A trip to Yangon should start with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a gilded stupa at the top of Singuttara Hill. This bejewelled marvel is the city’s most important monument, adorned with 5,448 diamonds, 2,317 rubies, sapphires and other gems, and 1,065 gold bells. While magnificent during the day, at night it is illuminated by floodlights and becomes a haunting spectacle.
Within the pagoda complex hangs the Maha Ganda Bell, which was cast in the 18th century. During the First Burmese War, the British reportedly attempted to take it away, but gave up because, at 23 tonnes, it was too heavy for transportation. The Gems Museum displays precious Burmese stones, including rubies, sapphires, jade and pearls. The museum is also home to a Gems Mart, where you can buy certified gem products, from uncut stones to fine jewellery.
Also worth a visit is the National Museum, where you can learn more about Myanmar’s history and culture. It houses many Burmese artefacts, including the last Konbaung Dynasty regalia. Another fascinating attraction in Yangon is Karaweik Palace, a floating structure built in the form of a royal barge. It is moored on Kandawgyi Lake and offers a buffet meal, as well as traditional dance and music presentations.