Although it ceded its capital status during the years of military rule, Yangon remains the de facto economic, religious, cultural and artistic capital of Myanmar. It is the start and end point of most trips to the country. Known as Rangoon when the likes of George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham were passing through, Yangon's crumbling colonial remnants seem a world away from the modern, capitalistic bustle that has reshaped other Southeast Asian cities. That all is changing, however, and quickly. This city of 4 million has witnessed a huge influx of foreign visitors in the past years, prompting authorities to modernize the city's infrastructure, telecommunications and hospitality industry. Today, Yangon is poised to lead Myanmar into a new era in its modern history.
Particular highlights include the elegant Strand Hotel, once frequented by the likes of Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham; the gleaming Shwedagon Pagoda, immortalized in poem by Rudyard Kipling; and the unique Shwe Phone Pint Pagoda, home to fortune-tellers and soothsayers.