When reminiscing about Yangon, I imagine sipping a small cup of milk tea on a stool in a shady alley on a hot day. Colorful clotheslines swing in the breeze above me. I can hear the greetings of mingalaba and still see the betel-stained smiles in my mind. While living in Bangkok I went to Myanmar three different times. It has a way of drawing you back.
Myanmar is a beautiful and diverse country with 135 ethnic groups. A complicated nation with an ancient heritage coming to terms with its troubled past under British colonial rule, followed by an oppressive military junta. Even now, the country unfortunately still struggles with internal conflicts.
Visiting Myanmar you get the sense that you’re entering a land that time has forgotten. It’s one of a few Southeast Asian countries that still hasn’t been spoiled by mass tourism and Starbucks lattes. Its isolation under a brutal military dictatorship for half a century has a lot to do with it. With all of Myanmar’s natural beauty and friendly people, it still sees only a fraction of travelers.
These images were taken several years ago prior to the military coup in 2021. My heart goes out to the people of Myanmar still struggling for their freedom. My hope is that the people’s revolution will succeed and the nation will eventually find its way to lasting democracy once and for all. I would not consider traveling there right now as it’s clearly more dangerous and your money would be directly supporting a murderous military regime.
Yangon is an excellent city for photography
Yangon is a very special city to me. There’s never a dull moment. The commercial center is always bustling. Years of heat, humidity, and pollution are baked onto building walls. Buddhist pagodas are juxtaposed against colonial architecture and decaying Chinese shophouses. You’ll see men wearing longyis chewing kun yar, women on the corner frying up samusas, and rickshaw drivers reading the newspaper between runs.
To me, sampling local food wherever I visit is a major part of any journey. I have fond memories of eating South Indian cuisine on 32nd street. Enjoying cheap Japanese at an izakaya. Choosing from hundreds of skewered items to chargrill on 19th street and scooping spoonfuls of crunchy lephet thoke (tea leaf salad) at a street stall.
I met a shy young student during an English lesson I participated in at a language school. Her name is Mrat. She’s from Rakhine State and she studied at Yangon University. In exchange for helping her with English, she agreed to tag along and translate for me when we encountered people downtown. Without her many of these photos never would’ve happened at all.
Enjoy this virtual tour of Yangon, one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia.
Read next: 35 Things to do in Yangon, Myanmar
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