Myanmar Travel Tips: Best Places to meet Locals in Yangon
Myanmar people are some of the most friendly, hospitable people I have ever met. It is easy for travelers to interact with them even if there is a language barrier- a smile is all it takes to start a ‘conversation’. Yet many tourists want a chance to get even more in touch with the locals by experiencing a part of their daily life or having the opportunity to interact more closely with Myanmar’s ever-smiling residents.
Over the next few weeks we will highlight the best places to meet locals in each of the four main destinations.
We start with Yangon. As the city continues to see more tourists and a growing expat community, it may seem hard to escape from foreigners. Yet the city still has great spots tucked away where the locals are still surprised to see a foreign face.
Botathaung Jetty – in the early morning hours (around sunrise) the area around Botathaung is a hive of activity. Worshippers come to pray at the pagoda, ship workers arrive for work and fitness buffs work out in the empty parking lot. Botathaung is also a good place to visit in the early evening when friends gather for a game of Chinlone (caneball), lovers come out for a sunset stroll or families pay their respects at the pagoda. It is a fantastic place to meet curious locals.
Cinemas– The Myanmar film industry has a long history and locals still love a good movie. On Sule Pagoda road three older cinemas (Thamada, Shwe Saung and Nay Pyi Taw) are very popular on weekends and show a mix of Burmese and foreign films. Join the queues of school kids, young couples and families as they buy their tickets and popcorn and settle in for a movie.
Sanchaung and Hledan– Much has been written about 19th street, downtown’s popular gathering place for street food and beer hall. These days many resident expats and tourists make the trip to 19th leaving a 50/50 mix of local to foreigner. For a truly local place for a beer head to a more local neighborhood such as Sanchaung and Hledan. Sanchaung is in midtown and many young city workers reside in the neighborhood thanks to its good location and access to shops. Hledan is further west and many university students choose to live here as it is not far from Yangon University. Both areas have a lively night market and several beer stations packed with locals.
Mahabandoola Park– This park is located in the centre of downtown yet few visitors take the time to stop in. They simply snap a photo of Independence Monument and move on. For those willing to wake up early or come at sunset, a completely different scene unfolds. Exercise groups for Tai Chi and aerobics gather in the park starting around 5 AM and are joined by dog walkers and joggers to take advantage of the cool, quiet mornings. The late afternoon sees office workers gathering for a snack, families taking a stroll or young couples getting some time away from their families.
KTV- Love it or hate it, KTV (aka- Karaoke) is probably the best place to meet locals. I have never met a person in Myanmar who does not adore a night with friends at KTV. One of the most popular venues is Music Box in Kandawgyi Park. Upon entering you will be shown a variety of rooms ranging from 2,000-20,000 kyats per hour. A selection of English and Burmese songs are available and drinks and food are reasonably priced. Settle in and start singing- it won’t be long till word gets around that some foreigners are in the building and surely someone will knock on your door to invite you to join their KTV party!