The weekend is near and you just want to get out of town for a break. The rain never seems to end and it’s so refreshing just to leave Yangon city and escape into the Myamar countryside. There are plenty of places you can head off to. Enjoy your weekend away.
Once described as a Buddhist Disneyland, Bago is densely-packed with pagodas, monasteries and Buddha figures. An easy day-trip from Yangon, it has a relatively calm, pleasant, small-town feel.
Getting There: Buses leave from Aung Mingalar Bus station in the north of Yangon. Prices start at 3,000Ks and the journey takes up to 2 hours.
Peaceful Dalah may be just a 10-minute ferry ride from Yangon’s downtown, but the calm, tranquil place feels a million miles away. Hop on a sidecar and get a local tour of the village, including a candle-making workshop and Pagoda.
Getting There: Boat from Pansodan Jetty on Strand Road. The journey is US$4 return for foreigners and takes about 10 minutes.
More a two-day trip than a one-day journey, the Golden Rock sits atop Mount Kyaiktiyo, which offers impressive views across Mon State. The Golden Rock Pagoda, which dangles precariously off the edge of the mountain, is one of Myanmar’s most important sites for Buddhist pilgrims. Visitors can either make the four-hour hike up (it’s best to start early due to the heat), which is strenuous but definitely possible for those even with a basic level of fitness. Another option is to take a truck most of the way, then walk the final few kilometres. The cemetery is located 25 kilometres north of Yangon.
Getting There: It’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown and taxis should cost between 15,000Ks and 20,000Ks for the return journey.
THAKETA CROCODILE FARM
Hidden away in Thaketa Industrial Estate, this sprawling crocodile farm is home to dozens of the eerie, wonderful species. The walk along the slightly dilapidated walkways is a little unnerving, particularly as the park’s residents linger below, mouths agape. Keep an eye out for the local crocodile trainer who displays his speed and downright crazineness by sticking his head into the mouths of waiting crocs. He’s easy to spot; just look for the man with bite marks all over his arms. The Thaketa Industrial Estate, Thaketa township is not easy to find, but once at the industrial estate, make crocodile actions and most locals will normally point you in the right direction.
Getting There: A taxi takes about 30 minutes from downtown and costs about 6,000Ks each way. Entrance is 1,000Ks.
Thanlyin (named Syriam by the British) is located just a short way across the Bago River from Yangon. The first recordings of any activity in Thanlyin come from the 16th century when it was part of the Taungoo Empire. It’s most famous link however, is to a Portuguese named Filipe de Brito e Nicote who developed the city after taking over as governor. Eventually Nicote lost the city to an invading Burmese king and was executed by impalement.
Getting There: Buses leave from Aung Mingalar Bus station. Prices vary but cost around 12,000Ks and the journey to Kinpun, the town at the bottom of the mountain, takes about 4 hours.
HLAWGA NATIONAL PARK
About an hour’s drive from Yangon, the Hlawga National Park offers a vast range of wildlife just outside Yangon’s limits. Deer, birds and even a few jungle cats roam the park. There is also a mini zoo which houses bears and elephants among others. It does get the occasional bad review, but generally speaking, the animals are kept in relatively good conditions.
Getting There: Taxis can be hired for the day for around 20,000Ks and the journey takes 45 minutes to 1 hour each way. Entry is 8,000Ks per person plus 1,000Ks for a car.
TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY
Opened in 1951 to commemorate the allied soldiers who lost their lives in various battles around Myanmar during World War II, the Taukkyan War cemetery contains the graves of more than 6,000 soldiers including some who died in World War I. Much of the town was bombed during World War II but it remains a pleasant place to visit. The highlight of any visit is the attractive Kyauktan Ye la Pagoda, which sits on an island in the middle of the river and is only accessible by boat.
Getting There: Taxis take between 30 minutes and an hour and can be hired for around 7,000Ks each way.
Just a few miles from Yangon, Twante is famed for its pottery-making. Visitors can visit factories to see the workers plying their trade. George Orwell also spent a brief time living here during his Burmese Days; the police officer’s home in the town area is believed to be where he resided.
Getting There: Twante can be reached by truck, taxi, or motorbike from Dalah. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs 2,000-4,000Ks.
ROYAL WHITE ELEPHANTS
The White Elephant is an important animal in Burmese culture and the site is worthy of a visit for those interested in gaining bit more insight into local culture. Admittedly, this place doesn’t get the best review from animal lovers.
Getting there A taxi from downtown costs about 7,000Ks each way and the journey takes between 45 minutes and an hour.
This article was first published in MYANMORE’s Enjoy It, April 2015.