Myanmar (pronounced Mee-anmar), was the final country of our travels, and it was such a beautiful country to finish with! When people think of Myanmar, the question always arises of whether it is a safe country to travel to. We found the country to be safe, and the people very welcoming and friendly. Having never travelled in Asia before, I found it to be a fascinating country, and have often heard Myanmar described as “Thailand before it became popular with tourists!”
Getting there, visas, currency, etc
Most people’s travels in Myanmar will start in the City of Yangon as this is where the International Airport is. We found the airport in Yangon easy to navigate with free WiFi available if you need to order taxis on arrival. The taxi app ‘Grab’ is used throughout Myanmar and is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the Cities.
Visas are required for entry into Myanmar and can be obtained online in advance (please note, it is worth checking FCO advice as visas are currently unavailable for travel in Myanmar due to Coronavirus). The local currency in Myanmar is the Burmese Kyat. It is useful to have US dollars in advance and then change these into Kyat on arrival.
As mentioned, Yangon is where most people tend to begin their travels in Myanmar. Yangon is a large, modern City, with lots of sights, pagodas, and temples to explore.
- Where we stayed: We stayed in the Downtown area of Yangon in a hostel called Shwe Yo. Shwe Yo is a family run hostel, and staff were very friendly and helpful in giving us advice about where to explore in the City.
- Things to do:
–Shwedagon Pagoda: Shwedagon Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Asia and can be seen from most parts of Yangon. It is very impressive and definitely worth a visit!
– Visit the reclining Buddha: The reclining Buddha is another huge, impressive Buddhist monument in Yangon. The detail and design of the Buddha is incredible. Remember to leave shoes at the entrance and keep below the knees and shoulders covered when visiting.
– Seated Buddha: Across the road from the Reclining Buddha is the beautiful wooden seated Buddha. Again, definitely worth a visit if you are interested in learning more about the Buddhist religion or to appreciate the work and architecture that went into designing the monuments.
– Go on a walking tour of Downtown Yangon: Downtown Yangon is filled with British Colonial buildings, pagodas, and hidden alleyways which have been painted and turned into local street projects and art works. You can easily fill a day wandering through the downtown area exploring all it has to offer!
– Bogyoke Aung San Market: Bogyoke Market is a sprawling market, perfect for purchasing handmade souvenirs and gifts for home.
- Places to eat:
– Kudos cafe: Kudos cafe is a lovely little cafe serving a wide range of breakfast and freshly baked lunch goods. They also have an impressive range of cakes available!
– Gekko: Gekko is a tasty restaurant located near the Sule Pagoda and serves a wide range of local and Japanese dishes.
Bagan has recently been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Travelling to Bagan and seeing the Temples was one of the main reasons I’ve wanted to visit Myanmar for years. I have seen many photos of hot air balloons rising over the Temples at sunrise and couldn’t wait to experience this myself. Unfortunately, we arrived in the rainy season so the hot air balloons were not available…The temples were still incredible though, and instead we explored them on e-bikes which was just as fun!
- How to get there: We travelled to Bagan from Yangon on a night bus with JJ express travels. Tickets for the bus can be booked in advance and I couldn’t believe how fancy the buses were! They had TV’s, large reclining seats, and the bus attendant even came around to deliver free water and snacks! The journey from Yangon to Bagan takes 10 hours in total.
- Where we stayed: We stayed in Ostello Bello hostel in the New Bagan area. It costs 25,000 Kyat to enter the archaeological zone. Make sure to keep hold of your ticket as you will need to show it again if you move between towns to see different temples. From the bus station to Ostello Bello hostel, it costs approximately 6,000 Kyat via tuk tuk, or the hostel can arrange a pick up car for you for 8,500 Kyat.
- Things to do:
– Visit the Temples: Bagan contains literally thousands of temples! One of the best ways to see them is from the air in a hot air balloon, however this is an expensive option, and as mentioned does not run in the rainy season. We opted to visit the temples on e-bikes and I absolutely loved it! It was a great way to really explore every temple and even get to see the inside of the temples.
– Take a sunset boat tour on the Irawaddy river. Taking a sunset boat tour on the Irawaddy river is a lovely way to round off a day exploring the temples. There are also lots of little restaurants and cafes situated along the river if you fancy watching the sunset with a beer instead!
