Yangon and surrounds
For the purposes of this travel guide to the region surrounding the Burmese commercial capital of Yangon (Rangoon), this section covers Yangon Region, Bago Region and Ayeyarwady Region.
For travellers, you can translate that into meaning this includes the pre-junta-madness capital of Yangon, the beach areas of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung, and the riverine town of Pathein. To the north the pretty town of Pyay is in the wrap as is Bago to the northeast of Yangon.
While Bago and Pathein can be visited on a daytrip from Yangon, the beaches and Pyay require at least an overnight stay due to the travel time required to get there. Pyay works well as a stop to break up the journey northwards to Bagan but a visit to the beaches will most likely have you travelling back to Yangon for onwards travel. Likewise if you're heading south to Mawlamyine, a stop at Bago is a practical addition.
Outside of Yangon, none of these are "top shelf" destinations and aside from Yangon, many first-time visitors to Burma will pass them by in the race to head further north (to Bagan and Mandalay), further west (Ngapali) or further south (Mawlamyine). That said, if you're planning a slower trip (or have more time) these are all places that are well worth exploring.
Yangon itself is beautiful in a clapped out kind of way and while you'll most likely pass through there on a couple of occasions as you explore the country, do make the effort to set aside a day or two to give it a good wander. We found it to be a tremendous walking city -- just watch out for those potholes!
The beaches of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung won't rival the best beaches in Thailand, but they're still far from shabby options for those looking for a bit of a seaside jaunt to ease those aching bones from the sometimes extremely uncomfortable public transport in Burma. The bustling riverside town of Pathein is good for a taster of smaller town Burma, and of course a great place to pick up an umbrella or two.
To the north, conveniently a little over half way to Bagan in Bago Region, lies the riverside town Pyay. It boasts its own collection of ruins, a fabulous temple, some good rural exploring and some excellent eating.
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