Myanmar has some of the most fascinating and unique markets in Asia. Imagine the assortment of hues, scents, and sights – vibrant fabrics, sweet-smelling spices, and vivacious vendors sitting under bright umbrellas. The markets are refreshingly diverse, offering almost everything one can think of, from ripe and lush tropical fruits to intricate handicrafts showcasing Burmese artistry to sumptuous street food that range from simple to outrageously exotic.
After hours of strolling at the best markets in Myanmar, you can sit on a plastic stool in a cozy food stall and indulge in traditional cuisines, which include pork skewers, salted fish, steamed buns, and rice noodles in fish soup. A visit to a market in Myanmar is an expedition that will leave you in deep awe of the country’s rich culture and tradition. But where should you start your exploration?
Below is a list of the ten best markets in Myanmar that every traveler must visit for a genuinely unforgettable experience.
1# Jade Market, Mandalay – Markets in Myanmar
Mandalay’s Jade Market, locally known as Mahar Aung Myay, is the largest and busiest jade market in Myanmar, attracting thousands of customers daily. The market offers all kinds of jade products, including good-luck bangles, Buddha statues, elaborate tea sets, exquisitely carved animal miniatures, and uncut stones that artists can make into jewelry or some other item. Prices vary from $5 to $200,000, depending on the quality of the jade.
If the gleaming green gems don’t interest you, the fascinating haggling and branding that takes place between sellers and buyers surely will. In one portion of the market, older men sitting behind long wooden tables inspect stones using flashlights, negotiating over cheroot smoke, and cups of tea.
In another section, younger buyers talk into headsets to clients abroad, examining unprocessed jade under smartphones mounted on stands. If you’re curious how jade is processed, you can watch craftspeople cut and polish huge stones into glittering jewels. This market in Myanmar is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily; however, the best time to visit is early in the morning.
2# Ruby Market, Mogok – Markets in Myanmar
The Mogok Stone Track north of Mandalay has produced quality gemstones since the 16th century. Rubies and sapphires, as well as other valuable stones, such as spinel, peridot, topaz, and the very rare painite, are mined here. Because of this, open-air markets selling gemstones have thrived over the years in the area. In Pachan, one of the most established gemstone markets in Myanmar, you will witness hundreds of brokers and buyers sitting on tables dotted with both cut and rough stones.
Myanmar is fiercely protective of its treasures so foreign visitors are forbidden to buy rough gems and may be required to obtain a permit to visit the town. It’s best to take a local guide to help you communicate with the sellers and ensure you don’t fall into tourist traps.
3# Morning Market, Bagan – Markets in Myanmar
Often overshadowed by surreal temples and thrilling balloon rides, Bagan’s morning markets remain an undiscovered curiosity. Arguably, these delightfully down-to-earth and unpretentious markets are what make Bagan distinctly Burmese. You will find several morning markets in the district; however, the most notable ones are in Mani Sithu in the town of Nyaung-U and Myinkaba Village, south of Old Bagan.
Just like with most morning markets in Myanmar, vendors bring in newly picked produce, meat, and fish daily. Except for some dried fish and a few goods, everything in the market are fresh – from bamboo shoots to betel leaves to peanut oil, even livestock. Locals flock to the markets very early to buy the day’s choicest stock. By 10 am, most of the vendors have folded up their stalls, their products sold.
You will not regret dropping by, especially if you’re craving a hearty breakfast after a hot-air balloon ride. Check out one of the makeshift food stalls for a plate of steamed glutinous rice and a cup of Myanmar black tea sweetened with condensed milk. Don’t forget to take a side trip to Nyaung-U market to shop for souvenirs, such as rattan items, the traditional longyi, and lovely lacquerware.
4# Scott Market (Bogyoke Aung San Market), Yangon
Scott Market, also known as Bogyoke Aung San Market, is one of Yangon’s most visited tourist attractions, not only for its plethora of shops but also for its distinct colonial façade and cobblestone streets. This impressive building dates back to 1926 and is considered a historic landmark.
Inside this Myanmar market are over 2000 stalls that sell a variety of goods, including jewelry, handicrafts, textiles, and clothes. There is also an art gallery that features paintings depicting beautiful sceneries of Myanmar, as well as shops that sell and make longyi, Myanmar’s traditional clothes.
If you get hungry while touring, you can sample authentic Burmese cuisine in one of the food stalls lining the market streets. The market opens from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Scott Market is closed on Monday and on public holidays in Myanmar.
