Myanmar is a country I really liked, it has a lot of history, people are very nice and the tourist industry as of 2015 is not very well developed. So go there as soon as possible!
My trip wasn’t particularly long, just nine days, but these nine days were filled with events up to the top of my head. I hope this article we’ll be of use to you.
Where to stay
Below is the list of inexpensive guesthouses, where we stayed.
- Charoendee Boutique Hostel. Address: 189 Khaosan Rd, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. A very budget hostel, but the rooms were clean, WiFi was good. We had a twin room without aircon for $11.
- Hotel Sahara. Address: No.414/A, 80th Road, Bet 26th Street & 27th Street, Chan Aye Thar San, Mandalay, Mandalay, Myanmar. Phone: +95 267313. Web: http://www.hotelsaharamandalay.com. A very nice hotel with friendly staff and excellent breakfast. Location is also good: on the corner of the Mandalay Palace and two blocks away from the AirAsia bus stop. Internet was ok. Twin air conditioned room was $27.
- Inlay Palace Hotel. Address: Middle School Road, Nyaung Shwe, Nyaungshwe, Myanmar. Phone: +95 9 518 0337. An ok place, clean rooms, bad Internet. Twin air conditioned room was $29.75.
- Shwe Na Di Guest House. Address: Nyaung-oo to Bagan road, about halfway between Main Bus station and central market. Phone: +95 61 60409, +95 940 2510138. I really liked this guesthouse, mostly because of the helpful and friendly staff, but the room was also clean and they had decent Internet connection. Twin air conditioned room was $29.50.
- Agga Bed and Breakfast. Address: No. 83, 11 Street, Middle Block, Lanmadaw, Yangon downtown, 11221 Yangon, Myanmar. Web: http://aggabedandbreakfast.com. An ok place, could get a better review from me if the room had a window. Internet was working, room was clean. Twin air conditioned room was $28.00.
Where to eat
Absolutely anywhere. Come on, it’s Asia.
How to get around
To commute between the cities you have basically two options: a bus or a plane. Buses are very comfortable, you can really sleep, so for me the choice is obvious. The tickets I booked on the website http://myanmarbusticket.com.
To get the plane tickets, just go through the Myanmar airlines companies websites and you’ll find something that will suit you. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines_of_Myanmar
For the transportation inside the cities, most of the time you can choose a taxi or a moto. They are inexpensive, but you can make it even more cheaper by negotiating with the driver.
Inle Lake: https://www.flickr.com/photos/50646290@N06/albums/72157662837299495
A few videos from Google Photos
Offline maps “Maps.Me” turned out to be pretty good.
Day 1. Bangkok (2015.11.15)
I landed in Bangkok at around two o’clock in the afternoon and around three exited the airport. First thing to do was to get to the hostel on Khao San Road. At first I was thinking to take a bus, which was supposed to bring me directly to Khao San. Unfortunately. Wikitravel had obsolete information and the bus was canceled some time ago. So I took the metro to the Makkasan station from where, according to the same Wikitravel, goes a bus 556 to Khao San. However, I didn’t find the bus and, following an advice of a local woman, took the metro to the Hua Lompong station and from there went walking checking out the local life. The road took me through a lot of stalls with everything and in about an hour I arrived.
Quickly found the hostel, it’s called Charoendee Boutique Hostel, a twin room without aircon and with a common bathroom costed 400 THB, without breakfast. The room was clean and I suppose it was a fair price.
By this moment my friend has arrived and we went to eat and drink something. Khao San Road and the streets around are a perfect place for this kind of activity. Ate something in some thai restaurant, did a small pub crawl and went to sleep.
Day 2. Mandalay (2015.11.16)
After waking up we went to look for a taxi to the Don Mueang airport, which we found pretty fast around the corner. Getting to the airport took us about an hour and around 300 THB on the meter. In the airport we had breakfast in a small thai (of course) restaurant just near the entrance upstairs. Delicious. After that we went through all the security checks and also forgot to put the visa check stamp on the registration counter. But it is also possible to that at the gate. At 10:55 we departed in direction of Mandalay and at 12:20 local time we landed. The time zone in Myanmar is kinda strange: UTC+6.30.
The visa formalities were quickly over, we just handed over the Visa Approval Letter to the border officer. Also in the airport we changed a few dollars to local kyats.
To the hotel we got on a free AirAsia bus, it’s really good idea this company came up with. I wish all of them will do same thing one day, especially in Moscow. The bus station in the city was located just a couple blocks of the hotel we booked. The hotel was really nice: It’s located right on the corner of Mandalay Palace; for a twin room with an air conditioner, mini bar, a TV, toilet, shower and breakfast included we paid $54 for two nights.
