Yangon, the commercial capital, is the main gateway to Myanmar. Evergreen and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes, Yangon has earned the name of “The Garden City of the East”. Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small settlement called Dagon when he conquered Lower Myanmar in 1755.(Where to go in Burma)
Even though it is no longer the nation’s official capital, Yangon remains Myanmar’s largest and most commercially important city. Its downtown skyline is dominated by the ‘winking wonder’ of Shwedagon Paya, a dazzling Buddhist temple that attracts pilgrims from all over the world.(Inle Lake)
Since the 2010 elections, Yangon’s fortunes have skyrocketed along with its land prices, as both local and foreign investors scrambled to grab a foothold here. At the same time, decades of economic stagnation are only too apparent in the city’s slums, shanty housing and creaking, frequently overwhelmed infrastructure – something you’ll quickly realise as you crawl into town in a taxi from the airport.
In December 2013 a masterplan for Yangon was unveiled. Funded by the Japanese government’s aid and development agency JICA, it proposed 103 priority projects costing over $5 billion – around 100 times the current budget of the Yangon City Development Committee.