18 days in Myanmar
Our trip to Myanmar wasn't planned in advance, we just went with the flow, we took a lot of buses, some of them very comfortable others completely overcrowded, but all the bus rides are very long. The country is big and the roads are not so good. However, everywhere we went surprised us in a very positive way. Even if we weren't able to gather a lot of interviews because of the language barrier, we definitely left a piece of our hearts in Myanmar!
Yangon (1 day)
Being the largest city in Myanmar, with a population of over 6 million people, Yangon can be quite overwhelming. Especially because of the traffic jam. It usually takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to go from the centre to the bus terminal, which is only a few kilometres away.
- Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda
We asked around why we couldn’t see any motorbikes on the road in Yangon, it seems like it could fix the traffic jam problem. We were given different reasons but the one that seemed most legitimate was because in the past, a very superstitious king was told that he would die on a motorbike accident. From that day onward, he decided that all motorbikes would be banned from Yangon.
Golden Rock (1 day)
About 4 hours away from Yangon plus a 40 min jeep ride up the mountain, Kyaikhteeyoe, the city where you can find the golden rock, is tiny but enchanting with breathtaking views over the hills.
- Go up the mountain to see the temple with the tilted golden rock that doesn’t fall
When we got there, we noticed a lot of people were sticking gold leaves on the rock. We tried to do the same but we were immediately stopped, only men are allowed to do it. Women can only look at it from a few meters away.
Kalaw (3 days)
We didn’t see much of Kalaw as we arrived very late at night and left for the trekking early morning. The trekking is definitely something we recommend doing. It’s a great way to see many different landscapes and to understand a bit more about the country side of Myanmar.
- Do the 3-day trekking to Inle Lake
- Sleep in the small villages with the locals or in the monasteries
- Take good trekking shoes, it can become a very slippery path if it rains
The trekking was a great way for us to meet people. We walked for three days with a very cool international group, from all different ages and cultures. It’s always nice to see that when you’re travelling the place where you come from or your age don’t really matter, everyone gets along really well. We ended up traveling with our trekking group for the following 4 days, and it was very nice to have our little “Inle Family”.
Inle Lake (2 days)
Inle is a huge lake in the center of Myanmar, it is surrounded by dozens of small water villages and one main town where travellers usually stay - Nyaung Shwe. The way to get around in the lake is in these gondola-style boats, many with fishermen and locals, others with tourists visiting the villages.
- Book a boat trip around the lake. The prices are per boat so the more you are, the cheaper it gets
- Visit the different “factories” around the water village and find out how they make their cigarettes, silk and lotus scarves and many more handcrafts
- Rent a bike a go do a wine tasting at Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery
At the time we were in Inle Lake there was a special celebration going on. Once a year, in October and 3 days before full moon, starts a procession in the lake with boats full of well-dressed leg-rowers that escort a big golden boat that carries a Buddha around the lake, through the many villages. We were lucky to watch it, at 6 in the morning hundreds of boats filled with locals were waiting on the lake to follow the procession.
Mandalay (2 days)
Mandalay is the second biggest city in Myanmar and the last royal capital of the country. Even though it has a population of 1.2 million people, it still is a much more quiet city, with less traffic and chaos than Yangon.
- Go to U bein bridge for the sunset
- Visit the Doke Dee Waterfalls
- Visit the Mahagandayon Monastery and learn about monks’ life
Here we stayed at a very special Guest House called Dreamland. Besides hosting tourists, they were also an art and music school for local people of all ages, so all the walls were very colourful with all sorts of paintings and drawings, and usually you would wake up to the sound of someone practicing saxophone.
Bagan (3 days)
This is probably the most famous place in Myanmar because of its 2200 temples spread throughout the city. Renting an e-bike is the best way to get to know the city and discover the many buddhist temples.
- Cycle around the temples and chose the least crowded ones for sunset
- See the sunrise at Bagan tower and watch all the hot air balloons going up
If you go up any temple to see the view, you’ll find an endless landscape of never ending temples. However, we were there shortly after the August earthquake so quite a few of them were under works to fix the damages. The view was a bit obstructed but with the help of the entrance fee, they will hopefully be able to fix all of them and recover the great view!
Ngapali Beach (4 days)
This is the best place if you’re looking for a relaxing time on the beach. There’s not much to do besides enjoying some grilled fish by the ocean, catching up on your reading, and going on small walks along the beach. It’s a very quiet town with things closing quite early.
- Try the sea food mix at the restaurant Best Friend 2
- If you need a haircut, there’s a local shop that will do it for 0.70$ and the results are great!
We met a few people in Ngapali with whom we ended up spending most of our days with. One of them was an Italian guy who had been traveling for a while and you could see was a little bit homesick missing a good homemade pizza and some nutella. Coincidentally, we learned that Ngapali, pronounced Napali, was named after an Italian who was also missing his hometown in Naples (Napoli).