Downtown Yangon

Downtown Yangon: Most Authentic City in Asia

In City Guides, Myanmar by Sheena4 Comments

Downtown Yangon is a city of hustle & bustle, energy & entrepreneurship –  see why now is the best time to wander these gritty streets of Myanmar before globalization & skyscrapers take over.

Obelisk National Monument Yangon

Obelisk National Monument in downtown Yangon

Downtown Yangon

With its gritty run-down streets, crumbling apartment blocks, bumper-to-bumper traffic and rubbish strewn sidewalks, Yangon is the typical cavernous, crazy, and chaotic Asian city.

The whole city appears to be on the edge of collapse but somehow buildings remain standing, traffic moves along, roads are repaired and cars squeeze through one-way market lanes.

Here at DIY Travel HQ, this is right up our alley! What’s more, checking out Yangon’s decaying but fascinating streets are one of the top free things to do in Yangon!

Cars & people squeeze through market

Cars & people squeeze through a market in downtown Yangon

This is authentic Asia for big city lovers, before globalization.

The key players have yet to move in and the omissions are as stark as they are refreshing.

From fast-food franchises to café chains, upscale restaurants to pubs and bars, the institutions that epitomize the capitalist world remain in the Wild West.

Instead, the cityscape is of teashops, street food stalls, drink vendors, lottery ticket sellers, market merchants and fruit dealers.

Looming above it all is the towering Shwedagon Pagoda, the world’s most beautiful temple.

Street food in Yangon

You’ll find street food stalls all around Yangon

Certainly, on the streets of Yangon, anything sought can be bought.

Small stores and pathway peddlers cram side by side to offer anything from keys and locks to shoes and socks… watches, jewelry, crockery, clothing, and everything in between.

It is a micro-economy in which hustle and hustlers are here, tenacity and thieves are there, and energy and entrepreneurship are everywhere.

Street stalls in Yangon

You can buy anything in small shops across Yangon

As the capital of old Burma, the city holds the largest number of colonial buildings in South-East Asia.

Today, these add a kind of panache to the derelict amalgamation of architecture, signs of Rangoon’s past glory.

The best examples of this bygone era are the past government and administration ministries mainly clustered around Mahabandoola Garden and Strand Road, long consigned to decay, save the saved and iconic Strand Hotel.

Yangon Iconic Strand Hotel

The Iconic Strand Hotel

These days, the overwhelming structural characteristic of modern Yangon is the eight-story apartment building.

The colorful and tumultuous washing-strewn balconies, air-conditioning units, overgrown plants and open and shut shutters allude to the chaos and routine of everyday life inside.

These colossal collective complexes, topped with satellite dishes and intertwined between telephone lines, are, at once, fascinating eyesores and eye-openers.

Eight-storey apartment block

The eight-storey apartment block is a characteristic of Yangon architecture

Some parts of the city see a sprinkling of affluence and cosmopolitan culture, particularly around Inya Lake and University Avenue, with leafy avenues and turn-of-the-century architecture, mansions and villas behind barbed wire and high fences, and Western-style cafes and restaurants.

Street stall owner in Yangon

There are few Western-style cafes or restaurants in downtown Yangon

Even downtown, there are noticeable signs of commercial interest and development amid the hotels and high rises, but for the most part, Yangon’s infrastructure and growth remains well behind the times, deeply entrenched and struggling to emerge from the constraints of the past.

For Myanmar’s largest city, globalization seems both inevitable and a long way away.

Construction in Downtown Yangon

Downtown Yangon is a work in progress

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Downtown Yangon Most Authentic City in Asia

*** The Final Word – Visit Yangon asap before globalisation arrives & it changes forever *** 

What do you think of Yangon – love it or hate it?

Visited in June 2014


  1. Bookmarked almost all your posts about Myanmar.Since yesterday I was looking for Diy travel in this country.good thing I found this. Really helpful.will get back to ur site to check other places you’ve been to. Keep it up!

    1. Author

      We are glad you are finding our posts helpful. The other country we cover in depth in Southeast Asia is Indonesia, but we have both been to every country in the region if you have other questions you want to ask. We might not have all the details since it has been awhile, but at least whether somewhere is worth visiting & general routes. 🙂

      [email protected]

  2. Yangon, the most “authentic” city in Asia. Of course if you think the word authentic has the meaning of being dilapidated to the extreme because of a population kept in inescapable poverty due to oppression in every aspect of their life, even maintaining their cities. Did you ever think about the fact your use of the word authentic to describe such a condition makes you a prime example of a poverty tourist?

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