Yangon, Myanmar is a city overflowing with excitement.
Crossing the street is one of the biggest challenges, but if you can get to the other side, what awaits you is a cultural buffet of colors, vendors, markets, and friendly people.
Walking around downtown Yangon is never going to be calm or peaceful, but the action, fathom of colors, chaos, and overall flow of the city, is what makes it so interesting and beautiful.
Here are a series of 41 photos I took of my most recent trip to Yangon, a little mix of everything, and some delicious food towards the bottom (so keep on scrolling and reading).
1. All roads lead to Sule Pagoda
In downtown Yangon, one of the central landmarks is the Sule Pagoda, and it seems like all buses and roads eventually lead to it.
The downtown area is nicely laid out, in a near perfect grid of main roads and side streets, all perpendicular and parallel to each other, making the downtown area quite easy to navigate (despite the traffic and pedestrians).
2. Life in Yangon
One of the best ways to see and experience Yangon is to just explore on foot.
The city is full of life, people going about their daily lives, eating, going places, and selling things. This photo was taken about 4 pm, when many kids had just finished school.
3. Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is probably the most sacred and most important religious site in Yangon, if not all of Myanmar.
Even on the cloudy day that I visited, there was enough gold at the pagoda to make me squint. It’s definitely a place you should visit when you’re in Yangon.
4. Little India and the Shri Kali Temple
In downtown Yangon one of the most prominent Hindu temples is Shri Kali Temple, located in a busy area of downtown also referred to as Little India.
The temple is located on Anawratha Roaad, across the street from 26th Street.
5. Beautifully decaying buildings
One of the things I always love about walking around Yangon is looking up at the beautiful decaying old buildings.
Yangon has a huge collection of colonial buildings, some of the best in Southeast Asia, and paired with the hot and humid tropical climate and lack of maintenance, many have turned into museums of their own.
6. Transportation by train
Train remains one of the most important ways to get into the center of Yangon from the outer edges of the city, or from other destinations throughout Myanmar.
7. Yangon circular railway
One day, Ying and I had some time to take the Yangon Circular Railway, a circle route that stops at 39 stations and does a loop around greater Yangon.
It goes really slow, and stops many times, but it offers a nice opportunity to see some of the outskirts, and even a little countryside, around Yangon.
8. Train station
While waiting to catch our train, there were plenty of things to observe, including many food vendors carrying snacks on their heads – probably to sell at the station, or to bring into downtown Yangon to sell.
One of the main modes of transportation throughout Yangon are buses, and unlike most of SE Asia where motorbikes flourish, they are banned from central Yangon.
Buses are rowdy and always have the right of way – they won’t stop for you!
10. Bus stops
Bus stations in Yangon are usually haphazardly located in the first lane of the road. But surrounding bus stops you’ll find all sorts of vendors selling all things imaginable.
11. Bicycle ride through Yangon
Due to the not so kind driving conditions in Yangon, I’m not so sure I’d want to personally ride a bicycle through the streets. But that being said, those were did ride, were calmly pedaling as massive buses zoomed past, with merely inches to spare.
This guy was riding pretty confidently.
12. Looking around Yangon
While we were walking down a side street, I noticed this little guy enjoying the sites of Yangon. He seemed to be taking in all the beauty of the city, the action, and the diversity, all while securely in his mothers arms.
13. Walking through Yangon
One of the quickest ways to get through downtown Yangon is to just walk.
The side streets are usually quite calm and quiet, with the exception of occasional cars, but the main roads are always busy and chaotic.
14. Market sprawl
In downtown Yangon there are markets all over the place, especially in the mornings or in the evenings when fresh produce vendors spill into the streets and take up the first few lanes of some of the main roads.
There’s so much action, that’s why I really love Yangon.
Bananas are sold all over Yangon, often from big baskets connected to bamboo carrying poles of bicycles.
The man on the side of the bicycle, I’m not sure what he was doing, but happened to be a random picture of him looking like he was about to fight – but he really wasn’t luckily!
16. Guavas on a bamboo carrier
Throughout the streets of Yangon, one of the most common methods of transporting produce is by a double basket bamboo pole carrier.
That way, one can balance their load, and set down, or re-located, at just a moments notice.
17. Watering fruit
This man is giving his guavas a quick sprinkle to make them shine and look nice and fresh.
18. Mango taste test
This mango vendor was offering a sample of her mangoes to a potential buyer.
Yangon is just overflowing with fruit, baskets of mango, guava, durian, pineapple, watermelon, apples, grapes… the list goest on. There’s an abundance of fruit – especially during the time of year I visited (July / August).
19. 26th Street Market
Although you’ll find produce being sold randomly at nearly every corner or street throughout downtown Yangon, there are some streets which are actually market streets.
26th Street, across the main road from Little India, is a great market street where you’ll find all sorts of produce, seafood, and meat.
20. Fresh fish
Fish plays an important part in the diets of many – especially in the coastal regions of Myanmar – and Yangon is close to the coast. Tilapia, small pomfrets, and numerous other small fish were available in abundance.
Notice the cat food tarp used to display the fish… no, these fish are not cat food!
21. Weighing the catch
The fish vending in the markets in Yangon quite reminded me of scenes I saw at markets in Kolkata, where many vendors used hand scales to weigh fish.
22. Fish vendor at Thein Gyi Market
This fish vendor at the market had a nice selection of large and fresh looking fish.