On the clock it was around three and we went to take a stroll through the neighborhood: along the Mandalay Palace and uphill, to the Mandalay Hill to watch the sunset. A small warning: it took us around two hours, it’s a long way.
When it got dark, we went down and hired a taxi for K4000 to our hotel. During the trip the driver was trying to sell us an whole-day excursion around all the places worth visiting for $60. We didn’t agree and it seemed like a wise decision, because the price was high (how we figured out later). And also it’s not that interesting in a taxi.
Next point of our program was dinner. The hotel’s receptionist recommended us Mingalabar Restaurant with the local cuisine. During the dinner we experienced the size of the local dishes and we had like ten of them. So we were pretty full. Although, how I understand now, the place wasn’t cheap at all, we paid almost $30 for two. It was the most expensive food during out trip. Usually we paid around K7000-8000 with drinks included.
On the way back we noticed the absence of street lights: if on the main streets it’s possible to walk under the lights of autos and motorollers, on the side-streets it’s impossible to see a thing, sometime a flashlight was needed. Also we started to accustom ourselves to the local street crossing way: just walk and don’t worry – the drivers will go around you. I got the impression that the traffic organization is on courtesy: nobody is speeding and always pays attention to one’s surroundings. Also there are a lot of right-wheeled cars (almost 100%), although everybody drives on the normal side of the road.
Day 3. Mandalay (2015.11.17)
The second day started with a great breakfast in the hotel: omelet, lots of fruits, tea, toasts, something else. Afterward we went to see the nearby pagodas: Eindawya and Shwe Kyi Myint. On the way cheching out the life of locals. After that we went to the Mandalay Palace.
On the way we encountered a strange procession of military lorries, which we transporting some weird non-military stuff accompanied by loud music. Looks like it was some holiday or festival or something like this.
The entrance fee to the palace is K10000 and with the ticket you can also visit a couple of other pagodas. The palace itself wasn’t that impressive, looks kinda woody and not really something. I was more impressed by how the people live inside, it’s actually a small military town. So, photos not allowed and you can walk only on one road leading to the palace.
I should also mention that other place included in the ticket are also nothing special. Looks like free places can be maintained on the donation only system and for these they need to charge.
After the palce we went to see the pagodas and stoopas on the north-eastern side of it: Kyauktawgyi Paya.
Across the road is located the biggest book in the world: Sandar Mu Ni Pagoda and Kuthodaw Paya. These two were especially good. I really liked to walk there and listen to the sound of small bells, it creates such a calming ambient.
After a couple of smaller sacred places – Atumashi Kyaung and Shwenandaw Kyaung.
After we were finished with this part of town, we hired a couple of motorbikes (K2500 per person) to get to the district where Mahamuni Buddha Temple is located. In this pagoda you can see the golden Buddha which weights a few tons. Everything is pretty serious here: cameras, security, before getting to the Buddha you need to leave all your bags. By the way, before entering any sacred place it is required to take off the shoes and walk barefoot.
The finishing stroke of this day – a sunset on the U Bain Bridge. From the pagoda it takes around half an hour by car, but the road itself is interesting in terms of looking around.
There’s also lots of people there, but you can take photo of the snag
In the evening while walking through the dark streets we found some small restaurant to have dinner. On the way back also found a supermarket, which we didn’t see before. I even already started suspecting that they don’t exist here. So we took a couple of beers and spend the rest of the evening on the hotel’s terrace from time to time talking with other passing travellers.
Day 4. Lake Inle (2015.11.18)
At 5:50 a call from the reception woke us up. Getting up was kinda difficult, but at 6:30 we had a taxi planned. Quickly packed the bags, took the breakfast, said bye to our Chinese friend from yesterday whom we met downstairs and drove to the airport. The driver was the first frowning person we met in Myanmar, maybe he didn’t get enough sleep.
To the airport we got in about 50 minutes, went through all the security checks, checked in, passed the passport control (where they didn’t ask for passports) and another security check before the gate. This country isn’t afraid of all the terrorist things, everything is pretty light, even the window in the smoking room is open. In half hour or so they announced the boarding, we got into the bus and went to a small propeller aircraft ATR-72. In another half hour we landed in the Heho airport.
Here also everything was very relaxed security wise, you can even take pictures on the airport’s territory, including the runway.
On the exit we were welcomed by taxi drivers offering us their services. To get to Nyaung Shwe costs K25000, people say, it’s cheaper to ask your hotel to pick you up.
