My arrival in Myanmar and 3-day itinerary exploring heritage buildings in Central Yangon and the grand Shwedagon Pagoda.

Initially, I intended to visit Yangon only for a day or two before heading to Bagan. I was surprised to see a lot of grand colonial-era buildings, some of the most stunning and best preserved in South East Asia.

I ended up spending three whole days wandering around the streets of Yangon to see as much of the city’s architectural heritage and “wait out” the perfect sunset at Shwedagon Pagoda.

Itinerary Overview

DestinationsActivities
Day 1Central Yangon

Bangkok to Yangon Flight via AirAsia

Yangon Airport Bus

Yangon Hostel Check-in

Day 2Central Yangon &  Shwe Dagon Pagoda

Central Yangon Walking Tour

Myanmar Kyat Currency Exchange

Shwe Dagon Pagoda

Day 3Central Yangon

Bogyoke Market and Railway Station area Walking Tour

Yangon City Center to Au Ming Lar Bus Station

Yangon to Bagan

Trip Date — October 2012
Next — Bagan
Previous — Bangkok

Travel date — October 2012

Itinerary Notes & Tips

Day 1

Bangkok to Yangon Flight

  • 7am to 8am – Bangkok to Yangon Flight via Air Asia Flight# FD770 (45 minutes) – B890 (bought during AirAsia Promotion)
    • Over the counter baggage add-on fee (15kg) – B370

Arrival in Yangon

  • Get Passport entry stamp. Applied for my Myanmar Tourist Visa in Vientiane, Laos.
  • Exchange US$ to Myanmar Kyats (pronounced as “Chats”). Currency exchange rates in the Airport were excellent.
  • Get a free map at the Tourism Information Desk and ask how to get to the city center by local commute. Taxi drivers offered the ride for US$10, which wasn’t that expensive considering the distance.

Yangon Airport to Central Yangon Bus

  • Walk from the international passenger terminal of Yangon Airport to the “10 miles market,” found near the airport complex gate (15 minutes).
    • Upon exiting the terminal, follow the downhill road on your right for around 15 minutes, until the gate of the airport complex gate. Walk down the road on your right for maybe 100 meters, and then cross the street to the bus stand.
  • Ride local bus to Sule Pagoda (30 to 45 minutes) – K150
    • All local buses are supposed to pass by Sule Pagoda. It’s also easy to confirm since the bus conductors kept yelling “Sule” over and over. Many of Yangon’s accommodations are located near Sule Pagoda.

Yangon Hostel Check-in

  • Check-in at Zarchiwin Guest House (2nd floor of a building along 37th Street, Kyauktada Township, Central Yangon)
    • Single fan room (free breakfast; shared TB) – US$8
    • Zarchiwin Guest House was a few blocks (an easy walk) away from Sule Pagoda. The guest house may have seemed a bit shabby but it was cheapest that I could find that had singles available. The owner was also cheerful and friendly, which made my stay better. Most guests staying there seemed local and in big groups, so I wasn’t able to meet other travelers in Yangon. I found other places to stay that seemed better but they were all fully booked at the time of my visit.
    • Accommodations throughout Myanmar were generally more expensive and of lower quality compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

Day 2

Central Yangon Walking Tour

  • 6:30am to 8am – Walking tour around the area of Sule Pagoda to Strand Road. Most of the more remarkable structures were clustered on this part of Yangon.
    • Sule Pagoda – the most famous landmark in the city center
    • Yangon City Hall – interesting use of Burmese architectural elements
    • Maha Bandula Park and Independence Monument
    • High Court Building and Clock Tower – My favorite building in the city. I simply loved the red brick construction and the high central tower.
    • Rander House
    • Accountant-General Office Building
    • Strand Hotel
    • British Embassy

US Dollar to Myanmar Kyat Currency Exchange

  • 9am to 12nn – Exchange money at Thein Phyu Road Money Changer Centre
    • US$200 x K853 = K170,600
    • They did not accept two of my $100 bills because they had a (miniscule) center fold mark.
    • The actual transaction only took 10 minutes but I had to wait for the money changer to open and secure my place in the queue, which was already insanely long when I got there.
  • 1pm to 5pm – Continue walking tour to city blocks east of Sule Pagoda. The buildings on this part of my walking tour looked interesting but not really “must-visits.”
    • Myanmar Port Authority
    • Prime Minister’s Building (fenced out) – Impressive because of its sheer size but it was fenced off and getting inside was not allowed.
    • Saint Mary’s Cathedral
    • Theinbyu Road
    • Rangoon Municipal Fire Station
    • Former Rowe & Company Building
    • Back to Sule Pagoda and Maha Bandoola Park area

