Published in the May edition of My Magical Myanmar
If an award existed for the “City with the Most Improved Nightlife,” Yangon would be highly likely to take home the trophy. In less than a year, Yangon has transformed itself from KTV capital to eclectic party town, with an ever increasing number of options for night time revelers. So why not swap a sedate beer station for one of these exciting options next time you’re venturing out?
Despite the fact that it’s located in a quiet residential neighbourhood far north of the downtown area, Yangon’s party people are making a beeline for Escape Gastro Bar. Arrive early and enjoy a Thai fusion meal, or skip that and start with one of the 20 or so cheekily named shots presented to you on a laminated chart, such as Bong Water or Motherfuc*ker. Gastro also serves whole watermelons filled with liquor. Yum.
Address: 31D Kan Yeiktha Street, Bahan township
When “Union” opened in 2013, it became the first establishment to seriously rival 50th Street Bar and Café. This is a chic nightspot that regularly throws parties (ie Halloween) and consistently serves up great food, speedy wifi and two-for-one deals, such as its menacing margaritas and tasty pizzas. While other spots may come and go, Union feels like a permanent addition to the city. And guess what? Union’s owners opened a second establishment in a converted colonial building last May. Gekko Bar serves up sake, yakatori and cigars (in addition to having a well stocked bar and tapas style dishes). Gekko’s managing director, Nico Elliot, describes it as a “Japanese drinking den, with a Western touch.”
Union Bar and Grill – 42 Strand Road, Botahtaung township
Gekko Restaurant and Bar – 535 Merchant Street, Kyauktada township
If you love drinking beer while watching rugby or cricket, then this place is your home-away-from-home. “50th Street” as it’s affectionately known, has been around for ages and it has big screen TVs, pool tables and a stunning spiral staircase leading to the upstairs lounge area. Well known local bands such as Side Effect play on occasion upstairs and the acoustics are great. 50th Street has been under new management since January 2014 and now focuses on serving up great pub fare (which as we know, also does wonders for those already hungover!). Last week I chomped down a chicken burger dripping with melted cheese and bacon and a generous side of chunky fries with salsa. Was fantastic!
Address: 50th Street (just off Merchant Street)
Captains in the Savoy Hotel used to be one of the very few places in Yangon to sip a gin and tonic and it still maintains a crowd of regulars. However its popularity among the 20- and 30-something crowd is virtually non-existent these days. Perhaps it’s time for the nautical theme to be overhauled?
Address: Savoy Hotel on Inya Road
Across the road from Captain’s Bar is the recently renovated Mojo Bar, which sports exposed brick walls, long timber tables with candelabras, with an overall industrial look that’s very hip indeed. It has an upstairs area with a loungey feel and plenty of comfy sofas, and the music in the downstairs bar is sure to get you inching for a dance (for which you will need to visit a club, listed at the end). Recommended: an electric blue Smurf Kiss shot.
Address: No.135, Inya Road (corner of Inya and Dhammazedi roads)
Though it seems implausible now given its stately feel, this bar was actually once used to stable Japanese troops’ horses during the Japanese occupation of Yangon. However for who knows how long, this bar has attracted Yangon’s wealthiest clientele. Happy hour lasts all night long on Fridays.
Address: 92 Strand Road
The oppressively hot staircase from the top floor of Alfa Hotel opens up to a bar with stunning potential. Like Vista Bar at Shwegondine intersection, Sapphire Bar and Lounge has magnificent views of Shwedagon Pagoda and generous outdoor seating. With the addition of fans and a wider variety of food available past 9pm (the menu limits itself to noodles at this time), this could become one of Yangon’s most popular night spots.
Address: No. 41, Yawmingyi Quarter, Nawaday Road
With two branches in Thailand already hugely popular, this high-end establishment is truly impressive – but expect to pay premium prices. Although there are apparently some issues with finding and keeping the right chef, The Water Library arguably has the widest selection of spirits and liquors in the city. And the staff behind the bar really know how to toss a cocktail mixer.
Address: 83/95 Corner of Manawharri and Pyay Road, Dagon township
Arguably the best place to soak up the view of the Shwedagon Pagoda by night (minus the noise of the intersection below), this sleek little spot has a lot to offer. During inclement weather – that is to say, during the monsoon season, a glass roof is rolled across the open air space like a major sporting venue hosting a tennis match. Even when it’s raining the views are still spectacular because it’s located on the rooftop of the building next to Yves Rocher (remember this olive green store as a landmark because Vista’s sign is rather small and the venue is new in town) and the side partitions are entirely made of glass. Sit in a spacious booth for four to six or at a long table to the left of the well-stocked bar. The food and drinks here are on the costlier side, but the service is prompt and the music is loud enough to make yourself festive without being a barrier to conversation. Tapas is on the menu too. Dig in!
Address: 188 West Shwegondine Road
Take your pick! While Yangon isn’t on a par with the likes of Bangkok or even Phnom Penh, there are several options for nightclubbing these days, and the number of people heading out late for a good time is on the rise. Try LV Pub, The Flamingo Bar, The Music Club (at Park Royal Hotel), Pioneer, Paddy O’ Malley’s or GTR and DJ’s Bar, both of which are in the sprawling Inya Lake Hotel.