From Bagan we headed North to the City of Mandalay. Mandalay itself does not contain many tourist attractions, but it is a good base to explore the nearby attractions in Mingun and Pwin oo Lyin.
- How to get there: From Bagan we again travelled with JJ bus company to Mandalay. This journey takes 5 hours.
- Where we stayed: We decided to stay in Ostello Bello hostel again in Mandalay. They are nice, social hostels, and have a tour desk that can help with organising trips or drivers to the nearby sights.
- Things to do:
– Visit Mingun: Mingun is a small town near Mandalay. From Mandalay you can organise a full day tour which takes in the main sites of Mingun. The tour starts with a boat trip on the Irawaddy river. You can then be picked up by a driver/minibus if you arrange this through a tour company/your hostel. The sights of Mingun include the meringue shaped Hsinbyume Pagoda, the unfinished Pagoda of Pahtodawgyi, and the Mingun Bell which is the second largest bell in the world.
– Explore Inwa on a horse and cart: The previous capital City of Inwa can only be reached by a short boat crossing and then explored on a horse and cart. There are lots of old beautiful teak monasteries and ancient temples to explore.
– U Bein Bridge: U Bein Bridge is one of those typical tourist areas. The bridge is made of teak and stretches for 1.2 kilometres across the Taungthaman lake. However, it was absolutely filled with tourists when we visited, and everyone tends to hang around to capture that ‘perfect sunset photo’. It’s worth a quick stop but you won’t tend to need much time here.
– Pyin Oo Lwin: Pyin oo Lwin is a former British colony hill town. It is located 67km east of Mandalay, and takes approximately 1.5 hours if travelling by car. We decided to hire a car and driver for the day and stopped at lots of impressive waterfalls en route. In Pyin oo Lwin there is a beautiful botanical gardens which is definitely worth a visit!
- Places to eat:
– Ginki’s: Ginki’s is a lovely restaurant near the town centre in Mandalay with a wide selection of food available on the menu, including sea food.
– Ned Kelly’s: Ned Kelly’s is a hostel, however they also have a roof top bar serving bar snacks. Good WiFi available in the restaurant if needed.
Lake Inle is one of the more famous areas of Myanmar. The fishermen of Lake Inle with their conical nets are becoming a well known image and tourist attraction of Myanmar.
- How to get there: The journey from Mandalay to Lake Inle takes 7.5 hours. The bus will stop at the main town of Shwenyuang, and those who are travelling to Lake Inle will change bus and make the final 30 minute journey into Lake Inle. An entry fee of 15,000 Kyat must be paid at the entrance to the town. As in Bagan, remember to keep hold of this ticket as you will need to present it to your hostel, and when leaving and re-entering the town.
- Where we stayed: We stayed at Baobabed hostel which is a nice hostel with a rooftop bar and pool table. It is located a short walk from the main bus terminal.
- Things to do:
– Rent a bike: Most hostels offer free bike rental and this was one of my favourite ways to explore the lake’s surroundings! We hired a bike for the day and cycled to some hot springs, crossed the lake in a taxi boat with our bikes in the back, and finished the day at Red Mountain Estate Vineyard, Myanmar’s only vineyard!
– Take a boat trip on Lake Inle: Lake Inle itself provides a lot of income in form of trade for the people who live on the lake. A day’s boat trip is a great way to explore the lake and learn more about the different industries which thrive on the lake. You can visit the silversmith, lotus weavers, tomato farm, cigar makers, and textile factory. The day trip will also stop at Indein, an ancient temple site located on the lake.
- Places to eat:
– Golden Kite Pizza: Golden Kite Pizza is located along the main street and serves delicious home made pizza with complimentary garlic bread.
– Chillax: Tasty restaurant with a wide selection of lunch and dinner options.
– CCM Cafe: CCM was my favourite breakfast spot in Myanmar. It is a small cafe but serves tasty scones, cakes, coffee’s, and ice teas!
From Lake Inle we then took a 12 hour bus back to Yangon. Our travels had come to an end and after 6 months we were heading home! Myanmar was the perfect end to our travels. The culture, sights, history, and people of Myanmar are incredible and we learned so much and felt immediately welcomed into the country. I would definitely recommend a trip to Myanmar, there is so much to do and explore, and it will definitely make you want to return again!