Myanmar was in the top 5 of our Asian bucket list travels and when we got the opportunity to travel there we jumped at the chance. For a whole month, we travelled around the country. We hope you enjoy our top 5 places to visit in Myanmar as much as we did.
Myanmar (formerly called Burma) is a land of Pagodas, Stupas, markets, and ancient traditions.
How To Get A Visa For Myanmar
If you are considering travelling to Myanmar you will require a visa.
Getting a Myanmar visa is easy now since the government has recently relaxed the rules.
The simplest way to organise your visa is through E-visums.co.uk.
All that is required is that your passport has at least 6 months validity, the application to be completed online and payment is accepted from Paypal, a credit or debit card. The application takes up to 3 working days.
Please note the following:
- the visa is valid for 28 days from arrival
- the visa authorised letter is valid for 90 days from issue date
- the issued visa is for single entry only
- there are 6 entry points; 3 by air at the international airports of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw and 3 by land borders at Tachileik, Kawthaung and Myawaddy.
- During your stay in Myanmar, your accommodation should be at registered hotels etc
Holders of the following passports do not require a visa; Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Map of Myanmar
Myanmar is bordered by the countries of Thailand, Laos, China and Bangladesh. Nay Pyi Taw is the capital.
How To Travel To Myanmar
There are international flights to Myanmar’s 3 international airports of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw (the capital of Myanmar).
We travelled with Air Asia the 1 hour ten-minute flight Bangkok to Yangon and return. There are many options from Asia direct to Yangon the most popular entry point to Myanmar. Further afield, Emirates now fly from Dubai and Qatar Airways from Doha.
There are less options travelling to Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.
Getting Around Myanmar
As we had a month to spend in Myanmar we travelled:
- By bus from Yangon to Pyay
- Overnight First Class train from Pyay to Bagan
- Riverboat steamer from Bagan to Mandalay
- Overnight bus from Mandalay to Inle Lake
- Overnight bus from Inle Lake to Yangon
Our Top Things To Do in Yangon
The most visited monument in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda. The 110 metre high impressive 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda is a must for visitors to Myanmar. The Pagoda is the most sacred site for the people of Myanmar.
To Travel Too Tip: the sun is merciless during the day so ensure that you have plenty of sunscreen and water. The afternoon is the best time to visit close to sunset. The Pagoda closes at 22.00. There are 4 entrance gates where you will need to take your shoes off. Remember which gate you entered by.
The Sule Pagoda is in the middle of a very busy roundabout in the middle of Yangon at the Junction Sule Pagoda. Legend states that the Sule Pagoda is older than the Shwedagon Pagoda suggesting it was built around 2,600 years ago.
Sule Pagoda is open from 08.00 hours to 20.00 hours.
The 3 Hour Circular Train in Yangon
One of our best fun things to do in Yangon was riding the circular train for 3 hours all for USD1. For 3 hours you experience life outside the big city, travel through small train stations were the locals are selling their produce on the platforms and watch how life goes on in the small villages that you pass through.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
A great place for souvenirs Bogyoke Aung San Market is also known as Scott Market. A great way to practice your bargaining skills. Lacquerware is a popular souvenir to take home with you.
Eat at 19th Street
For the best street food and cold beers. If you are game you can even try the local fried crickets.
Our Top Things to Do in Pyay
Pyay is located 240km from Yangon and takes about 7 hours by bus. It was not the most comfortable ride, it was crowded and hot. Our arrival into Pyay was confusing as they don’t stop at a regular Bus Terminal, the bus stops on the outskirts of town.
The Shwesandaw Paya is located in town on top of a small hill. There are great views from the Pagoda to be had especially at sunrise and sunset.
You will need to hire a taxi for the 2 hour drive from Pyay to the village of Tonbo on the Irrawaddy River.
Once at Tonbo you need to hire a longboat and a guide. The cliff carvings of Buddha and the climb up the hill to the Monastery is definitely worth the journey. Legend states that the local boatmen had to pay a local tax. At times due to the bad weather they had to wait before they could sail further, and to fill their time in they started to carve the images.
Sri Ksetra World Heritage Site
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sri Ksetra is located 8km east of Pyay. The site is over 47 acres. We would recommend that you visit the Museum first and then wander around the site, you may only have time to see a few of the ancient structures as they are so spread out.