To stay we chose the Inlay Palace Hotel, it’s located right in the center, about one kilometer from the pier. For a twin room with air conditioner, tv, fridge and breakfast included we paid $59.50.
Then we went to search for some food and stopped in a chinese restaurant called Live Dim Sum House located near our hotel. There we had some great dim sums and noodles for K7000.
After lunch we decided to rent bikes and ride to the pier to book the Inle Lake tour for tomorrow. Right away we found someone to arrange this for us. We agreed for a long tour for K25000 (Kyaw Soe, 0941008256).
We also read that there’s a hot spring nearby and went there next. It’s located about 10 km from the town, on the way there you can also visit a pagoda, which name I don’t know.
The hot spring turned out to be very nice. Hot water, very few people and two hours cost K10000 per person.
While we were leaving this place, we got a couple of offers from boat owners to take us and our bikes to the other side of the lake for K6000 per boat. To not take the same road back we agreed. It took us ten more minutes to get to the pier, then enjoyed the lake crossing while checking out the local life: someone was taking “a shower”, someone doing laundry, children playing. Most of the people were smiling and waving when they saw us.
After reaching the other side, we went to the hotel. At first the plan was to visit the local winery, however, it was already closed.
We arrived in the town when it was already dark and went to have a dinner. Our choice fell on the Pannathar Restaurant. The place looked nice, but it took a really a long time to get the food and the drinks there. Taking into account that here they serve bottled beer everywhere, it looked as if they were going to a supermarket to buy it.
On the way back we thought it would be nice to buy a local SIM-card, because the Internet in the hotels of Myanmar leaves much to be desired. But we had no luck: for some reason neither in my phone, nor in my friend’s phone it didn’t work. We tried the Ooredo provider. The store was about to close, so we didn’t try others. By the way, both Megafon and Beeline operators got the reception only in Bagan.
Day 5. Lake Inle (2015.11.19)
Early in the morning, around six, we went to the pier. The girl in the hotel refused to pack us the breakfast, which wasn’t very nice. And I don’t really understand why, it looks like to locals wake up very early, could have made us a sandwich or something.
At six something we left the pier. It was cold, but the we were given blankets, so it wasn’t that bad.
As we were expecting, there were very few tourist, maybe a couple more boats.
We saw those famous fishermen, who taxi the boat with a weirdly twisted leg in the rising sun.
Then the boatman took us to the silversmiths, it’s one of the popular crafts on the lake, in hope that we’ll buy something.
The showed us everything, told us about their work, offered some tea and we went to our next stop – to see the long-necked girls and women. That’s a really strange custom, but they really are wearing them.
Next stop – the floating market, a big market around a big pagoda.
Here we spend some time and had some snacks for breakfast.
Walked around the market itself, it’s really huge, busy and you can find almost everything: from fruits till DVDs with “Masha and the bear”.
Then we went to see the Thaung Tho pagoda, the most remote point of today’s itinerary.
The pagoda is huge, old and in some places a bit destroyed.
At this point we were already hungry and the boatman took us to a place called Royal Palace Restaurant. Nothing special there, except it’s located on the water like every building here. The food was ok, a little bit more expensive. And the orange juice was 90% mixed with water. Don’t order it here.
After the meal we were taken to another spot where we were supposed to buy something, it was a small weaving factory where they make clothes out of lotus’ stems. It turned out to be pretty interesting to check out.
And after that the most interesting place: a small cigar factory. Here my friend even did buy a couple dozens of cigars. They had pretty interesting flavoring ingredients, the best ones as I understood had anis inside.
Next place was also very interesting, to get there we sailed through lots of tomato plantations, located right in the water.
The place is called Jumping Cat Monastery, and yes, cats are present.
We also noticed a delegation of women with strange hats. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t come out very good as all the time they were standing with the sun behind. As if they knew.
After hanging out here for almost an hour, we set our sails back to Nyaungshwe.
Upon arrival, we remembered the closed winery from yesterday and thought we should check it out, the degustation of four kinds of wine will set you back $3. The walk turned out to be interesting, we saw a lot of local lifestyle.
But the wine wasn’t really good, out of four glassed I liked only one, maybe two. So we decided not to buy a bottle and went to have dinner. This time our choice fell on a place called Smiling Moon. A nice small restaurant, food was also ok.
А вино так себе, из четырёх бокалов мне по нраву пришёлся только один, ну может быть, два. Так что бутылку брать не стали и отправились ужинать, в этот раз выбор пал на место под названием Smiling Moon. Вроде бы неплохо. Actually, I’m a pretty unpretentious person, so getting from me a “very bad” badge is really difficult, you really have to try 🙂
On our way back we walked into the first tour agency we encountered (Tour Advisor) and booked a taxi to the airport for tomorrow. The price was K15000 against K20000 in the hotel.
