Exploring Myanmar (Burma)

5/5 - (1 vote)

Even though Myanmar, previously known as Burma, is quickly becoming a part of the trail for backpackers visiting Southeast Asia, it is still feasible to visit and have the experience of being one of the first people to discover this incredible nation. Burma was originally known as Myanmar. However, as everyone who has been there before will tell you, the ideal time to go is either right now or as soon as you possibly can.

The number of people traveling to Myanmar has been showing significant growth from one year to the next. In point of fact, the yearly number of visitors surpassed one million for the very first time ever in the year 2012. That figure is expected to surpass seven million by the year 2020, according to a strategy that the government has put into motion.

The government has moved rapidly to keep up with the rapid expansion of tourism and has only lately implemented a number of significant reforms related to the industry. Climbing the temples in Bagan to get a better view of the sunrise or sunset is one of my most treasured memories. Unfortunately, due to recent changes in the law caused by what the Burmese government referred to as “culturally disgraceful acts,” climbing all but five of the temples in Bagan is now illegal.

A mix of India & Thailand-

My companion and I both agreed that the first impression we had of Yangon was that it was very much like a combination of Thailand and India.

There are several parts in Yangon that are very busy, chaotic, hot, quick, and packed. Naypyidaw, not Yangon, is the capital of Myanmar, despite the fact that Yangon is the biggest city in the country. However, many people make the mistake of thinking that Yangon is the capital.

To tell you the truth, throughout our trip across Myanmar, Yangon was my least favorite of the three cities that we stopped in. I didn’t feel like there were that many things to do in Yangon. Aside from seeing some very wonderful temples, including as the majestic Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas, and sitting around at night drinking beer and eating BBQ, I didn’t feel like there was much else to do there.

In relation to beer, I would argue that Myanmar unquestionably has the highest quality local beer in the whole of Southeast Asia. An ice cold cup of draft beer cost around half a dollar, and a bottle cost less than one dollar. In addition, the prices are quite reasonable. It was the ideal beverage for washing down the meats and veggies that had just been freshly barbecued at the BBQ stands along the street.

Be sure to make your way to 19th Street in the center section of the city if you want to eat at BBQ restaurants that have the greatest cuisine and ambience in the city. When you go to the grills that are located along the streets, you will be given a basket, which you will fill with your food choices, and then you will leave the basket with the person who is running the grill while you get a drink and pick a seat. After a few minutes have passed, a hot plate containing all of your now-cooked options will be brought to you. Make sure you taste the spicy sauce that is provided on each table since it is quite excellent.

In addition, I was able to have one of the most relaxing massages of my life when I was on this street for the equivalent of four dollars in United States currency.

In my view, the amount of time spent in Yangon of two days and one night would be sufficient. You may avoid paying for another night’s lodging by taking a bus throughout the night to go to your next location.

The Temples of Bagan-

Bagan is a city that is incredibly magnificent, and it is unlike any other city that I have ever been to. Temples are absolutely everywhere in this city, and there are more than 2,200 of them. This gives Bagan’s landscape its one-of-a-kind character.

Is your stay in Bagan going to be short? To find out how you can see the most of the city in only 48 hours, click here.

Some of the temples are rather modest in size and complexity, while others are enormous and mind-bogglingly intricate. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is often compared favorably to the temples of Bagan, which are located in Myanmar. Certainly, I would have such a view; nonetheless, it is important to point out that Bagan does not have a temple complex that can be compared in scale to that of Ankgor Wat. The sight of so many temples dispersed throughout the terrain, each of which is different in size and complexity, is what draws the parallels more than the architecture of the temples themselves.

You have the option of paying money to participate in a pre-arranged tour that will take you to the most important attractions on an air-conditioned bus and include a lunch break at a restaurant that caters to visitors. You may also do what we did, which was to hire an electric scooter for 6,000 kyat, which is equivalent to five dollars in American currency, and complete the task on your own. This course of action comes highly recommended from me.

We got up early and headed out to locate a temple that we could climb and check out the sights from. Even though it was below freezing outside and I was only partially awake, being able to see the dawn as hot air balloons were dispersed over the sky made the whole ordeal worthwhile.

We were able to see one of the bigger temples that the tour groups had visited out in the distance. On this particular temple, there were approximately one hundred individuals. During the period that we were there, our little temple had a total of six people on it, although they were never all present at the same time.

After the sun had completed its ascent above the horizon, a number of younger children from the neighborhood arrived to attempt to sell the postcards and trinkets that they all carry. As soon as they realized that we weren’t interested in making any purchases, their reserved demeanor melted away, and they were overcome with an overwhelming sense of curiosity.

