From the 14th century, during the Hanthawaddy Kingdom, Dagon became an important pilgrimage town, growing around the temple which housed sacred Buddha relics: Shwe Dagon.
Renamed Yangon in the 18th century, the town boomed in the 19th century, having been captured by invading British forces, who turned “Rangoon” into one of the grandest cities in Asia. As well as trading houses, wide streets and world class hotels, the invaders brought immigrants from India, fueling ethnic tensions which began to tear at the country’s soul in the 20th century. No longer the capital, the city teems with potential and failure, energy and decay, friendliness and paranoia. Nobody knows how Yangon will emerge from its present uprising, but despite it difficulties and drawbacks, it will be a fascinating and welcoming city. Hopefully.
Stunted by its paranoid, kleptocratic rulers Burma's former capital Yangon is a time capsule as well as a time bomb.
A confusing web of roads lead out from its waterfront downtown area. A 2003 ban on motorcyles clogged the already jammed streets.
The old Chinese and Indian districts near the 2000 year old Sule Pagoda are vibrant and decaying.
Historians are desperately trying to catologue and save a large number of grand buildings built by the invading British.
But the troubled city's greatest building was a holy site about 2400 years before the "trouser people" came.
Sitting atop Singuttara Hill, standing 99 meters high, the enchanting Shwe Dagon Paya is one of Buddhism's holiest sites.
Four covered entrances lead in from the cardinal points.
Dazzling with gold, the massive bell-shaped central chedi has been enlarged and repaired for over 1,000 years.
The main zedi is surrounded by 64 small stupas resembling miniature bells.
Around 100 square shaped shrines are located at ground level.
A low parapet wall built in 1999 completely surrounds the base, adorned with over 500 tiles depicting the Jataka tales- past lives of Buddha.
Four devotional halls face the cardinal points, each a different design and era.
Eight planetary posts correspond to the eight days of the Burmese Buddhist week. Wednesday is divided into two days.
Worshippers begin their prayers with a blessing ritual at the post for their day of birth, before continuing clockwise around.
Votive candles and incense are offered, placed on the wall around the chedi base.
A legion of volunteers continually removes the melted wax and scrubs clean the platfrom.
More volunteers sweep the spotless floors of the pagoda, which are only walked on in bare feet.
Working for the temple is a way of making merit, to ensure a better re-incarnation.
At the very apex, a 419kg vane with 7,000 precious stones, sits on a golden 'hti" (umbrella) containing 1,800 carats of diamonds.
Shwe Dagon is at its most atmospheric in the cool of the early morning.
While the tour groups are still on their 4th plate at breakfast, worshippers have been filing in since sunrise, making their offerings.
You'll be rewarded with bluer skies and deeper colours, as well as not burning your feet on the ground.
Large crowds of worshippers, many from Thailand, build up in the afternoon. Incense smoke wafts thickly through the air.
New Years Days, both Buddhist and western, draw the largest numbers. Seeing the sunrise on these days is auspicious.
A visitor's ticket can be used throughout the day, and returning to enjoy the spectacles at dusk is highly reccommended.
The 11th century Mon settlement of Dagon was expanded by King Alaungpaya and renamed in 1755 as "Yangon".
In 1824, Britain captured a city of 30,000 people. Much of the downtown area, its fine but crumbling buildings date from 1850 to independence.
Home to 5 million frustrated residents, Yangon's growing pains are evident in the bustling downtown, or impoverished settlements.
Experience the dilapidated railway system first hand, by taking the Circular Line, which passes literally through Danyingon market.
Greens, fruits, chillis, woven goods, plastic tat, seafood and more all come and go by truck, cart, and on the train itself.
Much trial and error has gone into getting the height and position of piles of produce just right.
Ethnic Kachin are centred around Myaynigone district, where you can stock up on shrimp paste at Sanchaung market.
Kachin State in the north borders India's Naga state, home to the Naga (ghost) chilli, amongst the hottest around.
Try ethnic Kachin food, like this beef salad, at one of the restaurants near Sanchaung, but expect to encounter some ghosts (chilli).
At the other end of the Scoville scale, Shan noodles are served all over town, though many places are closed by lunch time.
Immigrants have flowed into and out of Burma for centuries, from the Burman themselves, to the Chinese, Karen, Indian, Tai and more. Eat up!
Although stalls are usually run by Burmese-Indians, the chewing of paan (betel, or Kwun-ya in Burmese) has been in Burma culture since before recorded history.
It's a shame to see so many lovely smiles ruined by red stains, but these youngsters have bigger worries to deal with.