Night Market at Pyay
The Night Market is located on Mya Zay Tann Street and is good for cheap eats and local souvenirs. There are stalls selling wood that the women make a paste from as sunscreen. The paste is known as Thanaka.
Our Top Things To Do In Bagan
Our train journey from Pyay to Bagan on the overnight train first class was, to be honest, a ‘nightmare’. A journey that we thought we would not survive, we even made sure our passports where in our pockets. Our first class cabin actually was four bunk beds shared by another couple with a small thin sheet as bedding and no pillows. The toilet was a hole in the floor lucky with a door separating it from the cabin. The train was delayed and instead of a 10 pm departure, it was at 1 am. The ride was similar to being either on a bungee jump or in the dodgem cars. There was no way you could sleep on the top bunk, we had to hold each other for grim death in the lower bunk to stop ourselves from falling out.
The best part of the journey – daylight. When we could open up the windows, hang out the sides, and watch the local countryside waking up. Our neighbours who we did not speak to during the night made our journey bearable the next day sharing their hilarious journeys around Asia.
Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise
If you want to experience the real Bagan we would recommend a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. Soaring high over the temples as the sun was rising was such a memorable experience. Villagers were waking up and heading out to work the fields, school children laughing and running after us, and shop vendors setting out their wares are vivid memories which we will not forget. The temples and stupas are amazing at this time of the morning, the sun rays captured on their glittering facades.
Horse and Cart Ride Through The Temples
A fun day out with lunch is visiting the many temples and stupors around Bagan by horse and cart. Your driver will choose which is the best Pagoda to experience sunset, it depends on the number of tourists there are at the time. There are excellent photo opportunities throughout the day.
There are over 2000 stupas and pagodas in the area around Bagan, some of which you can visit on foot close to town.
Our Top Things to Do in Mandalay
Riverboat from Bagan to Mandalay
We sailed in an old riverboat steamer from Bagan to Mandalay. The journey took over 12 hours, from sunrise to sunset. There were only 6 of us on board, so we could change our seats as often as we liked and we could even lay down for a nap or two when we felt like it. We would recommend taking your own food for the journey and plenty of water. The scenery is stunning along the way, you sail pass villages along the riverfront, oxen plowing fields, men fishing and other boats lazily floating in the other direction.
A day trip by private taxi visiting the Mahagandaon Monastery which is located 11 km from Mandalay at Amarapura is highly recommended. The best time to visit is around 10.00 am when the monks gather for their last meal of the day.
As part of the day tour, we would recommend a visit to Sagaing Hill for 360-degree views from the Pagoda and a visit to the local market in town.
U Bein Bridge
Late in the afternoon is the best time to visit U Bein Bridge. A great photo opportunity is at sunset when the monks cross the river to return back to their monastery. The bridge is the oldest teak bridge in the world.
Sunset at the top of Mandalay Hill
If you have time a popular viewing spot at sunset is the top of Mandalay Hill. You can either walk or take a taxi, we would recommend taking a taxi because of the heat. You will need to pay an entrance fee as well as paying a fee for taking photographs.
Visit the Mandalay Palace
The Mandalay Palace was not as exciting as we thought it would be. We would recommend only visiting if you have time to spare. It is a large complex to walk around and most of the buildings are empty shells. This view is from the watchtower.
Our Top Things To Do in Inle Lake
Our journey from Mandalay to Inle Lake was via an overnight bus. The road is mountainous, rough and windy. We missed getting off at the stop, in the middle of nowhere, for Inle Lake because it was in the middle of nowhere, no lights or people around and it was 3.30am in the morning. When we arrived at the next stop, we still are not sure to this day where that was, the bus driver was kind enough to find us a taxi to take us to the long boat jetty.
Our accommodation was in the middle of the lake and a long boat was the only way to reach it which took about an hour.
Day Tour to Local Markets and Temples by Long Boat
Day trip by longboat to visit the outlying islands, local markets and the many temples of Indien
Watch the Local Fishermen
Watch the local fisherman fish in their traditional one legged manner managing their nets, fish and the movement of their boats all at the same time
Red Mountain Winery
Enjoy lunch and wine at the Red Mountain Winery
Myanmar is a fascinating country to visit, a melting pot of cultures and flavours. The charm of the country is its people. It is fast evolving so it was a country that we wanted to visit sooner or later and we are so glad we did, even with the small transport hiccups, which is to be expected. Myanmar has left indelible impressions on our minds. Aaaah, the joy of travel.
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