Yangon offer a lot of attractions both for tourists and people living here, our writer Isaac Malone has made this guide of activities different from the touristy things people usually do.
A friend recently arrived for a short break in Yangon. With him spending just a few days in the city before venturing north to see the rest of the country, I felt confident that I had enough things in mind to keep him entertained during his stay. They were not particularly original, the things I had in mind. Things The Shwedagon and Sule pagodas, National Museum, and Pansodan Street but I felt he would be satisfied enough.
Instead, over beers on his first night, he revealed that he had in fact done all of those things before – on a previous visit to the country which I knew nothing about – and that he was looking for something different from his trip.
I panicked slightly, but wracking my brain, and with a few friends who were with us, we were able to come up with a list of things that were a little bit different.
Address: Pegu Club, Zagawar Road (near Taw Win Centre), Dagon Township, Yangon.
“The Pegu Club,” wrote Rudyard Kipling during a visit on his one and only night in Yangon, “seemed to be full of men on their way up or down.”
It is here, while one would guess he sat sipping on the famous Pegu Club cocktail, Kipling’s musings and observations inspired him to write his poem ‘Road to Mandalay.’
The site has fallen somewhat into disrepair since those heedy days and the building that was once the most exclusive British club in all of the Indian Raj (even Anglo-Burmese with mixed ancestry were not allowed membership), has fallen into a decrepit state since it was taken over by the Socialist regime in the 1960s.
Built in 1882, the site once hosted tennis courts, billiards rooms as well as dining, cards and reading rooms but the windows are now smashed, fittings have been stripped away and the occasional animal dropping sits where generals would have sat to relax during their life in the tropics.
You may not agree with everything the club stood for (or even anything it stood for) but it’s still a fascinating and unique site which gives a fading glimpse of how the British would have lived a century or so ago.
Drugs’ Elimination Museum
Address: Corner of Kyundaw and Hantharwaddy Roads, Kamayut Township, Yangon.
Stretched over three floors, this impressive museum on the site of an old cemetery was built by the government in the late 1990s to show how seriously they were taking the battle against drugs.
Despite the slightly absurd name, there are some interesting relics which include photographs of drug seizures, maps of trade routes and examples of opium and marijuana plants however, the real highlight must be the “dark room” on the ground floor, which leads you first to some grainy photos of the devastating effects drugs can have on users, followed by a display on what might happen to you should you decide to go to the dark side and actually take drugs, before finally the piece de resistance, a mechanical zombie hands which comes reaching from the ground, making a roaring sound the entire time. “This is what happens if you take drugs,” our guide told us with complete sincerity.
Address: Yangon University, University Avenue Road, Kamayut Township, Yangon.
Perhaps this is not something that Myanmore should be advocating given that it is technically illegal for foreigners to enter the University campus on University Avenue. Two previous visits had seen me turned away with no reason given, but on this visit my friend and I walked confidently into the complex and were not challenged at all.
The story goes that foreigners are not allowed into the campus because some years back, one misbehaving foreigner got onto the campus, took some photos of the decaying buildings (it is said that the government refuses to wash the buildings because the last time they did so, in 1988, a student uprising began shortly after) and it embarrassed the university.
However, with a little more care, this could be a truly stunning campus. Yes, the buildings are a little run-down but this manages to add to the character of the buildings and the impressive green spaces and calm atmosphere mean for a peaceful place to relax.
It has a fascinating history too. Some of the most famous student revolts in the city began at this site.
My friend and I were fortunate enough to walk unchallenged into the Convocation Hall and have an entire no-holds-barred tour of the famous venue which Barack Obama spoke in during his visit last November.
Yangon Dragons Rugby Club
Address: Yangon United Football Club, Insein Road (shortly before Parami Road), Hlaing Thar Yar Township, Yangon
Myanmar might once have been a British colony, but there is little evidence of this today, particularly when it comes to sport. Look at other countries that were part of the British Empire, like Pakistan and India and cricket is a national pastime, while rugby prospers in New Zealand and Australia. In Myanmar, that seems to have disappeared, but there is a group of rugby enthusiasts who are trying to change that.
The club began in January of this year with the intention of forming an entire club of men’s, women’s, youth’s and children’s teams and while it started out as a club run solely by expats, the club has managed to attract a number of locals who appear to enjoy the game.
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and despite the early Sunday morning start, it truly is the best hangover cure.
Thaketa Crocodile Farm
Address: Thaketa Crocodile Farm, Thaketa Industrial Estate, Tharkyta Township, Yangon
Hidden away in the dark crevices of the Thaketa Industrial Estate, this vast crocodile farm is well worth the inevitable hunt that it takes to find it.
Home to 200 of the impressive species, there is a walkway that takes you over a swamp where the creatures linger below, awaiting their next meal.
There is a feeding platform where you can entice them into a feeding frenzy by dropping fish to them, while an elderly man – who has worked on the farm for 20 years – provides entertainment and information where he gives information about the rarest of the species before sticking his arm, and finally his head, into an enticing mouth.
Entrance is $1 and you are able to hold some of the baby crocodiles. Put their quick-moving little things, so make sure you get a strong grip