My guide to exploring the bedazzling yet mind-boggling streets of Bogyoke market
Almost like an enchantress, it may lure you to her mystic lanes every time you cross its path. But as irresistible as she maybe, conquering Bogyokes’ many shops and mastering her innumerable alleyways can sometimes be a tad-bit mind-boggling.
Three years and almost a hundred visits later, I can almost guarantee that I am yet to completely vanquish this labyrinth of a market. There have been times when I have wasted hours and hours exploring her bedecked streets, only to return with nothing more than a tiny embellished tray. (Not to mention the pricey 25,000 kyat cab ride I had taken just to go back and forth.) There have been other times I have ended up rushing to the ATM, merely an hour into her maze-like streets, having ran out of my shopping budget for the day, courtesy the diamond studded sapphire ring currently twinkling on my finger.
I still remember the time one of my girl friends had come on a holiday to Yangon. I had told her that no visit to this golden city was complete without a trip to the famous Bogyoke market. So off we went, our first stop being the Ta Win Art Gallery on the Main Street followed by a quick stop at one of my favorite jewelers. “Just two shops and I am already 3000$ less. I am not just done shopping for the day… I am done for the entire year,” she had lamented. And that was that! In less than half an hour, thanks to the famous Moe Myint Zaw painting and a stunning pair of ruby dangly earrings, we were heading home. It was such a tragedy to think that we had to brave almost two hours of Yangon’s infamous traffic just to reach her.
Another time she completely baffled me was when my friend from India had paid us a visit. I had, as usual bragged about Bogyokes’ charm and the treasures that she laid out in full display. I had taken my friend to each and every little jewelry store, to every possible lacquerware shop and walked possibly every little street. I had pointed out to the brightly colored Pathein umbrellas, the beautifully embroidered silk longyis and the several artifacts carved in teak, rosewood and even bull-horn. But the market had so completely overwhelmed my friend that she was done with just a little fridge magnet and a packet of cashew brittle. “I don’t know what I need,” she had whined…only to beg me, just a day later to take her back once again!
That’s Bogyoke for you…charming yet confusing; captivating yet thoroughly complex. Three years and almost a hundred visits later, I may still not have mastered her completely but what I did learn was a quick, easy and efficient way to maneuver her multiple alleyways to get what I needed without breaking the bank.
Here’s my three step rule to shop like a pro at the famous Bogyoke Market:
Yes it looks complicated and the sheer number of shops in the market itself is enough to give anyone a headache. But the truth is, despite its monstrosity, the number of things available and that you would actually like to buy can be classified into a way smaller and a rather manageable list: Jewelry, Lacquerware, Rattan, Wooden and Mother of pearl home accessories & decor, Fabric & Slippers and Art.
After a couple of my initial faux pas, I realized that the things that kept drawing me back to Bogyoke were actually the same old things; the innumerable necklaces in varied colored stones that lay neatly organized in my top dresser and the various rattan table mats, baskets and other home accessories that adorned the many parts of my house lay proof of it. So instead of wasting time lounging around, I decide what I really need, prior to my visit itself. Am I going back to get my 20-something necklace? Or am I going back for yet another rattan basket or was it going to be a lacquerware serving tray this time? Once I knew the answer to that question, tackling this temptress was a piece of cake.
Let’s talk Budget
Now once you have a clear idea of what the market has to offer, the next step is to decide on the amount you are willing to spend.
It is for a reason I had referred to her as a temptress in the first place. Because if you are not careful and stick stubbornly to your budget, it would only take her a few minutes to void you of all your cash. Now it is no mystery that along with some cheap buys, Bogyoke also houses treasures worth 1000’s of dollars. So before you step in, it is important to decide whether you are walking its streets to buy a necklace worth 10$,100$ or 1000$.
Most of the times, I have visited Bogyoke has been with my girl pals and it didn’t take me long to realize that when you have no real shopping agenda and have partners in crime to share the joy with, it wouldn’t take you long before you completely empty out that wallet. So my little shopping secret is to leave those precious debit/credit cards back home and keep only a certain amount of bills that I was willing to part with for the day.
Take a pick!
One of the most efficient ways to shop like a pro in this glittery web is to identify your go-to shops.
What is your favorite Lacquerware shop? Do you have a preferred Jeweler? Or is there a particular art store you like to frequent? This way you can be certain to build a stronger customer-client relationship, save up on a lot of time and be assured to get a great bargain.
Talking about my favorite picks. Here’s my top most frequented stores at Bogyoke:
ART: Taw Win Art Gallery
JEWELRY:(Leaving out the diamonds and rubies here): Hnin Pearl
Rattan: Glorious family Ltd
Lacquerware: La pyaet Wun