5# Demawso Market, Loikaw
Demawso Market exudes a genuine local market vibe, primarily because it was established almost exclusively by local hill tribes who come to the lowlands to sell their goods. The market is open only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and is 30 minutes away from Loikaw, home to the Kayan tribe who are known for their long neck people.
It is not surprising to find several women wearing neck rings and colorful costumes selling wares in this Myanmar market. In addition to fresh produce, the makeshift stalls teem with fascinating handicrafts and intricately woven fabrics. Be sure to taste the famous Kayah sausage, a local meatball infused in spices and homegrown Kayah pepper. Wash down the delicious meal with the region’s celebrated millet wine.
6# Five Days Rotating Market, Inle Lake
Myanmar’s rotating markets are one of the most innovative and unique markets in Southeast Asia. You will find the most fascinating of these in Inle Lake. The rotating markets move between various locations over a five-day schedule, and every day a different part of the lake bustles with activity as traders and customers gather at the designated market place.
Tribes from nearby mountains arrive in boats loaded with fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, Buddha statues, delicate fabrics, and Shan bags. Unlike the over-commercialized floating markets in Southeast Asia, the rotating markets in Myanmar ooze with authenticity and rustic allure. Here, you can truly immerse yourself in Burmese culture by interacting with the friendly locals and observing their centuries-old trading practices.
Ywama Village hosts the busiest floating market in Myanmar, where you often find tourists in small boats shopping for souvenirs. However, you can also explore the quieter and less touristy land-based markets in Heho, Thandaung and Thaung Thut Thandaung, located just a short walk from the lakeshore.
7# Fish Market, Ngapali
The quaint town of Maung Shwe Lay, about an hour ride south of Ngapali Beach, is home to unspoiled beaches, friendly locals, and a booming fishing industry that attracts visitors from different parts of the region.
If you are interested in how locals in a typical fishing village go about their daily lives, then this fish market in Myanmar is a must-visit for you. Be sure to arrive at the town early in the morning when fisher folks return from the ocean, bringing in the day’s catch in giant baskets. Afterward, you can explore the village and watch the locals dry the day’s catch in the sun, or head straight to the wet market for fresh seafood.
8# Pyin Oo Lwin Morning Market
Nestled in the mountains of the Shah Highland, at an altitude of 1070 meters, the colonial hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin is a premier summer getaway for people seeking to escape the sweltering heat of the cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Pyin Oo Lwin grows exotic fruits and a wide variety of perennials, earning it the name City of Flowers.
The colorful Pyin Oo Lwin Market, situated at the center of the village, abounds with harvests from the region’s fertile farms, including seasonal strawberries and coffee. Here, you will find jams, wines, and fruit preserves sold alongside woolen garments, traditional clothes, and handicrafts. Within walking distance from this Myanmar market is Purcell Tower, one of Pyin Oo Lwin’s most prominent landmarks, a must-see for every tourist interested in the history of the region.
9# Da Nyin Gone Market, Yangon
Of all the markets in Yangon, nothing is as busy, crowded, and exciting as that in Da Nyin Gone Station, situated at the end of the city’s Circular Railway. Across the tracks, the canopied wet market bursts with stalls of flowers, fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. As an upcoming train slows down to a halt, vendors tumble into the tracks to sell goods to passengers.
Although this Myanmar market appears a little reckless, the trade that takes place is quite impressive in its efficiency. Vendors pass packs of boiled quail eggs to passengers extending their hands out the train windows, while the door opens for a second to allow sellers to toss in bundles of fresh produce into the train.
Da Nyin Gone farmer’s market caters mainly to the needs of the locals, so there are no fancy souvenir shops. However, it provides an in-depth glimpse into the daily lives of the people. Besides, you will rarely find meals more authentically Burmese than the ones sold in the nondescript food stalls all over the market.
10# Zegyo Market, Mandalay
Covering 12 acres and dating back to 1853, Zegyo Market is the largest and oldest in Mandalay. The market is a one-stop-shop that offers an extensive range of goods and wares, some even coming from the neighboring countries of China, India, and Thailand. Thousands of local and foreign shoppers visit this market in Myanmar not only to buy but also to explore its many shops selling trendy clothes, delicately embroidered fabrics, affordable electronics, and impressive handicrafts.
While many people go to Zegyo for shopping, many others visit this Myanmar market for the sole purpose of enjoying the street food. Quite understandable, since who wouldn’t be tempted by the thought of sampling hot noodle soup, glutinous rice cake, iced yogurt drink, and meat skewers dipped in a flavorful sauce of fresh chili and garlic?