On my previous visit to Yangon, I didn’t spend much time in the city. Instead, I was travelling to Mandalay and Bagan, followed by a short stay in Inle Lake. I only spent 24 hours in Yangon, which is actually enough time to see the major attractions in the city. On my recent visit to Yangon, I decided to explore more of the streets of the city as they had attracted me with their mix of old architecture jostling with shiny new glass and steel buildings, traditional longyi’s alongside western business attire.

Although Yangon is not the official capital of Myanmar anymore, it still retains it’s financial and commercial status as the majority (actually it’s more like all) of business is done here. And in many of the streets and alleys you will find shops, businesses and even markets popping up on the road side, a testament to the enterprising nature of the Burmese.

This blog post pays homage to the markets of Yangon, whether it’s an official market place or just an ad hoc street market.

Bogyoke Aung San Market is probably the most well known market in Yangon. It’s the largest market in the city selling local handicrafts and is patronized by both locals and tourists. It doesn’t make sense to come here early as most of the shops only open after 10 am. The girl in the mirror was still washing her merchandise in her pre-opening ritual.
More than half of the ground floor shops are selling jewelry and precious stones. Every shop claims they are government registered, but I’m no expert to verify their claims and the quality of their gems.
A few shops sell hand carved teakwood like these intricately carved statues. There are also a large number of shops selling textiles and clothing with most of them on the second floor, and a few art galleries for local artists.

Having been to some of the other markets in neighboring countries like Thailand with it’s huge weekend and night markets and their mind boggling variety of knick knacks, Bogyoke Aung San Market is pretty underwhelming to me.

Across the road from Bogyoke Aung San Market is a narrow street sandwiched between densely packed slum like apartments and the newly built shopping mall. It’s a real juxtaposition of the old against the new. I never got a chance to enter this street in my last visit due to time constraints.
This street market looked more interesting to me as a microcosm of local life in the city. I had more time now and I decided to take a walk through the street. You won’t find many tourists here, it’s for the locals.
Food is essential in all markets and there are a large variety of food stalls setup right on the road, with cars and people all passing by inches away. Their hygiene level is suspect and I didn’t bother to try eating there.
As in most of the Indochina countries, insects are a staple food item, like these fried locusts.
Shopkeepers engaging in light banter while they sell their wares. There were plenty of sewing machines been setup to make and repair bags, which seems to be a big business here.
One of the several shops that specializes in bag making and repair. Their retro looking sewing machines really fascinate me, as they harken back to the days of craftsmanship instead of mass produced wares from a factory.
Betel nut chewing is quite common in Yangon and sure enough there was a small stall selling betel nut fixes.
A nun and her understudy asking for alms on their morning visit to the shops along the street.

This street was quite short, but it does continue across a major traffic junction into the next street. I decided to turn back as the Sun got higher and the temperature started rising.

The back side of Bogyoke Aung San Market faces the railway track and there is a metal bridge that serves as a crossing for residents. And yes, they have also setup a market on the bridge itself.
Looking down on the track, this is where the Circular Train passes by as it makes it way around Yangon.

During this visit, I also wanted to see Yangon’s Chinatown which I missed out in my last visit. The Chinatown is actually next to Yangon River where you’ll find many shipyards and warehouses for cargo handling. The buildings around Chinatown are characterized by many shops, trading offices and wholesalers.

The Yangon River and part of Chinatown as seen from my hotel.
This was the only Chinese looking shop in Chinatown.
A common sight in Yangon with a maze of spaghetti wires criss-crossing above your head like spiderwebs. I wonder if there was a problem, how would the electrician even know where to start looking.
There are plenty of old looking and slum like apartments along the streets of Chinatown with many of them haphazardly built.
The shops in Chinatown also seem to cluster around product categories. Like this street where the shops were all selling hardware tools for home and industrial use.
Another street where shops were selling stuffed toys wholesale.
The crowds of people walk by nonchalantly between 2 workmen who were tossing goods above their heads to load into a truck.
This guy was coolly sitting on his bicycle while cars and people were all trying to squeeze pass.
Poverty is still a problem, as this boy went around trash bins scrounging for metal cans to sell as scrap.

Staying in the City

While there are many hotels in Yangon, this time I decided to try staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel which is located above Junction City. Both the mall and hotel were opened just 2 years ago. I managed to get myself a good deal on Hotels.com for this stay.

I got myself upgraded into the corner room which offers a great view of the city and Shwedagon Pagoda.
The dawn view of Shwedagon Pagoda with early morning mist still covering the tree tops.
The Holy Trinity Church and Bogyoke Market just under my window.
I especially liked the buffet breakfast which has a wide spread of local and international food choices. If you can, get your room rate with breakfast included.
There is a small infinity pool where guests can take a dip. I never got to use the pool though.

Staying at Pan Pacific Hotel has it’s advantages. You are in the city and within walking distance to Bogyoke Market and several street markets. Chinatown is and Sule Pagoda are also walkable in 10-15 minutes. Shwedagon Pagoda is a short taxi ride away. Plus, the Junction City shopping mall provides all the modern amenities that a city dweller like me would want. The only downside about being in the city, the roads around the hotel are always congested with traffic, which makes getting around Yangon a hassle as taxis try to squeeze their way in and out of the traffic jams.

6 thoughts on “Yangon Streets

  1. Interesting post Edwin. I learned quite a lot from it. Locusts, hmm… After all that’s happening now I told my kids not to try exotic dishes anymore during their school trips, even if they’re cooked.

  2. My friend and I actually stayed at a hotel located on one of those narrow streets in the downtown area. It was an old building which was upgraded into a modern-ish hotel. From our window, we could see the daily life of the locals unfolding before our eyes — from the procession of female monks in pink robes to collect alms, to whatever our neighbors across the street were doing on their balconies. Such a vibrant and interesting place it was!

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