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Yangon is the capital city of Myanmar. It used to be called Rangoon, and the country Burma, by the British. Its history easily goes back to the 1st century, but its most turbulent times have come in the last two centuries. Colonised by Britain in 1825, the country regained independence in 1948, so for 113 years, the country was under British rule. It is very clear, even today, how much influence the British had in the city of Yangon with the remains of some fine old colonial buildings. Sadly only a few have been maintained, and these are generally now hotels or restaurants. However, any visitor to Yangon will probably be more interested in the long history of Myanmar that is found at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Dagon was the original name of Yangon and this mighty golden pagoda, is one of the most important Buddhist monuments in the world. It is thought to be situated in the region of 2,500 years old, and has survived earthquakes, occupations and fires. Over the years it has been remodelled, renovated and restored. It is the most magnificent pagoda anyone could ever wish to see, and to some extent, is Yangon.
Yangon is a fascinating destination with things to see in pretty much every street corner. There are temples and pagodas and museums everywhere and it is a treat to simply walk around and soak up the atmosphere.
The Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda

This will be at the top of everyone’s list in Yangon. The pagoda can be seen from quite a long way away, since it is set on the top of a hill. The pagoda remains one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, but is very much part of contemporary life in Yangon. It is open from dawn, and Buddhists will go to the pagoda from early morning to late evening. It is very high and has a crown of gold. On the crown you can find 5,448 diamonds, 2,317 rubies and the top of the crown boasts a 76 carat diamond. In total there are nearly 80,000 precious stones and 3,154 gold bells here. This is a living, practicing site, so the visitor should know some of the basic rules of visiting a Buddhist temple in Myanmar: You will be asked to take off your shoes and socks. Dress with respect: no shorts (although this is less of a problem in Myanmar than Thailand). Walk around the Pagoda in a clockwise direction, which is starting from the left side and going round to the right. This applies to all Buddhist sites. If you want to sit down, make sure your feet are not pointing towards any images or figures of The Buddha, and especially, keep the bottom of your feet tucked inside, towards yourself. Have a look at the way the local people sit, and copy them. Most sit cross legged. Try not to pat children on the head. Try to make your picture taking the least intrusive as possible. The Buddhist people who come here are worshipping, and may not want to be the centre of a photo.

There are strong influences from the neighbouring countries and cuisines of Thailand, Malaysia and China, so there’s a good mix of dishes in the restaurants. Some of the favourite local dishes are Mohinga (Rice noodles in fish soup-Myanmar National Dish), Kyther Hin (Traditional chicken curry) and Nga Phe Ohn No Chet (Fish cake in coconut curry).
Yangon is a bustling and colourful place, offering great shopping opportunities for visitors. Some of the most interesting products to buy include textiles, clothes, silverware, artefacts, jewelry and handicrafts. Myanmar is also known for its precious gem production such as rubies, sapphires and jade so you will find plenty of gem and jewelry shops in Yangon. The best bargains are to be found at local markets and to bargaining is expected at these markets this also includes street vendors. Be aware that starting prices are higher for tourist. There are fewer shopping malls in the city if you compare with other Asian cities which means less of western style shopping. The malls are little behind in terms of brand names but this could also be seen as charming.
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