For most travelers, the Ayeyarwady Delta Region and the city of Yangon are the first stop on any visit to Myanmar. Whether you're looking for bustling night markets, beautiful colonial architecture, or majestic religious art, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Ayeyarwady Delta.
The Best of Ayeyarwady Delta
Once the colonial capital of the British empire, Yangon is a city that represents the ancient, the old, and the new. With pagodas that date back several millennia, century-old remnants of colonialism and constant construction on new high-rise buildings, Yangon represents both the history and future of Myanmar. It just takes a little exploration and one is quickly immersed in the diversity this city has to offer.
Legend says that the gravity-defying boulder the pagoda is built upon is held in its precarious position by a strand of the Buddha's hair. It must be a pretty strong strand – the rock has been perfectly in place since the 10th century. Over the years, supplicants have added many sheets of gold leaf to the boulder, allowing worshippers to leave their mark.
After winning the second English-Burmese War in 1853, the British named the Ayeyarwady Delta region “Lower Burma” and placed it at the center of their Burmese Empire. The city of Yangon was briefly re-named “Rangoon.” It served as the country's capital until 2005, when the government moved the capital north to Naypyidaw.
To this day, visitors can see the lasting effect of British influence in Yangon in the city’s early 20th-century architecture. Colonial facades line the downtown streets, and a stroll through the green meadows of Maha Bandula Park feels like traveling a hundred years back in time. Towering above the park to the north is the lavender-white city hall, while the distinct red bricks of the Queen Anne-style court house face the east side of the park. The surrounding blocks are filled with countless more examples of British architectural sensibilities. Conservationists have restored many of these historic buildings, but quite a few are still dilapidated.
Around the city, and Myanmar as a whole, there are more temples and shrines than visible stars in the night sky. British engineers incorporated made the Sule Pagoda a central feature of their city planning. This 2,500-year-old Pagoda is one of the most sacred traffic roundabouts in the entire world. Located just a few miles North of the city is Myanmar's most opulent and beautiful tributes to Buddha known as Shwedagon Pagoda. It is said to contain eight strands of Buddha's hair amongst other important relics. Placed at the top of Singuttara Hill and measuring over 325-feet (99-m) tall, this golden spire dominates the Yangon skyline and is a must see on any visit to Myanmar.
The Ayeyarwady Delta region gets about 100 inches of rain each year. The majority of the rain falls during the monsoon season, which lasts from May to October during monsoon season. The average temperature for the region is 90°F (32°C). Located just 17 degrees from the equator, the sun here can be quite intense.
While Yangon has small hills scattered across its landscape, the topography to the south mostly a flat and marshy delta. In the 19th century, the British made embankments to cultivate crops in the rich farmland. Cyclone Nargis hit the heavily populated delta area in 2008, and tragically killed over 135,000 people in Myanmar's worst natural disaster ever.
Just a few hours North of Yangon is the former ancient capital of Bago. One noteworthy attraction there is the large Shwemawdaw Paya, which stands even taller than Yangon's great Shwedagon Pagoda.
The Ayeyawady Delta region offers many travelers their first peek into Myanmar society. In Yangon, you’ll see a mix of Burmese, Chinese, and Indian heritage in the people, the food, and the architecture. This region offers a fascinating entry point into an enchanted country.