Yangon: Colonial buildings, artisan cheese and local art
Enjoy with Sisters Tours to explore this evolving yet well-preserved Myanmar city. The city of golden pagodas is opening to the outside world and they can’t wait to show off a blossoming arts community, a growing preservation movement and a small but committed group of foodies.
Built by merchant Isaac Sofaer in 1906, this heritage building in downtown Yangon once attracted the city’s rich and powerful, who came to buy Egyptian cigarettes and imported liqueurs and to frequent the famous Vienna cafe.
Now, the aging structure is home to the Lokanat Art Gallery, a guest house, law firm and a number of squatters’ apartments.
Travelers can wander inside and take a break at the family-run tea shop while appreciating the colonial architecture, including original tiles imported from Manchester.
The Sofaer is part of a cluster of heritage buildings that make walking around modern Yangon a delight, though many of these landmarks are in desperate need of care.
It’s hard to imagine anyone moving to Myanmar 18 years ago with a dream of producing artisan cheeses, but that’s the backstory of Ye Htut Win, founder of the Yangon restaurant and deli Sharky’s.
This popular local joint specializes in high-end meals created with “made in Myanmar” ingredients.
Not only does Sharky’s produce 18 kinds of cheese, it makes its own bread, aged meats, gelato, even homemade “tabasco” sauce.
For Ye, good business is about more than delivering good food, it’s about making sure “everyone profits out of the whole food chain,” he says.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Packed with vendors selling everything from jewelry to fabrics to handicrafts, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in this downtown market.
Take your time wandering through the stalls and you’ll find some lovely bespoke gifts to take home.
Mizo (no. 685, East B) specializes in hand-woven fabrics from villages in Myanmar’s various provinces.
The Taw Win Art Gallery (No. 2) sells works from young Yangon artists at affordable prices. Bargaining is expected.
Shwe Sa Bwe
Shwe Sa Bwe founder Francois Stoupan fell in love with Myanmar and started this training hotel and restaurant as a way of giving back to the country.
Underprivileged Myanmar youth are given free training in European culinary skills and service. Once they graduate, they’re expected to stay in Myanmar and help develop the local economy.
Lunch and dinner is served seven days a week.
19th Street in Chinatown
After the sun goes down, locals head to 19th Street in Chinatown for a beer and a taste of the local barbecue.
Yangon residents pack outdoor tables here to enjoy laid-back atmosphere, street musicians and affordable food and drink.
Grab a plastic basket and choose from meat, seafood and vegetables already on sticks. The restaurants will grill it and bring it to your table.