Despite Naypyidaw becoming Myanmar's new Capital city in 2005, former-capital Yangon remains the country's largest city and commercial center. As such, Yangon offers the best selection of Burmese finery, and is particularly famous for handicrafts such as lacquerware, tapestries, and precious stones.
Yangon has several popular markets where these goods can be found, and exploring these markets gives you a chance not only to shop, but also to talk and laugh with local artists whose handicrafts provide their families' sole income.
Here is a brief rundown of where to shop and what to buy while in Yangon, to make your trip as memorable as possible.
Burmese handicrafts are recognizable throughout the world for their high quality and ancient design. Lacquerware, parasols, marionettes, and many other types of souvenirs can be found in Yangon, where handicrafts are prevalent and tourist dollars provide stable living for many locals.
While shopping, remember that bargaining and haggling are part of the culture in most south-east Asian countries, and Myanmar is no exception. Basic English can be understood in most of the larger markets, but it definitely helps to have a companion who can speak Burmese. While 'hard sell' and hassle is still ubiquitous, it is far more relaxed in Myanmar than in some neighboring countries such as India.
Myanmar has some of the most beautiful lacquerware in the world, with designs from the 10th century and earlier still featured on common items. Brilliant cups, bowls and vases, taking at least 7 months to produce, are often on display. Such items are commonly used in the kitchen, or as jewelry boxes, or home decorations.
Remember to inspect your purchase for authenticity: genuine lacquerware is engraved with natural colors of sand, stone, and flowers, while fake items are simply painted. A good rule of thumb is, the stiffer the lacquer, the poorer the quality; the more you can bend and twist it, the finer the quality.
Textiles and Tapestries
There is a long tradition of weaving tapestries in Myanmar. These are decorated with gold and silver thread and usually depict tales from the Buddhist scriptures or mythic tales. The tradition of creating tapestries is becoming less popular, but tapestries are still popular amongst tourists.
Each region and ethnic group has its own style of textile design (Chin being the most famous), exhibited in clothing such as the sarong or longyi (types of traditional dress), or in kalaga (tapestries) which are commonly hung in bedrooms or living rooms.
Jade, sapphire, and particularly ruby, make up the core constituents of most jewelry in Yangon, and can be bought in Myanmar at a fraction of the price you would buy them in the west.
Bogyoke Aung San Market is one of the better places for authentic stones, because most of the shops are government-approved and licensed. A certificate of purchase is necessary if you wish to bring jewelry or fine gems home safely.
Excellent planned and executed Myanmar excursion
Asia Highlights and their local Myanmar partner "mAsia" did an excellent job in planning and execution of a one week trip to Myanmar.The various tour guides and drivers had good knowledge and good command over English.More
Gerd, Jan 2018
My experience in Thai
All of this was well organized by the local office. The holiday was wonderful. Our guide, Mr. Longdy（ Siem Reap）were exceptional. He shared his extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. Thank you so much .shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions.More
kelli, Jul 2023
From the day I submitted an inquiry request, I instantly received a response from Monica asking my preferences for my trip. She has been attentive and responsive to our every needs and we very much appreciate it. Looking forward to our trip in November but many thanks to Monica for making this experience to seamless thus far.More
Sana Samhouri, Jul 2023
Very professional agency for a memorable trip to Asia
A special thanks to Albee who worked with us and helped to tailor the itinerary to our taste, she was amazing and always available for whatever we needed. The trip would not have been the same without her and her team. Thank you!More
Daniela, Jul 2023
It was our first time in Cambodia and …
It was our first time in Cambodia and we had a wonderful time. The accommodations, food, and sites were really beautiful. We ended our trip with a relaxing massage. Sam was very accommodating to our needs and knowledgeable. Thank you for the laughter and for being so kind.More
Amy Oakes Moon, Jun 2023
Our guide Borin - never boring!
Our guide Borin, in Cambodia, was knowledgeable, understanding and thoughtful in every aspect of the plan he put together for our trip to Siem Reap and in its execution. He can read the room, and knew exactly how to pace the tour, when to pause, when to break, and how to prepare us for the maximum benefit. He is extremely kind and caring, and it showed at every turn. He also is a dab hand with the camera, and we have a lot of great pictures to show for it. Kudos to my Asia Highlights coordinator - Cathy Chen, for picking Borin. Borin works with a driver (007) who was also very kind and caring. Whenever we returned to the car, he would have cold towel rolls and chilled water to refresh us. So amazingly considerate. It was an unforgettable experienceMore
David Muliyil, Jun 2023
Our guide, Anna, was fantastic! She was highly informative and a delight to spend our days with. Would request her again if we were to return!More
Alejandra M Almonte, Jun 2023
We've had such a great experience…
We've had such a great experience planning our honeymoon with Alisa at Asia Highlights! We gave her our dream itinerary, thinking that it might be impossible to do all the things we wanted, but Alisa made our dreams a reality! She's gone so far above and beyond to answer ALL of our questions and make little adjustments that will make a huge impact on our experience.More
Lauren, Jun 2023
Alisa knows how to work fast and please a customer.