23. Fish in the evening
Not only did I see fish being sold at the market in the morning, but in the afternoon and evening you’ll find random fresh fish stalls set up all over town.
Buy some fish, and make a nice curry at home – that sounds delicious.
24. Bitter melon in a basket
One of my personal favorite vegetables, both the way it tastes and the way it looks, is bitter melon, or bitter gourd.
In Myanmar, I saw some of the most beautiful looking bitter gourds ever, they were nice shades of green, and had crazy looking bumps.
This bitter melon vendor had just finished her last bite of noodles when I took the shot.
25. Squeezing through
When you’re walking around Yangon, you’ll undoubtedly need to squeeze through some tight spots. Sometimes through people, sometimes through cars, or chickens.
This lady attempted to squeeze between a parked truck and some chicken, hoping not to get any chicken juice on her shirt (I squeezed past just a minute before her… and I got a little chicken juice on my shirt!).
26. Railroad market
I mentioned above that one day while we were in Yangon, we took the circular railroad route.
Many of the stations were quiet with not much going on, but at Danyingon station, all of a sudden we stopped right in the middle of a massive produce market, full of vegetables, people, and a rainbow of colors and life.
27. Posters and books
One my previous visit to Myanmar back in 2011, I thought it was quite interesting how I passed numerous Justin Bieber posters along the roadside.
Such is still the case, there are many shops lined with posters of babies, celebrities, and other random things.
28. Areca nut, betel leaf
Chewing areca nut is wildly popular in Myanmar, and on the streets of Yangon, you can’t go more than a few meters without seeing a dealer.
29. Tea stalls
Of all the things that are important and beloved in Myanmar culture, tea and socializing (which go hand in hand) is pretty high on the list.
I think one of the joys of visiting Yangon is sitting on one of the miniature plastic tables and stools, and drinking tea with friends and family.
30. Street tea and snacks
Pictured above is one of the most common sites that I remember while spending time in Yangon.
Everywhere you go, you’ll find tiny plastic tables and chairs, often in a bright purple or red color, ready to be used as a table for tea and snacks.
31. Laphet thoke – tea leaf salad
One of the most widely available and popular Myanmar salads is laphet thoke, made from pickled tea leaves.
Tea originates in northern Myanmar, and people are not only obsessed with drinking it, but also eating it… and it’s incredibly delicious.
32. Quick street food snacks
You’ll find street food in abundance scattered throughout Yangon. Just grab a plastic stool, order what looks good, and in just moments it will be ready.
Many people grab multiple quick street food snacks on the go in Yangon.
33. Tofu thoke – Tofu salad
When you see that yellow block of what looks like a wheel of cheese, it’s actually probably tofu made from chickpea flour.
Order a dish called “tofu thoke” or tofu salad – that includes creamy slices of tofu mixed with kaffir lime leaves and fried shallots in a light dressing.
Considered the national dish of Myanmar, mohinga is a bowl of rice noodles covered in a fish broth that’s somewhere between a soup and a curry.
The flavors of mohinga are wonderful, and it’s a dish you have to eat when you’re in Myanmar. Mohinga is available at both street food stalls and restaurants, and I got this particular bowl in a parking lot near Sule Pagoda.
35. Other street food snacks
The list of street food in Yangon could go on and on, there are not only many things to try, but there’s an abundance of street food available everywhere you look.
This version of a Myanmar dosa was a a thin rice crepe topped with vegetables and peas and served on a colored piece of newspaper (not sure how healthy colored newspaper is, too bad they didn’t have leaves).
36. Yangon, Chinatown
Chinatown, located from 24th – 19th streets in downtown Yangon, is one of the many places in Yangon that’s famous for street food.
During the evening you’ll find lots of restaurants and street food stalls for a bite or feast to eat.
37. 19th Street Barbecue
Known as the barbecue street, 19th Street in downtown Chinatown Yangon, is a side street that’s lined with restaurants serving barbecue and beer.
38. Myanmar curry
Among the many things to eat in Myanmar, a few feasts of curry are always in order.
Burmese curries tend to be a bit on the oily side, with a layer of oil often on top, but the flavors are fantastic.
39. Myanmar curry feast
I had quite a few Burmese curry feasts on my latest trip to Yangon, but probably the biggest meal was at Feel Restaurant, one of the most famous in the city (more to come).
40. Goat curry
In Thailand it’s not always easy to find goat.
There are a few restaurants that have it, mostly Halal restaurants, but other than that it’s challenging to find. So in Myanmar I tried to get my fill of goat curries.
This goat curry at Feel Restaurant tasted quite similar to that marvelous goat curry at Yusup Pochana in Bangkok.
41. Rakhine food
On my last meal in Yangon, seriously on my way to the airport, I stopped at Minn Lann Seafood restaurant, a place that many had recommended to me.
Minn Lann specializes in food from the Rhakine state of Myanmar, and mostly seafood dishes.
This pomfret, curried in Rhakine style, was excellent.
There’s nothing quite like walking down the street and being startled by a warm splatter down the top of your forehead.
There are lots of pigeons in Yangon, and it’s always possible to get lucky!
Yangon is an exciting city to explore, with such an abundance of street life and unpredictable experiences waiting to be had.
When you visit Yangon, make sure you keep a flexible schedule, a positive attitude, use care crossing the streets, and have a great time exploring this wonderful, colorful, and multicultural city.
(Many more food stories and videos to come from my recent trip)