Things I Saw in Yangon

Monk at the Schwedagon Pagoda

Yangon (Rangoon), the largest city in Myanmar (Burma), felt like the love child between Mumbai (Bombay) and Havana (La Habana). Like Mumbai, it is a crowded, chaotic, dirty and colorful city replete with grand Brittish colonial buildings, but it has the dilapidated charm and laid-back ease of the Cuban capital. Even though Myanmar borders India, I was still surprised that it reminded me of its neighbor, in large part because I didn’t think any place could remind me of the madness of India!

Mumbai and Havana could never be responsible enough raise a child together, so Yangon was reared by its eccentric southeast Asian extended family. All around the metropolis, I saw things that reminded me of other countries in the region; the ubiquitous monks reminded me of Laos, the street food culture was distincly Thai, the huge smiles on the Burmese faces was delightfully Indonesian, and the wild west vibe of people riding atop overcrowded trucks brought back memories of Cambodia.

I instantly loved Yangon, and was instantly sad that I didn’t have more time there. Now, back in Bangkok – a place that once seemed exotic – everything is too modern, clean and boring. Travel has a way of changing perceptions. I’m comforted by the fact that Yangon is one hour and a cheap flight away, so even though I can’t live with her, I can at least have visiting rights.

Yangon Street Photos

Click any photo for a larger view

 

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34 Comments on “Things I Saw in Yangon

  1. Jeff – enjoyed every single street shot – some top favs are the watermelon slices, girl with pink hat feeding birds, and the dog resting at the end of the row.
    But the little details – like the opening photo with the lady’s hair hanging as the light hits her face –
    The man on the entrance way to the bus
    And the child resting (sleeping) at the veggie stand!
    Culture rich is a understatement with the photo journalism here.

    • Thank you very much – I appreciate the compliments and feedback. Yangon was one of my favorite places to shoot in the street – there is so much going on and the people were so open and friendly it made it easy!

  2. I can see why you thought about Mumbai: chaotic traffic and extremely crowded!
    Even though I haven’t been there, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer Havana. 🙂

    • Havana is great, I love it. But man, I loved Yangon too. Those are certainly two of my favorite cities. There was more central Indian influence in Myanmar than Thailand for sure and yes some of those streets were madness!

  3. I loved Yangon, both on my first and second visits. The city has this energy and kindness I can’t quite describe. I would sound selfish to wish the city not to change too fast, but I sincerely hope so because that makes Yangon so unique and fascinating. Oh and the food! Yum!

    • I know what you mean by the kindness. There is an innocent, genuine friendliness to the people, even in the center of the metropolis. Agreed, I don’t want it to change too quickly either!

      Burmese food was great. I’d heard mixed reviews, but you and James liked it so that gave me hope. Ate some great curries.

  4. My top pick here is the bus with the temple looking as if it might be sprouting from it. Wonderful composition in my books.

    • Thanks Sue. That temple occupies a traffic circle in the middle of town! I liked how a major bus stop was right underneath it.

  5. Really like your description of Yangon! You hit the nail on your head in describing its meltingpotness! I went twice when I lived in Vietnam and loved it. I really need to read more of the diaries and articles from my grandfather who lived there for 6 years in the late 1920s/early 30s and wrote a rather eccentric social column for the Rangoon Times!

    • That would be fascinating to see those articles! My grandfather was in northern Burma during WWII and I thought of him a bit when I was there, mainly because I wondered if the people were so lovely back then during a time of war.

      I went to Hanoi about 2 weeks after Yangon and I loved it also. Those are my two favorite SE Asian cities. Which do you like better?

  6. Your street shots are rich and memorable. I really do get the feel of being there with you, but without the awkwardness of staring too long at someone 🙂
    My favourite is the street view looking down from above on the market. Did you mention it was crowded and chaotic? 😉

    • Thank you Joanne. That street view was nice because it was possible to be right above the fray and look into it! For as chaotic as it was, it is also very friendly. Great city!

  7. Ah, gorgeous photos that capture the city – they brought back so many wonderful memories. And I love your description. The world is full of so many amazing places so infinitely different from each other. I’ve just finished writing about Playa del Carmen – it couldn’t be more different from Yangon. You’re so close. I take it you’ll be visiting again?
    Alison

    • We are already planning to go to the north of Myanmar next time Kristi has time off from work and I’m sure we’ll visit Yangon on a long weekend in the future.

      Your blog posts were a big inspiration for me to go to Myanmar. Enjoy Mexico for me!

      JB

  8. Fantastic street photography, Jeff. What an exciting and vibrant city. Enjoyed reading your description. Have been to SE Asia and wanted to get to Myanmar. Next time…

  9. I completely agree with your thoughts about Yangon being a combo of Mumbai and Havana. I’m in Mumbai right now, and visited Havana in July, and Yangon in 2013. These cities are definitely in the same family! Beautiful, crazy and full of life.

    • I’m glad you’ve been to all three and don’t think I’m crazy for making that connection! Enjoy Mumbai, and drink a masala chai for me.

  10. Jeff, what a fun description of Yangon. I have sadly not been to Mumbai or Havana, but I totally get the visual. Your photos are great—especially like the watermelon and the rows of plastic tables/chairs. Maybe it’s about the pop of colour and symmetry. Your post is making me think we should hop over to Yangon when we’re in Bangkok (hopefully Jan or Feb).

    • You should absolutely pop over if you are going to be in Thailand. It is a one-hour and about a $100 flight from BKK.

      If you are in Bangkok let us know and we can meet up.

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