Alisa is very helpful and works very fast. I am a very difficult client because Inknow what I want in therm of hotels and comfort. She had a lot of patience with me, and moved a lot the plan of the trip, always following my requests. It was a pleasure organizing my trip with her. I recommend her a lot! Thanks Alisa. Malala from Argentina.More
maria laura artola, Jun 2023
In addition, I want to specifically mention the guides provided in certain locations. Rum, in Siem Reap, made the most memorable experience possible. His positivity was contagious - even when it felt like 1000 degrees and we were tired. He brought it all to life, and created a couple days of Ankor Wat, etc. that we will never forget! He heard my daughter's request for specific Cambodian food, and changed our itinerary to go to a village and eat at a locally known shop. He brought the dessert she asked about to us in the car! Overall, he and his driver "Lucky" were a reason to go to Siem Reap. In addition, the other guides (minus one which was switched out immediately) were stupendous. Mon in Bangkok was friendly and provided a great day there; Eak in Chiang Mai gave us a world-class food-tour and day touring the city and its surrounding temples with lots of laughs; Tommy in Hanoi kept us from getting killed in the traffic and gave a stupendous food and architecture/history tour - so very friendly and funny; the fishing village tour in Hoi An, as well as the side-car tour in Saigon, were both unforgettable! Thank you Sharon, and Asia Highlights. Would definitely use again for future trips!More
Teri Simpson, Apr 2023
Cambodia and Vietnam adventure!
Our guide in Cambodia, Meas Darapolaith (Pol), was absolutely amazing. He was knowledgeable, friendly and so helpful. His English was excellent and he shared important insights about history and the magnificent sites we visited. We highly recommend him!More
Jennifer Roth Krieger, Apr 2023
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE…
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE Asia. Being the first in that region, we wanted to use a tour service company. We ended up using Asia Highlights. From the beginning we were impressed with their services. We left home with of mind because all the pre-travel arrangements were taking care and communicate to us efficiently. All our questions were answered promptly. Once in the countries, we were welcome by our excellent tour guides. Everything was taking care for us. We did not have one issue. They selected the right tours guides for us, they were highly knowledgeable and so much attentive to our needs. We had Dhat in Vietnam and Borin in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I came back home so much rested, and with plenty of wonderful pictures and memories. I will definitely use Asia Highlights again for my next trip to Asia.More
Isabelle Dessaux, Apr 2023
Fabulous tour and guide in Cambodia
We have been touring Cambodia, guided by Borin ( and driver 007) for the last 2 days. What a fabulous experience! Borin has been a wonderful guide, the best so far in Southeast Asia, explaining the history and culture of Cambodia through his tours of the temples in and around Angkor, as well as the Landmine museum. He has answered all our questions, made sure we were comfortable, and that we have had great food. 007 made sure we always had enough water and cool towels for our face/neck.We highly recommend Borin as a tour guide for Cambodia!!More
Monica, Mar 2023
Best Travel Service for Asia Travel
Alisa Liu was in charge of making the arrangements and she helped us from the start to make all of the arrangements and also helped us when we had questions and requested some adjustments. Her service is of the highest professional level. We are 100% confident that our trip will be perfect. We’re also 100% confident that, if anything comes up during our trip, that Alisa will be there to guide us through and take care of us. We won’t even consider using another agency for travel around Asia and we would like to have Alisa work for us again.More
Leo Pospichal, Mar 2023
Tour of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand
The tour guides and drivers were another high point. All were very good, friendly, knowledgeable and spoke English well. There were two that I want to call out for their excellence. Chan Sovannarith in Siem Reap was our guide in Cambodia. He really made the experience special. His knowledge, willingness to answer all my questions, helpfulness and general attitude made him fun to be around. In order to praise the second exceptional guide I have to explain about an unfortunate occurrence that I had. I'm normally a very active senior, but after leaving Cambodia for Laos I was suddenly struck by the most intense back pain I've ever experienced, couldn't even roll over in bed (turned out to be sciatica). The guide, Mr. Sonophet, really went the extra mile. He went with my traveling companion and bought a back brace and medications for me. When that didn't help much he took me to a clinic where I was seen by a doctor, given a shot and pain meds. He hand-made a walking stick for me that I'm still using! He made it possible for me to somewhat participate in the activities, i.e. a bed on the boat down the river. When it was time to move on to Bangkok he got me a wheelchair at the airport. I can't thank him enough for these kindnesses! This problem lasted for the remainder of the trip, through Bangkok and Phuket and these guides were also very helpful getting wheelchairs, etc. It was a terrible disappointment to have this wonderful trip disrupted, but it would have been SO much worse without the great help that I received from the guides and my poor travel companion!More
