The cultural transformation taking place in Myanmar is as sudden as it is comprehensive. Just a few short years ago, those looking for something to do after 10pm would be hard-pushed to find anything beyond the teahouses and beer stations which are scattered around the city.
Of course, those are still very much an option and can offer a great way to rub elbows with some of the incredibly friendly local crowd, especially along the lively 19th street. In the last few years, however, nightlife in Yangon has exploded, with a vibrant bar and nightclub scene springing up to cater for a burgeoning tourist market and a youthful population with a renewed sense of adventure.
For those looking for a vista on the city and a plentiful cocktail list, there are a myriad of rooftop bars to choose from (Penthouse, Roof Alchemy, Atlas, Yangon Yangon), while almost every big hotel in the city offers an attractive option for evening drinks.
But if you’re looking for something a little cosier and more chaotic, a little less polished but a little more personal, here’s quick list of some of the best bars in Yangon to wet your whistle and whet your appetite for revelry.
The longest-running ex-pat spot in the city, 50th street bar is the perfect place to shoot a few frames of pool, watch the latest sporting event or take advantage of their extensive happy hour offers – including all day on Sundays.
9-13 50th street
As the name suggest, this place is colourfully decked out in pirate paraphernalia. Its small, cosy and informal setting makes it seem like the interior of a ship’s galley, while the live music, DJs, lengthy drinks menu and adequate food selection make it a great place to enjoy a late-night drink or two.
Handily positioned right next to Pirate Bar, 7th Joint is run by a Jamaican ex-pat and offers the city’s oldest (and only!) reggae watering hole. A popular spot with both locals and tourists, there are live music, DJs and happy hours every night of the week.
This laid-back restaurant/bar serves up delicious meals from the centre of the country, including mouth-watering salads and fish noodle soups. It’s an upmarket spin on the standard beer station and draws a more discerning crowd who kick and back relax among the local artwork which adorns the walls.
136 37th street
Interestingly housed inside an old hairdresser’s salon, this underground bar and grill delivers a tasty menu packed with local ingredients and a commendable list of classic cocktails. Having opened its doors in 2016, its claim to be “the first basement bar in Yangon” might be dubious, but it’s still an excellent place to eat some food, sink a drink or two and even watch the big match.
785 Mahabandoola road
Café by day, stylish whisky bar by night, Cask 81 is an absolute dream for aficionados of Scotland’s water of life. It might not be the cheapest place to go drinking in Yangon, but it does offer happy hours every day between 6pm and 8pm and both the exemplary service and soft-lighted, leather-chaired décor go some way to softening the blow.
81 Kabar Aye Pagoda road
This upmarket restaurant and bar is housed inside the sumptuous Sofaer & Co. building in the heart of downtown Yangon. Despite an impressive drinks list and delectable Japanese-inspired cuisine, Gekko’s main draw is undoubtedly still its architecture. The Scotland-sourced overhead beams and Manchester-imported mosaic floor tiles are particular highlights.
535 Merchant street
For those looking for the full blockbuster nightclub experience, Fuse is “the” place to go among the upper-class Burmese youth. Open from 9.30pm to 3am, the club operates on a higher cover charge and with a more expensive drinks list than most other bars in Yangon, but does offer table packages which make it slightly more affordable.
4th floor, Myanmar Plaza, 1 Sat Mhu road