And went to sleep.
Day 6. Bagan (2015.11.20)
In the morning, of course after breakfast, we drove to the airport. On our way we encountered some festive procession.
Because of the fog, the schedule was shifted an hour, so in the airport we spent a lot of time and arrived in Bagan around noon. The transfer this time we did order from the hotel for K6000 and in 10-15 minutes we were there. We stayed in the Shwe Na Di Guesthouse. A really cozy place with friendly staff. Definitely recommended. Twin room with aircon and breakfast is $29.5 per night.
After a bit of rest we went for a walk. On the way we encounter a restaurant street, it’s not the name, the street just has a lot of restaurants. Took a bite in a place called Novel, it was nice, except the portions very huge. And as I was pretty hungry, I ordered two dishes and left half of it. But I don’t suppose it’s a con.
On the way we visited a few not very famous pagodas.
First one was Tha Gyar Hit Phaya, the keeper gave us a tour for about 20 minutes, told where it’s better to watch the sunset, some of the history. Very nice guy. At the end he offered us to buy some sand paintings, but we kindly refused. He shrugged and didn’t insist. Why isn’t it like this everywhere..
As showed the experience of the next couple of days, the best pagodas are unadvertised on tourist maps and unknown. But the sunset we decided to watch from the Shwesandaw pagoda. It was really infested with people, but the sunset was beautiful. However, instead of taking sunset pictures it was way easier to take photos of people taking photos of sunset.
By the night we were back on the restaurant street to have dinner in a place called Golden Land. As usual, pretty good.
Day 7. Bagan (2015.11.21)
The sunset we missed because of the sleep, obviously. Tomorrow.
And today we rented bikes, because, as yesterday showed us, on foot it’s impossible to see everything. To rent a bike costs K5000 per day. I recommend choosing a bike carefully, because in my case the gears weren’t shifting and it was a shame to discovered this after we were pretty far away.
So, what we saw. First stop was Alodawpyi Pagoda, a small pagoda with a lot of local pilgrims. People seem to be pretty religious here, you can see a lot of them praying. Before I used to think that there is no praying in buddhism. Looks like I was wrongs and self-improvement isn’t that easy.
The whole day we spent cycling among lots of small pagodas. Actually, it’s the main activity here in Bagan. Then we stumbled upon a small building called Oak Kyaung Gyi, which doesn’t seem to be a pogoda. I think this place could be nice to watch sunset or sunrise as it’s definitely unknown and should should be empty. But, we didn’t do it.
Also was impressive the Myazigon Pagoda. It looked deserted and we didn’t meet anyone at all.
After a few more hours cycling we arrived at Gu Byauk Nge pagoda, which was closed. While walking around it, we noticed nearby a house of a family, the owner greet us offered to open the pagoda. After that made us a tour around, showed and explained things about all the wall painting, buddhas and the 37 nats. It was kinda uncomfortable to refuse to buy something from her, but I really didn’t need anything.
Next temple we really liked was Pathada Temple, a very interesting one with a huge territory around. It’s remarkable for having a Buddha sitting outside and that’s kind of rare. And also it was empty, no one. Although when were leaving some tourists arrived, maybe they noticed our bikes parked in the street and decided to check it out.
The sunset we decided to watch from Myauk Guni temple assuming there won’t be a lot of people as it’s located a bit far from all the other temples. But we were wrong, there were tourists, but of course not as many as in the Shwesandaw pagoda yesterday. The only annoying thing were the sellers who were standing right before the sunset and were offering the souvenirs all the time.
There’s another pagoda nearby, called Taung Guni, and it looked less crowded there, you might wanna keep this in mind.
The day we finished in the Alodawpyi Pagoda, same place we started it. While cycling back we noticed some kind of movement there and decided to go see what’s going on. It turned to be some religious ceremony which already ended and people were leaving the place. We sat there for a while relaxing and then made our way back to the guesthouse and the to have a dinner. Tomorrow we definitely shouldn’t miss the sunrise.
By the way, during the dinner the waitress showed us a useful lifehack: under the Myanmar beer’s cap if you take out the gum, you can find a prize – another beer bottle or some money.
Day 8. Bagan (2015.11.22)
This morning we woke up early, at 5:30. The sunrise was about 6:30. After having a quick breakfast we realized that we won’t be able to get to the desired pagodas and decided to just cycle along the road and when we would see a good place, turn there. Following this plan we ended up near Bulethi pagoda. And it turned out to be a really good place to watch the sunset, I really liked it.
