Mention Yangon and chances are, “nightlife” will not be the first thing to come to mind. After all, the city is known for its gilded temples and serene pagodas.
As the city’s economic activity booms, however, things may soon change. Recent years have seen a flurry of options springing up for Yangon visitors and business travellers seeking to eat, shop, and sightsee even as the day draws to a close.
Read on for our Pan Pacific Yangon team's guide to discovering Myanmar’s largest city after the sun sets.
Although it is famed for its barbecue stalls, the effervescent 19th Street in Yangon’s Chinatown has it all—street treats, local eateries, mid-range-to-upscale restaurants, and watering holes.
A must-try for barbecue fare is Kaung Myat, which has seen revered celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain pass through its doors. To enjoy cocktails and a convivial atmosphere, head for the popular (and New York Times-recommended) Kosan Cafe. If you prefer to mingle with locals, the under-the-radar but equally bustling Sanchaung Street is ideal for late-night drinks.
For a hearty meal, Western-style restaurants Union Bar & Grill and The Penthouse open late, while the Rangoon Tea House serves local cuisine and tea till 10:00 p.m. To quell wee-hour hunger pangs, look for a 24-hour G&G Convenience Store near you, or indulge yourself with supper at Pan Pacific Yangon’s Saan Restaurant, which serves à la carte local and international dishes around the clock.
Most malls in Yangon wind down by 9:00 p.m., but you can sneak in an extra hour of shopping and leisure activities at the City Mall St. John, which opens till 10:00 p.m. on weekends and the eve of public holidays. For a more traditional shopping experience, visit the night markets of Yangon, such as the Thiri Mingalar Market and the Anawrahta Night Market to experience how the locals shop for their produce and other daily needs.
Breathtaking by day, the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda is even more alluring by night. This surreal experience is evocatively recounted by a spellbound visitor: “…the sky kept changing. What had been the sharp blue of mid-afternoon quickly became tinged with the red tones of twilight, before… morphing into a soft purple and blending with the haze of the incense smoke. The sound of chanting rose from every corner of the pagoda complex and the sensuality of the scene became almost overwhelming.”
The Shwedagon Pagoda opens from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, except on two special pre-full moon occasions in March and June, where it is open for 24 hours. Visit the official website for dress codes and other visitor information.
Admirers of the Shwedagon Pagoda should also pay tribute to the Sule Pagoda—Myanmar’s equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The pagoda’s trademark is its octagonal shape, and it is thought to be the site where former Myanmese king Okkalapa held meetings to discuss the construction of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Lonely Planet advises that after sundown “is the most atmospheric time to visit the temple,” with opening hours from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. Other Yangon pagodas that open late include the Botataung Pagoda and the Maha Wizaya Pagoda.
Book a private tour and discover Yangon on your own terms, based on your preferences and availability. TripAdvisor ranks tours in Yangon according to review ratings. Some of the highly rated tour services with evening options available include Yangon Urban Adventures and Yangon Walking Tours.
You can also contact local guides via “local experience” sites such as Tours By Locals and Showaround. To plan your own dining, arts, and cultural entertainment, consult the Myanmore lifestyle guide—Yangon’s answer to Time Out.
Respite from Yangon’s city life can be found in its sprawling natural surroundings.
A popular spot for an evening stroll is Inya Lake (not to be confused with Inle Lake below), where love is in the air—expect to cross paths with canoodling couples at every turn.
If you are within the vicinity of the tranquil water town Inle Lake, arrange dinner and a wine-tasting session at the Aythaya Vineyard, which has the distinction of being the first vineyard in Myanmar. (Another vineyard in Yangon is Red Mountain Estate, also nearby.) Temper your expectations for the wine and you may emerge pleasantly surprised. The view, however, is an undisputed winner.