Yangon, Myanmar - Stein Travel
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Yangon

Yangon is Myanmar's largest and most interesting city, and its economic and diplomatic centre despite the 2005 creation of remote Naypyidaw as official capital of the ruling military junta.

The city was occupied by the British in 1852 when it became the centre of the Burmese Raj.The resulting influx of traders, diplomats and wealth transformed the city into a glorious regional hub. The legacy of this time is evident in the decaying though stately colonial buildings found along the Rangoon river and toward the centre of town.

The shining jewel of Yangon's many attractions is Schwedagon pagoda, the golden temple visible throughout the city and an iconic sight emblematic of the country and its strong Buddhist traditions. Other attractions include 2,200 year-old Sule pagoda, the fragrant exoticism of Little India and Chinatown, and the vibrant night markets including Bogyoke Aung San Market. Inle Lake is lined with gardens and luxurious villas and provides a cooling distraction at sunset. Another worthwhile stopover is a visit to recently released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house, on University avenue.

Yangon is hot and humid, especially at midday when most of the population takes refuge indoors or by the shade of a temple or banyan tree. It is a noisy and chaotic place too, with innumerable scooters, orange robed monks, neon signs and golden temple spires clashing in a visual landscape of uniquely Asian contradictions. Yangon is also Asia's safest city, the only positive consequence of the dictatorship that rules this country with impunity.

Information & Facts

Climate

Yangon has a tropical monsoon climate featuring a long rainy season which runs from April through November. The dry season is short-lived, lasting only from December through March, where little rainfall is seen and pleasant warm weather prevails. Average daytime temperatures are fairly constant in Yangon with highs ranging from 84F to 96F (29°C to 36°C). The dry season is the best time of year to visit Yangon.

Language

Burmese is the official language, yet English is widely spoken and understood. Burmese's alphabet is made up of circular and semi-circular characters. Other languages spoken are Karen, Shan and Kachin.

Money

The official currency is the Kyat (MMK) pronounced 'Chat'. The best currency to travel on in Myanmar is the US Dollar. The Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) is a legal currency for visiting tourists that is usable in government shops and hotels. It is no longer a requirement to convert US$200 into FEC upon arrival in Myanmar. One FEC is equivalent to one US Dollar. It is recommended to use US Dollars. It is difficult to cash American Express travellers cheques in certain cities, such as Mandalay, and even when it is possible the commission can be as high as 10 percent. US Dollar notes will not be accepted if they are damaged or torn in any way, or have pen marks on them. There is a big difference between the official and unofficial exchange rates; street moneychangers offer favourable rates at hotels and Scott Market. As a rough guide, the black market rate is in the region of US$1 = MMK 1000 - a dramatic difference when compared to the official government rate. Very few major hotels, airlines, shops and restaurants accept credit cards and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. It is advisable to carry cash. Banks are closed on weekends.

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