After the sunset we continued our activity from yesterday – cycling through thousands of pagodas and stoopas. The only difference was that we had kind of a plan: get to New Bagan and then go back using the northern road, this way we would see some thepagodas.
First stop was some destroyed (or in the process of renovation) place.
After that was the squirrel temple – Sulamani Temple. It’s not like it has lots of squirrels, but they’re noticeable. I think to this temple it’s better to go in the morning, while the big tourist busses are still on the way, judging by the amount of parking places it’s a popular sight.
In Old Bagan I liked the big white Ananda pagoda, part of it was in reconstruction, but this didn’t ruin the impression.
Then we got the New Bagan, where we had a meal in the restaurant by the river called Si Thu. We were also offered a boat tour which turned out to be a total ripoff – 15 minutes on the river, with literally nothing to see, and that cost K7000. After we went to the Eight Faces Paya in the center of the town and then back.
On the way we saw Dhammayazika, a big pagoda with a huge territory around.
Next after was Su Taung Pyi, nothing special here.
And Winido Temple.
From here we decided to cycle through the small pathways and not the road. Sometimes that was difficult as lots of them are very sandy. Better to take the road.
Our last sunset in Bagan we watched from the Tha Gyar Hit Phaya, the very first pagoda we saw here. And that was really awesome: no people and the riverside.
Day 9. Bagan (2015.11.23)
On our last day we went to the Popa mountain, I think it mean “flower” in local language. The price was around ten thousand kyats per person. With other fellow travelers from the guesthouse we spent 1,5-2 hours in a minivan. On the way we stopped to check out how they make peanut oil; tanaka – thing that local girls use as a makeup and sunscreen and local palm liquor.
On the mountain itself there’s a big temple and to get there you need to walk up the stairs for about 20 minutes accompanied by monkeys, and there are a lot of monkeys here, outside and inside. From the temple you can admire the landscape, although it’s not the highest point here.
We spent here a couple of hours and went back.
Upon arrival, our big group went to have lunch and afterwards some of us went to the post office to send a couple of postcards.
At 20:00 in the evening we had a night bus to Yangon, but from the guesthouse we were picked up at 18:30. So we didn’t have a very busy day. On the bus station we were around 19:00 and, of course, spend the remaining hour drinking beer with our new bus acquaintances. The bus itself surprisingly turned out to be very very good, super comfortable, it really was possible to have a normal sleep on it. We took JJ VIP Bus.
Day 10. Yangon (2015.11.24)
We woke up in Yangon. And I can’t say I was tired, definitely a good bus. Took a taxi for K20000 to the guesthouse (Agga Bed and Breakfast, twin room with aircon, $28 per night, breakfast included), left our bags there and went to the nearest train station Lanmadaw.
For K300 we got tickets to a circular train. It went three station onto the Main Station and then back, but it doesn’t matter. The whole circle around the city takes about three hours and these three hours are definitely worth it. It’s possible to see a lot from the windows or doorways as well as in the train itself.
You can even eat on the train, but be careful. I decided to try the a pineapple which seemed to be covered by cinnamon. But it was pepper really. I thought I would die there.
In three hours we got off on the Main station and went to the surroundings.
We saw the Saint Trinity Church with a barbed fence, also it was closed for lunch.
Sule Pagoda, we thought we skip the inside because it wasn’t free and after Bagan it didn’t seem special.
Maha Bandoola Garden and across the road the church of Immanuel the Baptist.
On the way we stopped in the Junior Duck Restaurant for lunch and afterwards ended up in the Botahtaung Pagoda, where Buddha’s hair is kept together with other rubbish under the glass and locks.
Here we decided to go back to the hotel, check in and take a break from the heat.
Around five we arrived in Shwedagon Pagoda to witness it during the daylight, sunset and nighttime. The place is stunning. Especially when it gets dark: they light up the candles and some religious processions begin. Very interesting, kind of Mecca for the buddhists.
After the pagoda we went to the Vista Bar. The bar itself is nothing special, but from over there you can see the pagoda from afar at night:
I think we made a wise decision to go from Mandalay to Yangon and not the other way around as the Shwedagon Pagoda was a perfect ending for our small trip to Myanmar. If we saw it at first I don’t think I would have had this feeling of everything done right.
At night we got back to the hotel to find on the neighboring street something like a fair mixed with a flea market. So we took a stroll through the stalls, found the balloons with Masha and the bear and a few places with psychedelic trance.
And after that we went to sleep. Tomorrow we had a flight to Siem Reap.