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Yangon (Rangoon)

The capital until 2006, Yangon (Rangoon) is Myanmar's largest city and its commercial center. It is truly developing, and full of juxtapositions: new high-rises abut traditional Southeast Asian shophouses while down the street from a frozen yogurt bar, a sidewalk dentist goes to work. Yangon's rich collection of colonial architecture is one of its biggest draws; The Strand and its surrounding side streets look today much as they did at the turn of the century, when Yangon—then Rangoon—was under British rule. Yangon’s most iconic sight is unquestionably the enormous gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, but what makes it worth visiting beyond that is the rich, vibrant life that spills out of people’s homes and onto the streets. Colorful and chaotic, Yangon is a feast for the senses. Grinning uniformed schoolchildren and preadolescent monks vie for sidewalk space as vendors hawk fried goods and longyi-wearing businessmen go off to work. On a street of Indian-run paint shops sits the country’s only synagogue, a 19th-century relic; blocks away rise the steeples of St. Mary’s Cathedral, another reminder of the city’s colonial past.

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