If you visit Yangon any time between May and September, chances are you will get caught in the rain. A lot. That’s why most visitors come between November and February, when the temperatures are moderate and rainfall low.
However, there’s a certain charm to the city in the rainy season. Not least of which is low prices and no crowds. Also, Yangon is not normally a city for gentle rambles on the sidewalks, even in the best of weather. Pavements here, generally, are a route between one destination and another, not a place to linger and smell the roses. And so, many of the best things to do can be done rain or shine. Here are three of my favorites.
A visit to this amazing shrine is a must for every visitor to the city. The incredible golden spires shine brightly in all weathers. Locals visit in large numbers at all times of the year. On a rainy day, the drizzle simply means that visiting monks and others pull out their umbrellas. You will still see hundreds of pilgrims at prayer, burning incense and leaving flowers at the many shrines and statues of Buddha.
If anything, a visit at Monsoon time means fewer guides touting their services and almost no foreign tourists. It almost feels like, as a tourist, you become invisible. Almost.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar and believed to contain relics of four Buddhas. The immense golden dome of the main pagoda doesn’t fail to impress, rain or shine.
At this time of year, it’s wise to take an umbrella and walk along the provided pathways because the floor can be very slippery. Otherwise, Monsoon-time makes for an interesting, enjoyable and crowd-free visit to this justifiably famous and visually stunning Buddhist shrine.
People watching in all it’s forms can be elevated to an art-form in Yangon. And there is no better place to do this at this time of year than in one of the sprawling malls or shopping areas in this fast-developing city. Previously up-market favorite Myanmar Plaza has recently been replaced by the modern and noisy Junction City downtown.
Here you can see Yangon’s growing army of young professionals and hipsters rubbing shoulders with young families and elderly matrons. The fast-growing urban population of Yangon has embraced shopping, fast-food and movies with a passion. Junction City on a Saturday is definitely a place to take the urban pulse of this city.
My absolute favorite though, across the road, is the more traditional Bogyoke (Bojo) Market. It’s more laid back, and more eclectic, than the shiny new malls.
Offering woven and wicker ware, alongside cheap clothing, jewelry and craftwork, it’s here you can see amazing (and hugely expensive) jade carvings. Fat laughing buddhas in the dark green stone line the shop fronts of the up-market stores road-side. While at the back, local art stores are crammed up against lacquerware and wooden carvings stalls.
If you go at the right time of day, monks in pink robes will file through the passageways collecting alms. It’s pretty wonderful, really.
Splurge on a Hotel
When you’ve finished sight-seeing and checking out the shops, luxury accommodation in Yangon in August can be unbelievably affordable. And so, for a fraction of the normal price, you go home out of the rain – to the lap of luxury.
With tourists and business people alike avoiding the city, many of the top hotels are almost empty. Which presents great opportunities for bargains. Hotels.com and Agoda.com are both bursting with special offers from hotels which sometimes cost up to three or four times as much in high season.
And best of all, no crowds.