Formerly known as Rangoon, this bustling city may no longer be the Burmese capital, but it continues to be the hub of economic activity, a hive of intellectual debate and the gateway for international visitors. The stunning Shwedagon Paya is the centrepiece of the city, a gleaming golden stupa visible from all over town. Closer to the waterfront, downtown Yangon is a warren of historic streets concealing some of the best British colonial-era architecture in the region. Forget the cosmetic renovations in Hanoi, this is the real deal, and a walk along the Strand or Pansodan St is like a stroll back in time. One surprise on arrival here is the complete lack of motorbikes, as they are banned from the streets of Yangon. Vibrant and dynamic, sweaty and steamy, reaching for the future but trapped in the past, Yangon is a fascinating introduction to Myanmar.
The glorious golden spire of the gilded Shwedagon is the defining image of Yangon and a symbol of Burmese identity. Rising 98m from its base, it positively glistens on a sunny day. Dating back 2500 years - if legend is to be believed - Shwedagon is an absolute must. Every good Buddhist in Myanmar tries to make at least one pilgrimage here in their lifetime; many come for the Shwedagon festival in February to March. The compound, with its main stupa and 82 other buildings, is astounding any time of day, but the evening and sunrise - when slanting light illuminates the gilding - is the most magical.
Located on the middle of one of Yangon's leafiest parks, this is a fine place to stroll at dusk and see locals out and about exercising. Look out for a spectacular reflection of the Shwedagon in the placid waters. Dominating the eastern side of the lake is a kitsch replica of a royal Burmese barge called Karaweik. Symbolising Garuda, the vehicle of Hindu god Vishnu, it offers a popular photo opportunity.
Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market
This grand old labyrinthine market has the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts in Yangon, as well as jewellery, longyi, shoes, bags and pretty much anything else.