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Of all the cities in South East Asia, Yangon is amongst the most exotic. Wandering Buddhist monks clad in orange robes move in groups across its crowded streets, locals walk barefoot amongst wooden houses and golden Buddhist pagodas, the towering spires of which have been glinting in the landscape of Myanmar for hundreds of years. The city retains an authentic atmosphere of adventure and escape due to its lack of western influence over the past 65 years, especially since it became independent from British rule.
The rarities on offer in this balmy jewel of the south east mean that it is more than worth visiting. The jungle locale, the familial greetings of the locals and a chance to escape the stresses of the western world is just a cruise away.
The Shwedagon Pagoda
The Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo)
A mere 160km bus ride from Yangon, there is the town of Kyaiktiyo. In this small settlement, there is not much to see except a highway bus station, a smattering of houses, and the beginning of a hike trail. This hamlet however, attracts thousands of tourists, monks and locals who make their way through its tiny centre for a simple reason - the town stands at the foot of the most idyllic Buddhist pilgrimage destination in the entire world.
Six miles up a mountainous trail leading for the township is the world famous Golden Rock, a huge boulder painted gold balancing precariously upon the edge of a cliff. Affixed with a golden spire rising from its top, the boulder is a monument to the Buddhist faith which has drawn pilgrims for around the world. Reaching the peak (which is a four hour walk, or a truck ride and a half an hour hike) rewards you with an unprecedented view of the surrounding hills and valleys, and at sunset, the colours that reflect from the Golden Rock are spectacular. Expect the photo opportunity of a lifetime.
The Bogyoke Aung San Market is a great spot for finding unique souvenirs, as well as experiencing the haggling, laughter and raucous conversation of local stall owners. Over 2000 shops reside in this massive 70 year-old market, which sells gems, jewellery, lacquer ware and handmade slippers to name but a few of the goods on offer. For luxury fashion, look no further than J’s Irrawaddy Dream, featuring tailored dresses and high grade Myanmar textiles, such as luxury silk, wool, and cotton, all lovingly made by locals.
A fantastic place to indulge in the local cuisine is The Monsoon Restaurant. Based inside a fully restored classical colonial Townhouse, and with a dazzling view of the waterfronts of Seikkan Township, the South East Asian food is here is probably the best in Yangon. The interior is tranquil, yet cosmopolitan, and the standard of the fresh seafood, chicken and beef swiftly served from the kitchen is exceptional. Highlights of Burmese, Thai, and Cambodian menus are all on offer for your delectation. For a warm-hearted, festive atmosphere and the best grill in Yangon, make sure to visit Yaniniku Japanese Barbeque in the 8th Ward.
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