The sprawling city of Rangoon, or Yangon, is no longer Burma’s official capital but is still the nation’s largest and most important city by far and very much its commercial, cultural, historic and geographical centre. Rangoon is congested, hectic, noisy, grimy, frequently smelly; pavements are obstacle courses, street lighting is to say the least erratic and much of its wonderful stock of colonial period architecture crumbling, decaying and weed-covered. From similar beginnings, as important imperial British port Rangoon has become Singapore’s antithesis but this is Southeast Asia as it used to be – and it’s wonderful!
It’s vibrant, bustling, fascinating with an eclectic Asian ethnic and religious mix of inhabitants, (and cuisine) and possesses a range of historic sites covering the best part of the last 2,000 years from ancient Mon pagodas to Victorian neo-gothic. The colourful markets and street-life, friendly locals plus increasingly some decent drinking and eating spots make the city a fantastic destination for visitors and and for photographers and……if Rangoon doesn’t float your boat you’re probably on the wrong continent.
Yes, there’s Shwedagon, Sule and myriad other temples and pagodas; the National Museum, the famous Scott Market, a ride on the Circle Train and scenic Kandawgyi Lake Park to unwind in but for us some of the best, and most photogenic times are to be had simply roaming the downtown streets. Stroll along the riverfront past the Rangoon River jetties, explore Chinatown by day or by night whilst turning almost any corner in the City’s centre will reveal a stunning old colonial gem; sometimes restored, occasionally derelict and often decaying and moss-covered. Point your camera in any direction and you can’t go wrong.
Rangoon with its international airport serves inevitably as your starting and finishing point for any upcountry tour but for those with only limited time the city is a rewarding destination in its own right and when combined with nearby sites such as Mon State’s Bago ancient city and spectacular Golden Rock or the Irrawaddy Delta and bustling Pathein port could suffice as an excellent trip without needing to go further afield. We’d allow at least 2 or 3 days for the city and bear in mind due to erratic connections and frequent cancellations if you have a connecting flight out of Rangoon and you’re coming from upcountry allow an extra night there beforehand to be safe.