The nearest place to visit just outside of Yangon is Thanlyin (or Tanyin) formerly Syriam. Just across the Bago River (Pegu River) it is an important port town in Yangon Division. It is only about an hour’s drive from downtown Yangon. On the way, you have to cross one of the longest bridges in Myanmar, the Thanlyin Bridge.
Thanlyin is a very ancient town in Myanmar and has many ancient pagodas and monuments. One of the famous pagodas is Kyaik Kauk Pagoda which is on the way to Kyauk Tan, on a hillock. The pagoda is very similar in structure to Shwedagon Pagoda. If you travel further to Kyauk Tan, you will reach Yaylel Pagoda. The name means in the middle of water: the pagoda is actually built in the middle of water out in the sea. The pagoda complex consists of several buildings including a monastery. Pilgrims and visitors are ferried by boats to the pagoda. While crossing, you can feed catfishes which jump out of water to snatch food thrown at them.
Pagodas are not the only things to see in Thanlyin. Although the town itself was established since ancient Mon and Myanmar kingdoms, it was British who built modern Thanlyin as an important oil refinery town for BOC Company (Burma Oil Corporation). There is a large quarter for BOC officers now used as houses for the MOGE (Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise) officers. These houses were built since colonial era design. Made of brick and wood, these houses are large, roomy and airy as well as beautiful and elegant. The BOC quarter is just off the Thanlyin Bridge.
Inside the BOC officer’s quarter is a very old Portuguese Church. Believed to have been built in 18 century, the church is now in ruin but the walls are still intact. Inside the church are two tomb stones of Portuguese missionaries from 18th century. British Burma era Sacred Heart Church is also in Thanlyin. Just outside Thanlyin on the way to Kyauk Tan are also two tombs of 16th century Burmese poets, Nat Shin Naung and Wungyi Padaytha Raja.
Thanlyin can be reached by either taxi or bus. Taxi fair is likely to cost around 4,000 kyat to 5,000 kyat one way. The best way to travel Thanlyin is to hire a taxi or for the whole trip. Your guesthouse or hotel will be able to arrange the trip for you but it will cost more than hiring a taxi by yourself.