The Decaying Grandeur of Yangon

While in Myanmar, Yangon was my home base. It's is a city of stark contrasts. The meaty sizzle of grilled chicken on the street draws you in, and then the overwhelming stench of raw sewage turns you off. A palatial colonial mansion looms over the street, but upon closer inspection, it is on the brink of collapse after years of disrepair. The city is loud, deafening even, but the gold encrusted pagodas are a vacuum of serenity and stillness.

On a train to Yangon

Sule Pagoda, downtown Yangon

Also Sule Pagoda

The traffic we faced to get anywhere in the city

The crummy sidewalks are all that lies between you 
...and flowing raw sewage 

Yangon will attack your senses and waken them up to a level you never thought possible and then bludgeon them to death. There are sights to behold everywhere, starting with the gorgeous colonial buildings in downtown. Many days could be spent wandering in and out of them. My most special moment in Yangon was ducking into an old colonial palace with original British tiling to escape the rain. As we wandered, we found both an art gallery and a hallway space that had been turned to a cafe. Grilled cheeses were resting on coals, the dishes were washed in buckets on the floor, and vines crept into the open air passages. Evan and I sat there sipping our coffees with huge smiles on our faces- the specialness of this place required no verbal confirmation.

Colonial architecture downtown

The interior of a colonial mansion

Courtyard in a colonial building

So much historical detail to take in with the buildings

Man vs. Nature in downtown Yangon

The food in Yangon is not for the faint of heart. Maybe the whole city is not for the faint of heart, but that's another story. Burmese food is very strong flavored- lots of pickled and fermented salads, ripe fish pastes, and mysterious sauces and herbs. When you order one meal, ten tiny bowls of various broths and sauces are placed in front of you, so that you can mix and match and build a flavor to your liking. At some point between train food and street food, I ended up with a bad case of food poisoning. So bad in fact that I ended up in a clinic where I was quickly hooked up to an IV and pumped full of antibiotics, painkillers, and muscle relaxants.

This meal was in Hpa-An, but it was my favorite in Myanmar

Street skewers on 19th Street

Ready to pounce on some Burmese hotpot

Typical lunch spread in Myanmar

Some more Burmese street food

Was it amoebas? Parasites? Who knows!

I'd highly recommend staying at Space Boutique Hostel. It was affordable, friendly, clean, and in a great location! The food next door at Nilar Biryani is half the reason to stay at Space Boutique. I stayed here twice, and each time I could leave the door with no plan and just wander the streets of downtown Yangon for hours.  Visiting 19th Street in the evening was a highlight, as was the Yangon Walking Tour. I was probably in Yangon for about a week total, and I never ran out of things to do.

Visit some Buddhas and temples and wear the 
local longyi clothing while you're at it

Check out the streets and streets of amazing architecture

Push your taste buds to new limits with some
Burmese street food

Rangoon Tea House in Yangon is an oasis of modernity


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