They started fooling about with us by posing for pictures and showing the use of the sling shots that they were selling. These youngsters were absolutely stunning and welcoming; they were in no way pushy or abusive in any way, unlike some of the children from other Southeast Asian nations who earn their livelihood off of selling goods to visitors.

We devoted two days to seeing the many temples that Bagan has to offer. On the second day of our trip, we went off the beaten path and away from other tourists, and we were successful in “discovering” our very own temple in time for the sunset. We congratulated ourselves on our find as we ascended enthusiastically through the narrow passages, mounted to the top of the temple, and then settled down for the sunset. I aloud remarked to my companion that it was highly likely that we were the only non-locals to ever discover this location.

Imagine the amazement and dismay that we felt when, a few minutes later, just as the sun was beginning to drop, we spotted roughly twenty electric scooters cutting across the field and heading right for our temple. The majority of the scooters included seating for more than one individual. The party arrived in a commotion and started their ascent of the temple so that they could watch the sunset with us. It would seem that all of the visitors at the hostel where they were staying are given a map to the specific temple where they were staying. After reading this, I have a better understanding of the scenario in “The Beach” when Richard’s friends start to come up on their private island after he has given them the map. Oh well, at least the breathtaking panorama remained.

Inle Lake-

We saved our visit to Inle Lake in Myanmar until the very end, and I believe that we were able to preserve the best for last. I had only lately come across some breathtaking photographs of fisherman working on Inle Lake, and it inspired me to take my own pictures of the activity. We were able to arrange a private half-day trip for 15,000 kyat, which is equivalent to $12 USD.

Following the launch of the smaller boat, we got ourselves comfortable and took in the sights as the boat’s skipper deftly maneuvered the channel and led us in the direction of the bigger lake. We were surrounded on all sides by enormous fields that were being cultivated by laborious locals, some of whom gave us a kind wave as we floated past. There were several species of birds that either flew close to the boat or floated on the water in the vicinity.

I could clearly see fisherman out in the distance as soon as we emerged from the channel and the lake opened up in front of us. As the boat drew closer to the fisherman and slowed down for our photographs, we sat bolt upright and grabbed our cameras.

It has come to my attention that, despite the fact that they make for wonderful photographic subjects, I have no idea how much fishing these men really do.

The fishermen would get into position as the boats reached the lake, pose for photographs, and then beg for gratuities after the boats had left. As soon as our boat started to move away, the guys went back to lounging on their own boats, where they remained until the next set of visitors arrived. The real process of catching fish was not anything I saw. However, the photographs are great.

The tour of the lake lasted for half a day and included visits to a weaving plant, a silver shop, a fabric store, and various other locations on the lake. Following our visit to the first business, which was a silver shop, we immediately came to the conclusion that the information provided there was more of a sales pitch than an education in the local way of life or traditions.

If you are interested in purchasing locally hand-made goods that appear to have been mass-produced and are identical to the locally hand-made goods seen in countries ranging from Kenya to Cambodia, then these stores may be of interest to you, but buyers should exercise caution before making a purchase. Because of this, our guide will not take us to the following locations.

When we arrived to Inle Lake for our second day there, we made the decision to hire bicycles and ride around the lake in search of the hot springs spa that we had read about. I would advise you to not participate in either the cycling or the hot springs activities.

The road leading to the “spa” is in bad condition and there are no lake views along the way. You are traveling through what amounts to a forest on a road that is partly dirt and is riddled with potholes.

We paid 13,500kyat, which is equivalent to ten dollars apiece, to enter the spa, where we discovered three filthy pools with bugs and leaves floating in them, as well as a café serving cheeseburgers for six dollars. We made the decision to cut short our ride around the lake and go back to town instead.

I had also heard that there were two wineries situated just outside of town, so that was another reason why I couldn’t wait to get to Inle Lake. But despite the fact that I have a passion for wine, I know better than to have high expectations while traveling in Southeast Asia.

We handed in the motorcycles ahead of schedule, and after getting outrageous estimates from a number of taxi stands, we came to the conclusion that hitchhiking would be the best option for us. This would be just my second experience hitchhiking in my whole life.

It was a beautiful vineyard, but, as was to be anticipated, the wine was just average, at best. We sampled a flight of wines together and had a hard time deciding which ones to recommend; ultimately, we decided that the Sauvignon Blanc was the most impressive of the bunch. If you do want to go to the vineyard, you should go to see the vistas and the sunsets, but you shouldn’t necessarily go to try the wine.

If you enjoyed this post please consider pinning it using the image below

Practical Information:

You are need to submit an application for a visa and wait until you have received approval for it before entering Myanmar. You are welcome to visit the Burmese embassy in Thailand if you are there; nevertheless, the majority of individuals prefer to submit their applications online. The procedure is straightforward, and I was given my visa on the very same day that I applied for it. You may submit an online application for your visa right here. The cost of the visa is fifty dollars (US) in total.

