If you have been listening to the news over the last couple of years, it has been an exciting time in Burmese politics.  Small democratic steps have been made towards opening up the country for tourism in addition to foreign investment.  However, these progressions have been challenged by religious-based conflicts in different regions of the country. Regardless of the on-going politics, I always wanted to make my trip to Myanmar one to remember.  Fortunately, it was everything I anticipated.

Directly in front of the Sule Pagoda, this gentleman transports some carbs to his street side stall in order to make some additional kyat for the day.

First Impressions of Yangon

Without question, a lighter load. This middle aged woman navigates through this congested street moments away from Theingyi Zei Plaza in downtown Yangon.

Before stepping foot in Myanmar, I always read about beetle-nut and how the locals love to chew it and then paint the streets red. It took only a few minutes in Yangon to confirm this claim. Another highly journalized claim is that the Burmese love to wear their traditional attire.  This too was proven only minutes after arriving by taxi from Yangon International Airport (RGN) to the city center. The vast majority of locals walking the streets in the downtown area of Yangon wore kaleidoscopic sarongs and aged sandals that immediately caught my attention. Witnessing someone with a shirt, tie and blazer combination was atypical to say the least in comparison to other cities that I visited before. After I unpacked my luggage, I quickly set out onto the streets to see what daily life looked like from a foreign eye. Almost every corner of the city appeared to have fascinating beetle-nut stands and tiny food vendors. Tourist oriented restaurants were few and far between. Those that I found were mainly in the more elite hotels in the central core of the city. Needless to say, tourists looking to find convenience stores, grocery stores and suitable restaurants will be burning some calories to do so.

These teenage boys make their way to a street-side market with no shortage of flowers.

These teenage boys make their way to a street-side market with no shortage of flowers.

Strong Necks and Warm Hearts

Walking the streets in search of tourist-friendly food in Yangon may seem like a bad thing, but it turned out to be an excellent educational experience. The locals, although traditional and reserved, wouldn’t hesitate to smile when I asked for the price of their commercial goods such as used books, laminated maps and hand-carved business signs. As I walked past the Sule Pagoda at the center of the downtown area I couldn’t help but notice the sheer number of locals carrying different things on the top of their heads. I was truly fascinated by their unwavering posture during that steamy afternoon; so much so that I decided to capture different shots of the locals throughout the downtown area to demonstrate how their daily routines have been resilient to the influences of globalization. Bogyoke Aung San Rd., Anawratha Rd. and Mahabandoola Rd. were just a few of the streets that I observed. Regardless of what you think about the Burmese government, the people of the country have warm hearts and will welcome you with a bright red beetle-nut smile.

This beautifully dressed women moves briskly in the scorching sun to sell off her mouthwatering watermelon as quickly as possible. It tasted as good as it looks.

This beautifully dressed women moves briskly in the scorching sun to sell off her mouthwatering watermelon as quickly as possible. It tasted as good as it looks.

Walking in front of the foreign embassies and government buildings near Sule Pagoda, this young family gaze at the congested street action to their immediate right.

Walking in front of the foreign embassies and government buildings near Sule Pagoda, this young family gaze at the congested street action to their immediate right.

Three bags, two arms and one neck. This woman waits patiently in the humid heat of Yangon for a bus to arrive.

Three bags, two arms and one neck. This woman waits patiently in the humid heat of Yangon for a bus to arrive.

Ever wonder how sandals make their way to markets in Yangon? This middle aged woman was walking much quicker than me as she balanced this asymmetric load.

Ever wonder how sandals make their way to markets in Yangon? This middle aged woman was walking much quicker than me as she balanced this asymmetric load.

Want to find the cheapest rooms in Yangon?

Yangon is one of those cities that you should definitely book in advance (and you need to do your homework to find a nice area of the city).  Try using hotelscombined.com – the world’s best price comparison website or booking.com – the world’s largest accommodation provider. We often use www.agoda.com to book our rooms due to their massive selection in Southeast Asia and their collection of verified guest reviews.  These sites will give you the freedom of choice with the best available prices in Yangon.