Steaming bowls of fish broth soup are served on every street corner, but these days Yangon, Myanmar is just as much about mixologists and mochas as it is mohinga – the beloved national dish. Once you’ve visited Shwedagon Pagoda and wandered around Inya Lake, be sure to check out the city’s chic café and club scene.
From the temple-strewn plains of Bagan to the waterside monasteries at Inle Lake, Myanmar’s centuries-old buildings and stunning countryside have attracted adventurous travellers for decades. And while many people see Yangon as a quick stop-off, or bypass the destination altogether, the former capital has recently come of age thanks to a rapidly growing number of hotspots catering to Yangon’s cool crowd.
Here are my top five hipster haunts in Yangon, Myanmar.
1. Time for tea: Rangoon Tea House
Credit: Rangoon Tea House
Situated on downtown Pansodan Street – an atmospheric road flanked by the crumbling remains of British colonial buildings – this stylish interpretation of a traditional teahouse attracts the city’s Instagram fans with its quaint pots of tea and delicious fruit juices.
Forget about ordering an Earl Grey, the tea served here is black with condensed and steamed milk added in a variety of ratios – typical of any Burmese teahouse. I like mine ‘lapae yea pancho’ (strong and sweet) but if you are not down with the lingo a helpful colour-coded chart will come to your rescue. As you might expect, the mohinga served here has been elevated to a thing of organic, fine-dining beauty. Head here for one of the regular film screening evenings – from documentaries to old Burmese films, there’s always something great showing.
Address: 77-79 Pansodan Street (Lower Middle Block), between Mahabandoola and Merchant Roads
Phone: +95 9 97907 8681
2. Masterful mixing: The New Boris
For some of the best cocktails in Asia, and possibly the world, check out serial Yangon restaurateurs Pun + Projects’ new bar. Located in a renovated colonial villa in the central Bahan Township, the achingly hip interior – think stark white tiles and rattan loungers covered in Chin fabrics handwoven in northern Myanmar– provides a cool backdrop to creations from Hong Kong-based cocktail specialists Tequila Mockingbird.
Open everyday from 4pm till late, if you get hungry I suggest heading upstairs to La Carovana – the restaurant serves a set menu of Sicilian food with North African influences.
Address: 22 Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township. Phone: +95 9 26223 0070.
3. Comfort food goes chic: Union Bar & Grill
Credit: Union Bar & Grill
British expat Nico Eliot’s bistro-style eatery might be just a few away down from the grand Strand hotel, but the menu is decidedly down to earth with food favourites from home given a fun Burmese twist – like my favourite, fish and chips cooked in a Myanmar beer batter. In addition to the delicious menu from top London chef Reuben Gould, which runs from steak to spiced apple crumble, the all-day dining destination plays host to regular DJ nights, salsa dance classes and live music performances from the house band.
Address: 42 Strand Road, Botahtaung. Phone: +95 9 310 18272
4. Coffee and cake: The Press Office Café
You know you’ve hit hipster heaven when you spy cold-drip coffee apparatus on the counter.
With no Starbucks on the scene – as yet – this place is Yangon’s caffeine central. Channeling an industrial aesthetic (like so many of London and New York’s best latte locations) this place is all about freshly baked croissants, cakes and cookies, and enough coffee options to keep you awake all night. Beans are sourced from local roaster Element Coffee, while the bread and pastry products are made in-house. Situated in the attractive Yaw Min Gyi Area of Yangon, the high-ceilinged space is also home to a gallery and exhibition space.
Address: Unit 31-4, Plaza 33, Nawaday Street, Yaw Min Gyi Ward, Dagon Township.
Phone: +95 9 261 780491
5. Foreign flavours: Parami Pizza
Plated dishes | Credit: Parami Pizza
Yangon can get hot but as things cool off from November onwards, pizza and pasta fans flock to the alfresco dining space at this Italian eatery – just a 10-minute walk from tranquil Inya Lake. With a Sicilian chef manning the wood-fired ovens and a steady steam of antipasti being served up in the deli area, as well as rustic secondi dishes like pork Milanese, cheese arancini and wild mushroom risotto, this place is a little slice of la dolce vita in the middle of Myanmar.
If you are feeling peckish after visiting the giant Reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Temple, then wander down Shwe Gone Daing road for a second, slightly smaller, Parami Pizza outlet. And for even more foreign flavours make for the Japanese yakitori restaurant Gekko and feast on grilled meats washed down with whiskey and sake.
Address: No. 11/C, Corner of Malikha Street and Parami Road, 7th Quarter, Mayangone Township
Phone: +95 1 667 449
Useful Information for Visiting Yangon
Where to Stay
Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Myanmar Airways International (MIA) fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon (RGN). Flight time: 2 hours 35 minutes.
All three airlines offer flights from Kota Kinabalu (via KL) to Yangon. Flight time: 6 hours.
Feature Image: Alfresco dining area, Credit: Parami Pizza
Credit: All photos by Helen Alexander