Burma Holidays: An Introduction to Rangoon

Rangoon is many things - to name just a few: major port, modern metropolis, home to a diverse population, starting point for many travellers' adventures, and former capital of Burma. Holidays to the city bring visitors into a world of contrasts - Burmese architecture alongside Victorian buildings, old structures rubbing shoulders with new ones, Buddhist and Hindu temples, shopping malls and tea rooms. Those with a leisurely schedule can spend time exploring every facet of this fascinating city, while those who only have a day or two might want to be a little more selective with their itinerary. Either way, there is plenty to see, do, and learn. To help you get an idea of Rangoon's significance, and plan your visit, here is a brief introduction.

Rangoon's History

For those looking forward to their Burma holidays, it can be fun - and useful - to learn a bit of the local history of their destination. Rangoon started its life as Dagon, an ancient Mon city established during the Dvaravati period. Although the fortunes of this city waxed and waned, there has been a settlement on the site ever since - situated at the meeting point of the rivers Myitmaka and Pegu, it has always been an important port. After the fall of the Mon kingdom of Pegu, the site was named Yangon by King Alaungpaya - the name means 'end of strife'. It was renamed again, in 1886, by British colonists - becoming Rangoon.

What to See

In a country as culturally and ethnically diverse as Burma, holidays can encompass a wonderfully wide array of locations and atmospheres - and Rangoon is as distinctive as the rest. Simply walking or riding a trishaw through its streets or sipping tea in a street corner shop is sure to create memories of a city like no other.

But for those who want a more structured itinerary, here are a few 'don't miss' sights. The central old city is worth seeing, with its elegant, weathered 19th century fa├žades. The quarter's heart, however, is a very different - and much older - kind of building: Sule Pagoda, thought to be over 2000 years old and therefore a remainder of the city's earliest days. It is believed to contain a hair of the Buddha and is visited daily by the faithful. Nearby, in Mahabandoola Park, you can find the Independence Monument, which takes the form of an obelisk, with statues of sacred lions to guard it. For shopping, there are plenty of modern shops, but more interesting is the Bogyoke Aung San Market, which sells all kinds of market wares as well as precious stones, and handicrafts from all over Burma - holidays aren't complete without souvenirs, and this is an ideal place to find them.

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