Deb M, Mar 2023
In good hands with Sam
Sam Ol took very good care of us - lots of information, listened to and answered all our questions, was passionate about the places we visited and about his people and country. He was kind, had a great sense of humor, and made sure we felt safe and comfortable at all times. He helped us to fall in love with Cambodia in 3 short days.More
Carol Jones, Feb 2023
Best tour guide in Cambodia
When we first arrived at the airport in Siem Riep it was so nice to be greeted by Mr Sam Ol. We instantly fell at home when we saw his friendly smile. We were impressed by his great English and knowledge of the temples. On the tour to the temples Sam took care of us every step of the way. He took awesome pictures of us. It felt like we were on a tour given by our brother who is also a professional photographer. Also, we appreciate his humor as well as the fact he had an answer for every question we had. I give Sam 5 stars, best tour guide ever :)More
Len S, Feb 2023
Mr. Sam our guide in Cambodia, he and the driver out standing service they went above and beyond touring, my wife so amazed beautiful country, we're planning back here near the futures. Thank Mr. Sam,We'll feedback the whole trip next week when we be home in USMore
Pho Lover, Feb 2023
We are still in the middle of our trip, but we are just finishing up our time in Cambodia and our guide, Borin, has been AMAZING!!! He has truly made our time here unforgettable and I plan on referring all of my friends and family to come visit this beautiful country! Thank you, Borin, for everything you did to make our trip so fantastic!More
Danielle Blount, Feb 2023
Excellent service and Wonderful Guides
All of our guides have been terrific. Mr. Sam in Siem Reip was especially wonderful. Both he and our driver were polite, safe knowledgable and informative. Sam made our trip memorable and enioyable. We will definitely recommend Sam and Asia Highlights to our friends.More
Kaaren, Feb 2023
Markets and Shops
Bogyoke Aung San Market
The Bogyoke Aung San Market, also called Scott Market, is the primary shopping destination in central Yangon for tourists and locals alike, famous for its traditional, colonial architecture and diverse range of goods.
Built in 1926, the market now has over 1,600 shops where one can buy not only traditional handicrafts, jewelry, art, and clothing, which are all staples of Myanmar traditional culture, but also a wide range of medicine, foodstuff, and foreign products.
Scott Market is still one of the most vibrant and engaging bazaars for souvenirs and shopping there is the most robust way to support and improve local livelihoods.
Pomelo is a fantastic shop selling lacquerware, jewelry, and other odds and ends, with friendly staff who can happily explain how purchases help improve the lives of local artists. Popular souvenirs include papier-mâché dogs, as well as Chin-style tapestries. Prices here are extremely competitive, so make sure you stop by this gem of a shop.
Hla Day is a relatively new addition that has quickly garnered a reputation for its contemporary take on traditional handicrafts. Colorful clothing, toys, jewelry, houseware, and more can be found in Hla Day.
While pricier than most stalls you'll find in Yangon, you'll also find the quality and selection is much better at this boutique. Meaning 'beautiful' in Burmese, it's a must-visit treasure trove of souvenirs.
A five-story market in Mingala Taungnyunt Township, Yuzana Plaza is more like a shopping mall than a traditional market. It is immensely popular with locals, however, and offers a wide range of not only locally produced handicrafts, but also food, appliances, wholesale items and even pets!
This market can become much busier and more hectic than others, but you can have an exhilarating time amongst the bustling Burmese masses. This is a good location for picking up necessities like sunscreen and toiletries at cheap prices.
Author's tip: If you get hungry, try the Lady Home, a small restaurant near the foot bridge crossing the train tracks, for cheap and fantastic noodles. The daring may also try fried pig organs tossed in chili sauce!
Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights
We provide tailor-made tours to Myanmar. Tours typically start or end in Yangon or Mandalay and last approximately 9 days; visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.
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