of Indonesia, The Shwedagon is renowned as one of the wonders of the world. Wealth of other sights also awaits the visitors.
Highlights of Yangon
Shwedagon Pagoda, Chaukhtakyi Buddha Image, Botataung Pagoda, Karaweik Royal Barge, Sule Pagoda, Kaba Aye (World Peace) Pagoda, Kandawgyi Royal Lake, National Museum
Day excursion highlights
Just 80 km, a little over 1 ½ hrs drive, from Yangon, Bago (Pegu) offers a different taste for travelers. As you drive through endless paddy fields and local villages along the highway road, it totally takes you to countryside. An ancient city of the 15th century Mon Kingdom and once a renowned throne resided by remarkable king Bayintnaung, Bago remains an important archaeological site. The highlights are; the 55-meter long reclining Buddha image, the golden Shwemawdaw Pagoda, and many more religious monuments such as the old ordination hall built by king Dhammazedi. Take your time to visit the Kya Khat Waing Monastery with over a thousand monks, the typical Mon village with its many traditional cottage industries and the local market. After all, Bago is a convenient day excursion from Yangon.
Lies about 30 minutes drive from Yangon, once, Thanlyin is an important trading centre in the 17th century under the Portuguese. This place does have some interesting sights. The major visits are Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, Old Portuguese buildings and Yele (mid-stream) Pagoda on a small island at Kyauktan. A short pony-cart ride through the streets of this sleepy town and a short visit of the market can also be a fun option.
A ferry ride about 2-3 hours along Yangon River and through Twante Canal takes you to this little town. Alternatively, you may choose to take a 5-mintue ferry ride to Dhala Village and continues about 1 ½ hours by pick-up truck. Pottery is a major cottage industry in Twante. Among its interesting sites are Shwesandaw Pagoda, local market, Oh-Bo Pottery Sheds, weaving village, Baungdawgyoke Pagoda and the Snake Temple. A full day excursion to this area gives you a full sight of life in a delta village, away from the bustling mess of Yangon.
Brief overnight tour highlights
Located about 285 km north-west of Yangon, Pyay is easily accessible by road within 5-6 hours. With its famous Shwesandaw Pagoda overlooking the town, Pyay lies conveniently on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Very close to the palace site of Sri Ksetra – ancient Pyu Kingdom, Pyay is also an advisable site. As known widely, Pyu is an extinct race of early Myanmar and their notable civilization reached its peak from 5th to 9th centuries. Today, just a few minutes drive out of Pyay, in Hmawzar Village, we can still see the ruins of the old kingdom featuring quite a different architectural style than other periods. Another frequently visited site – Akauktaung - is located on the other bank of the river. There, various Buddha images are intricately carved on the cliff, somehow making the visit to Pyay unique.
Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock)
About 200 km southeast of Yangon, i.e. just one night trip out of Yangon, a visit to Kyaikhtiyo (or) the Golden Rock is available as a soft adventure trip. The Golden Rock is a huge gold-plated boulder with a small pagoda on top of it. The Rock is precariously perched on the edge of a steep cliff and its pagoda is said to hold a single hair of Buddha being enshrined inside. It is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for local Buddhists. Either on open-air trucks or by trekking, one can reach to the top of the mountain where the rock sits. It is said that the boulder has been placed in such a perilous condition since 2400 years ago and survived a series of earthquakes. The view on top is breathtaking – particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset. The region is yet undeveloped; the services there can be quite basic and simple. Those with adventure spirit, however, find it worthwhile.