Shwe Dagon Pagoda Area

  • Ride bus from bus stop at Sule Pagoda to intersection near Kandawgyi Lake, and then walk to Maha Wizaya and Shwe Dagon Pagoda.
  • Kandawgyi Lake
    • Admission fee – K2,000 (foreigners)
    • Walk along a section of the wooden bridge (boardwalk) over the lake.
    • Pyi Gyi Mon Royal Barge
  • Maha Wizaya Pagoda
  • 6:00pm – Shwe Dagon Pagoda
    • Admission fee – US$8
    • I arrived at the base of the central spire just in time for an awesome sunset. The Shwe Dagon Pagoda complex was big with many interesting areas to photograph and discover. I wished I arrived earlier, so I could have taken more photos at daytime.
  • Ride taxi from Shwe Dagon Pagoda to City Center

Day 3

Continue Central Yangon Walking Tour

  • 10am – Free breakfast at Zar Chi Win
  • 10am to 2pm – Walking tour around the area of Bogyoke Market until Yangon Central Railway Station. I passed by many interesting buildings, but again, nothing that truly stood out. I had to buy onward bus tickets at the stalls across the railway station, so the walk was an excellent way to see more of the city and get a better feel of everyday life in Downtown Yangon.
    • High Court building (backside)
    • Burma Telegraph Office Building
    • Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque
    • Mogul Shah Jaamay Mosque
    • Mosque along Maha Bandoola Road
  • Bogyoke Market – Lots of nice shops selling local stuff but I wasn’t into shopping at the time.
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral
  • Eat at Tokyo Bakery Café near Sule Pagoda (only restaurant I found with free WIFI)
    • 1 Danish, 1 croissant, 2 small sandwiches, 1 iced coffee – K2,700
  • Old Burma Railway Headquarters (ruins)
  • Presbyterian Church (Signal Pagoda Road)
  • Aung San Stadium
  • Yangon Central Railway Station

Buy bus ticket to Bagan

  • Visit bus company shops at Aung San Stadium
    • Buy bus ticket to Bagan (Bagan Minn Thar Express) – K15,000
      • Free 500ml bottled water
    • Departure at 6:00pm from Au Ming Lar Bus Station. Check-in at 5:30pm.
    • Bus ticket to Mandalay costs K10,000.
  • Grocery run at the mall (two street intersections away from Zar Chi Win) along Merchant Road.
    • Eat at Moon bakery on the top floor
      • Sweet and sour pork ball with rice – K3,200
      • Prawn on toast – K2,100
      • Iced tea – K1,100
  • Walk back to Zar Chi Win Guest House. Rest. Check-out.

Yangon City Center to Au Ming Lar Bus Station

  • 3:30pm – Walk to the bus stop along Sule Pagoda Rd. (beside Sule Pagoda)
  • Board Bus #43. Conductor was shouting “Au Ming Lar”
  • Bus#43 from Central Yangon to Au Ming Lar (30 minutes) – K200
    • There was a tourist shuttle going to Aug Ming Lar Bus station for K1,000 with scheduled departure at 2:30pm. I had a lot of extra time, so I decided to there by public bus instead, which was cheaper.
  • 4:00pm – Arrive at the highway intersection to Au Ming Lar Bus Station.
    • I did not encounter pushy touts trying to sell bus tickets. Locals were friendly and helpful. They showed me the way to “Bagan Minn Thar Express” parking area. Au Ming Lar Bus Station was large and spread out. It would have been difficult to find my own way around, if not for the locals. Best to buy bus tickets beforehand to avoid the confusion and possibly getting ripped off.
  • 6:00pm – Departure from Yangon
  • Night bus from Yangon to Bagan (8 to 9 hours)
    • Free toiletry pack (disposable toothbrush, toothpaste, and wet tissue) and 500ml bottled water.
  • 9:30pm – Dinner stop (30 to 45 minutes)
    • Eat at one of the restaurants serving local Burmese food