Why Yangon is hot right now

Why Yangon is hot right now

A quick and quirky guide on what to see, do, eat and drink in this up-and-coming Southeast Asia star

Take a cab to town after arriving at Yangon's International Airport and you’ll quickly realize you've arrived in a place like no other.

Your taxi driver may have replaced his seat with a garden chair.

Without doubt, he’ll be wearing what looks like a skirt and chewing betel, which has turned his mouth a crimson red.

There might be a hole in the floor of the vehicle, or the steering wheel could be upside down. 

It's a theme that'll continue throughout your trip. 

With a lack of international brand saturation and an abundance of parks, lakes and gleaming pagodas, vibrant street life and friendly locals, Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and former capital, is a city worth getting to know before venturing elsewhere in this strange, wonderful country.

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Yangon hotels

Guests of The Strand include George Orwell, Noël Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and George Soros.

In a city where the demand for beds far exceeds the supply -- read more on the situation in this CNN Travel Myanmar feature -- you’ll pay for a nice place to stay.

But make no mistake, there are great hotel options here.

Strand Hotel

The city’s most iconic hotel has checked-in the likes of Jagger, Maugham and Kipling and is as elaborate and classy as one would expect of a place that once represented the height of colonialism.

Built in 1901 by a British entrepreneur during British India's heyday, the three-story hotel's Victorian influences are evident in the colonnaded entrance, marble floor inlaid with teak, hand-carved wooden bed frames, rattan furniture, chandeliers and black ceiling fans.

Strand Hotel, 92 Strand Road, Kyauktada township, Yangon; rooms from $340

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Alamanda Inn

This quiet, little-known B&B is located in Yangon’s leafy Golden Valley district.

Rooms are small and well-kept. It’s worth the stay for the adjoined French restaurant alone.

Alamanda Inn, 60B Shwe Taung Gyar Road, Golden Valley, Yangon; rooms from $70

Savoy Hotel

One of Yangon’s classiest hotels, the Savoy offers some of the city’s best rooms.

Restaurant and bar areas are impressively designed, the latter decked out in a nautical theme.

Savoy Hotel, 129 Dhamazeddi Road (corner of Inya Road), Yangon; rooms from $236

Governor’s Residence

This beautiful teak mansion hotel run by Oriental Express is located in a leafy district west of downtown.

With a colonial style and level of luxury that rivals The Strand, rooms here are as gorgeous as you'll find in Yangon. The pool and veranda areas are nice.

Governor's Residence, 35 Taw Win St., Dagon township, Yangon; rooms from $260

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Yangon nightlife

Big game? Yangon's 50th Street Bar is the spot for expats needing a sports fix.

Yangon veterans recall a time when they were tucked in bed by 9 p.m., simply because there wasn't anything to do after dark.

Not anymore. 

New bars are opening regularly, and there are plenty of into-the-night spots to drink with friendly and willing locals. 

19th Street 

It’s loud, lively and there’s lots of neon. But this isn't Yangon’s version of Bangkok's Khao San Road. 

Instead, it’s an authentic local experience, a strip of outdoor bars where the beer flows and where you’ll find the best grilled fish in town.

Bottle of Myanmar beer: 800 kyat (80 cents) 

Barbecued fish: 3,500 kyat ($3.50)

19th Street (between Anawratha and Mahabandoola roads), Latha township, Yangon

Vista Rooftop Bar

Taking advantage of its proximity to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the view here will convince you to visit; the well-stocked bar will keep you hanging around.

Glass of Myanmar beer: 1,500 kyat ($1.50)

Glass of house whisky: 3,500 kyat ($3.50)

Vista Rooftop Bar, 168 West Shwegondine Road, Bahan township, Yangon; +95 (0)1 559 481

50th Street Bar

One of Yangon’s most famous watering holes, this one is lively most nights and runs regular themed nights.

This is the place to come for big sports matches and good pizza.

Bottle of Myanmar beer: 4,000 kyat ($4) 

Pizza: 6,000-9,000 kyat ($6-9)

50th Street Bar, 9/13, 50th St., Botahtaung townshi, Yangon; +95 (0)1 397 060

Any beer station, anywhere

Myanmar’s version of pubs, "beer stations" are often run-down, rustic spots where locals enjoy a drink -- beer or whiskey, or sometimes both, mixed.

Found on many street corners, they’re easy to spot -- look for the distinctive logo of local Myanmar beer. 

Glass of Myanmar beer: 600 kyat (60 cents)

Yangon food

It ain't fancy, but Onyx is one of the top spots to hit for a slice of roast beast. Minn Lan Rakhine Seafood

A lively outdoor restaurant, Minn Lan offers some of the best seafood in Yangon. It's brought in from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

Hot items include preserved prawns and lobster.

One kilo lobster: 25,000 kyat ($25) 

Seafood fried rice: 3,500 kyat ($3.50)

Minn Lan San Chaung outlet, corner of Baho Road and Kyi Tar Road; +95 (0)1 510 285​

Shwe Sa Bwe Restaurant

Located on the northern shore of Inya Lake, this boutique restaurant trains local Burmese looking to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.

They do a good job, too. The menu includes a diverse selection of delicious French-inspired dishes.

Reopens in September after a two-month break.

Set menu: Two courses, 11,000 kyat ($11); three courses, 14,000 kyat ($14)

Shwe Sa Bwe Restaurant, 20 Malikha Road (off Parami Road); +95 (0)1 661 983​

Onyx Restaurant

Open since 2004, Yangon's Onyx Restaurant was once a private escape for members of the city’s expat community looking for a Western meal.

That’s changing and every night of the week this Korean-run steakhouse is full of people from all over the world enjoying great food and wine.

Steak: 5,000-8,000 kyat ($5-8)

Bottle of wine: Starts from 10,000 kyat ($10)

Onyx Restaurant, 135 Dhamazeddi Road (down side-road just past Inya Road junction); +95 (0)1 524 271

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Yangon attractions

Shwedagon Pagoda Shwedagon Pagoda, the country's pride and joy, is also its most touristy site.

Shwedagon Pagoda 

Every Yangon visit should include a trip to Shwedagon Pagoda, the country’s most famous attraction.

Surveying the city from atop a hill, it’s easy to see why it's the nation’s pride and joy.

Other pagodas worthy of visits are Sule and Botahtaung, both located downtown. 

Entrance: $5 for foreigners

Dagon, Yangon

Thaketa Crocodile Farm

This little-known crocodile farm houses more than 200 of the sinister species. It can be unnerving walking along the rundown bridge as the crocs wait below, mouths open.

Thaketa Industrial Estate, Thaketa township, Yangon; $1 per person

Drug Elimination Museum

This sprawling museum was built in the late 1990s to show how seriously the government was taking the country’s drug problem.

Despite its rather absurd name, it offers insights into a largely unknown problem in the country.

Corner of Kyunthaw and Hanthawaddy roads, Kamayut township, Yangon; $3 per person

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Yangon shopping

Yangon's Bogyoke Aung San market.

Bogyoke Aung San Market

Tourist tack. T-shirts. Traditional Burmese garb.

A popular site, every souvenir you need from your Myanmar visit can be found here. 

Bogyoke Aung San Road, Kyauktada township, Yangon

Mingalar Market

Located in the city’s Muslim area, this is the place to hit for an authentic Myanmar market experience. 

Corner of Natmauk and Banyadala roads, Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, Yangon 

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