The Kyat is the official currency of Myanmar; at the time of this writing, one US Dollar was equivalent to around 1,200 Kyat.

I was under the impression that there were not many ATMs available, despite the fact that I did not discover this to be the case in my research. In each of the three locations that we went to, it was not difficult for me to locate an ATM, and I was able to use my credit card to make payments at several of the bigger hotels.

Although we discovered that the notoriously poor internet across the nation was really accurate, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t quite as awful as we had anticipated. Not all of the restaurants provided internet access, but those that were considered to be more upscale did. This was in contrast to the situation in the majority of the rest of Southeast Asia, where almost every establishment provided complimentary high-speed internet access. If you have a job that requires you to work online, finding a place with WiFi to connect to may be difficult but is not impossible, at least in the major cities.

I was able to acquire better rates for the taxi journey into Yangon from the airport taxi stand with set costs rather than haggling directly with the drivers outside the airport after arriving at Yangon International Airport. This occurs quite seldom because to the fact that in the vast majority of nations, you can nearly always receive a lower price by bargaining directly with the drivers.

The admission fee to the Shwedagon pagoda was 8,000 kyat, which is equivalent to $6.56 USD. The entrance fee to the Sule pagoda was 3,000 kyat, which is equivalent to $2.46 USD. If you only have time or money to see one of these attractions, the Schwedagon should be your first choice since it is by far the most magnificent of the two.

When it came to bus travel between cities, we contracted JJ Express to handle our needs. Their transportation options include spacious, spotless, and luxurious buses. Attached to the backs of our chairs was a television screen and a charging station for our electronic devices. The television displays were identical to those that are seen on airplanes. You will be assisted in settling down by an attendant who works on each bus, and you will also get complimentary bottled water. You are able to make reservations online using this site; however, it is highly recommended that you have your hotel or guest house manage the reservations on your behalf. We spent 22,000 kyat, which is equivalent to about $18 USD, to travel from Yangon to Bagan, then we paid 19,500 kyat, which is equivalent to approximately $16 USD, to go from Bagan to Inle Lake, in a bus that was significantly less pleasant than the first. When we were ready to leave Inle Lake and go back to Yangon to catch our flights, we boarded a night bus that set us back 26,ooo kyat, which is equivalent to $21 USD. We got there 10 minutes early in the hopes of catching this bus, but when we got there, we saw that it had already departed. In order to get us on the bus, the personnel at the ticket office had to summon the driver, have him pull over, and then carry us on the backs of their motorcycles. It is strongly recommended that you arrive half an hour before the planned departure time of your bus.

We spoke to a few different folks, and they all said that Air Bagan offered reasonable prices, so keep it in mind if you’re in a rush or if your budget allows for flights.

Bagan has an admission charge of 25,000 kyat, which is equivalent to $20 USD. This is to cover the expense of maintaining and caring for the temples.

The admission charge to Inle Lake is 13,500 kyat (equivalent to $11 USD), but, they will also take $10 USD or 10 euros. Bring American dollars, ideally a ten dollar note that is brand new and has no tears or rips in it, so that you may get the highest possible rates.


Is Myanmar tourist friendly?

Stay away from Myanmar at all costs owing to the possibility of being caught up in politically driven violence and civil upheaval there. If you are in Myanmar, you put yourself at danger of having local laws arbitrarily enforced, which might result in you being arrested and held in custody. You need to get out of here as soon as possible if you can do so securely.

What is the best month to visit Myanmar?

The months of October through May, which are the dry season months, are Myanmar’s finest months for tourism. The whole nation may be explored, the temples are sparkling, and the beaches are open, which makes traveling a diverse and enjoyable experience.

Why is Myanmar worth visiting?

Myanmar is a stunningly beautiful and enormous nation that can be found on the southeastern fringe of Southeast Asia. It is home to a wealth of cultural heritage, mouthwatering cuisine, and breathtaking natural scenery. This fascinating and historic region has a lot to offer travelers from all walks of life, and it’s easy to see why they might fall in love with it.

Is Burma open to tourism?

With the exception of the Yangon area, the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) recommends that visitors to Myanmar should not go there unless absolutely necessary.

How many days do I need in Myanmar?

A trip in Myanmar may be completed satisfactorily in the span of two weeks. Even if you just have a short amount of time, you may still have a wonderful experience; however, this will take meticulous preparation on your part. If you just visit two of Myanmar’s “Big Four” attractions during your five-day stay, you will have a sufficient amount of time to get a flavor for the country’s history and culture.