When the British drew up a plan for the city’s streets, they put Sule Paya at the heart; today its golden central stupa, 45m tall, is still one of the most striking landmarks in downtown Yangon. The pagoda is surrounded by a ring of shops and forms a busy roundabout, which buses hurtle around throughout the day, but is surprisingly calm inside. You’ll be pestered by unlicensed moneychangers around here, but don’t be tempted – they’re notorious for scamming the unwary.
Just southeast of Sule Paya is Mahabandoola Garden, a bit scruffy but another good place to escape the downtown bustle. Its statue of Queen Victoria is long gone, and today it contains an austere independence monument placed there in 1950. Fortune-tellers ply their trade outside the garden’s railings.