I often find myself wondering what to do at the weekend; there’s a dearth of exhibitions, talks, theatre – activities that take place inside and could provide a refuge from the impenetrable outdoor heat. So, more often than I’d care to admit, I find myself spending the day in the comfort of my air-conditioned flat. I’ve now found some cool and different things to do, which embrace the best of what Yangon has to offer – three Unique Yangon Experiences.
Renting bikes and exploring the rural villages just outside Yangon
Motorbiking around the little dirt tracks surrounding Thanlyin provides a wonderful escape from the relentless noise and traffic of Yangon. Get a taxi across to Thanlyin over the river, where motorbikes are permitted, and get dropped off at a junction. Within seconds hordes of motorbike taxis will gather around, and if you have the same experience we had you’ll find they’re completely perplexed by the thought that we might want to ride the bikes ourselves as supposed to sit on the back whilst they cart us around. We did eventually manage to clarify the confusion, although much to our discontent a couple followed us around all day, who would have been welcome had one, wearing a bright green flannel tied around his head, not insisted on blurting out pop tunes from the boom box attached to his bike whilst brashly fumigating us with his intoxicated breath and slurred shouts.
There’s a rather underwhelming Shwedagonesq pagoda, named Kyaik Kauk with a view that goes on for miles and fully captures the flatness of this region. The Lonely Planet also mentions another pagoda; Yele, which we didn’t make it to as we got the impression it was quite far away. Instead depart the main roads, turn down a dirt track and you’ll find yourself in the middle of rural Myanmar, driving through the quintessential bamboo villages with baby goats and chickens roaming around. This haven is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Yangon. It would have been the perfect picture of tranquillity, if only the dulcet, tinny tune of ‘I’ve gotta feeling’ wasn’t being blurted out the boom box…
There’s a beautiful reservoir, with Kyaik Kauk glimmering on the side very much resembling Shwedagon. A herd of water buffaloes reside there adding to the scenery. By this point the hangover of our friend in the green flannel had well and truly kicked in and thankfully he had been subdued into a stupor.
This time of year everything is fairly dry, painting the scenery a browny yellow, but come October it’ll be a verdant paradise, so be sure to spend a day there then too.
The taxi from Kandawgyi to Thanlyin was 8000k
Renting a bike for 3 hours was 4000k
Local buses and the train will take you back to Yangon for a few hundred kyat.
Going for a sunset drink on the pier
Grab a couple of beers and walk down to the river. On your way admire the abandoned, dilapidated, colonial mansions with their once brightly coloured paint now chipping off and plants crawling up their facades and out of their windows. Pass by people crouched down on their child-sized stools frying an assortment of delights. Pansodan Jetty has a nice place where you can go and dangle your legs over the side whilst watching the sun illuminate the sky a kaleidoscope of different colours before the veil of darkness overthrows it. There are groups of youths playing guitars and little children getting into a frenzied excitement at the thought of earning 20k by relieving you of your empty bottle.
Warden Jetty at the other end has a completely different feel; there are little fishing boats and men carrying bunches of bananas and wheeling crates of eggs off the larger boats being unloaded. Clusters of women line the streets selling vegetables, children play games of football and the trishaw drivers cycle in marking the end of their day’s work. A lovely place to go on a Sunday late afternoon to bid farewell to the weekend.
Thiri Mingalar Nightmarket
Although it’s a 24 hour market it really comes into it’s own at night. This expansive market stretches out for miles. It’s divided into sections of produce, ie in the cauliflower section all you can see before you is round almost fluffy, cream cauliflowers, the banana section is another feast for the eyes, rows and rows of bananas of all different shapes and colours creating a maze around you. The flower section is my favourite, all the colours under the sun of freshly cut flowers lying down horizontal like kaleidoscopic hedges cutting-out a decadent path juxtaposed against the dirty ground under your feet. There are people napping, others bringing in or taking out huge stocks of produce, a plethora of betel nut sellers, there is also an indoor section where you can get the usual Myanmar dishes if seeing some much fresh food has brought on the hunger pangs. Despite it being the middle of the night the place is wonderfully alive.
Thiri Mingalar market, off Bayint Naung Road, Hlaing Township. (Not Old Mingalar Market)