My 10 day dream trip to Myanmar
One that has been on my list for a very long time is Myanmar (previously Burma), I have only ever heard wonderful things from other travellers about the country however as media does, it left me sceptical whether it was safe to go there at this time. After a little research (I don’t need much persuading) I booked my flight to Yangon where I would begin my two weeks in Myanmar.
Stop 1, Yangon
On arrival in Yangon I got a taxi straight to my hostel, The little Yangon hostel which was in a great position for exploring the city. On the top of things to do was the Shwedagon Pagoda. I got there at about 1pm and what I found was absolutely breathtaking. The scale, the colour, the culture, everything was amazing. The good thing about going during the day is it is very quiet as it is hot. I only saw a handful of tourists there at this time so is great for photography. There are also a lot of Burmese tourists that come to the pagoda they are so lovely and ask for a photo of you with their family. They make you feel like a celebrity! I had a guide to show me round which was so worth it as they will take you to all the secret spots of the temple that you might otherwise miss.
Yangon is a bustling city with so much culture and life, the history of the city is everywhere with its charming multicoloured decaying colonial buildings. Monks strolling the streets in their Burgundy robes, street sellers selling all kinds of amazing tropical fruits. I took a trip on the circle line train, which is exactly how its says as it loops back round to Yangon. It is a three hour train ride through all the surrounding villages, you can get off as many times as you like and gives you a great insight to local life.
On the last evening I decided to return to the Shwedagon Pagoda as I loved it so much the first time. You have to experience both times! WOW the place was buzzing! There were hundreds of monks and nuns chanting, lighting candles, praying. The vibe was completely different to the day and you can’t help but feel totally drawn in by the amazing spirit of the people here.
Quick tip: If you are looking for a little calm air conditioned safe heaven from the busy streets of the city, check out Rangoon Tea House for amazing food, drinks and ambience.
Book your accommodation for Yangon here
Stop 2, Bagan
The travel options from Yangon to Bagan are a 10 hour bus or 13 hour (approximately) train ride. After taking advice from the receptionist that the train is tortuous I opted for the 10 hour JJ VIP over night bus.
It is worth paying a little extra for the comfy VIP bus with recliner seats and a tv screen, the roads are bumpy to say the least so you want to give yourself a decent chance of getting some sleep!
Bagan was everything I had hoped for and more! What a contrast from Yangon. First thing to do when you arrive in Bagan, get an e-bike! These are awesome and at the price of 3500 Burmese Kyat (approximately £2) are totally worth it!
I stayed at an awesome hostel called Ostello Bello Began. They are fully kitted up with everything you might need in Bagan and offer bike hire, free breakfast, free pasta, free tours of Bagan, free games nights, free sunset yoga! No beating that in my opinion!
The Hitlist for Bagan: sunrise, sunset, balloons, villages. A lot of the temples are closing for refurbishment now and tourists seem to be going to the same temples for these views which can be crowded. My advice, find a local on your way! They know the best spots that the tourists don’t know about, and when you are sitting in the dark waiting for the giant red sun to appear there is nothing better than complete silence to get totally absorbed in the moment.
The sunrise in Bagan is something else, it goes through stages of unbelievable beauty that you think can’t get any better and it just does! Misty mornings with temple shilouettes turn to the brightest orange sky with the sun rays hitting the corners of the thousands of temples. Then as it gets lighter the balloons come up and what a scene, it is like an outer body experience something that you think surely can’t be real. But it is and you are living it! MIND BLOWN!
After seeing the balloons go up and following hours of deliberating on whether I should do it, (mainly due to my backpacker budget) I took the plunge and dug deep in to my pockets to book a balloon ride for the next day, and my goodness am I glad I did. This was without doubt one of the most spectacular experiences of my life! Being a balloon virgin I wasn’t sure what to expect, if it was safe etc but upon meeting the staff and pilot I was assured that I was in safe hands.
I booked with Balloons over Bagan who were amazing, all passengers have a view out of the basket and the pilot will rotate the balloon so that everyone gets that incredible sunrise view! My advice is to forget about the camera for a good majority of your ride and just enjoy every second. After a completely bump free landing we were greeted by the ground staff with a delicious champagne breakfast! The entire trip was on point if you can afford to do this trip don’t miss out, you will not regret it!
Get back, have another breakfast, recharge and get back out there! Its an amazing feeling zipping around the dirt tracks surrounded by temples on the e-bikes. Take a tour to some of the larger temples and local villages where they spin cotton, make peanut oil and green tea.
Quick tip: If you haven’t got a Myanmar sim card which I would recommend anyway as the wifi isn’t very good, download the app maps.me when you are in wifi. This app will work out of wifi as long as you download the app for the country. Is is the only one that shows all the small tracks in Bagan as google maps won’t pick this up, and is a life saver when you are temple exploring.
Book your accommodation for Bagan here
Stop 3, Kalaw – Inle Lake Trek
The Inle lake trek was recommended to me by a friend and became very apparent when in Myanmar that it is one of the highlights. So back on the bus, again go with JJ VIP! 6 hours down and arrived in Kalaw, it is a very small town but makes for a nice comfortable stop over with some great restaurants. We booked with Ever Smile trekking for the next morning, the trek includes a guide, all meals, snacks, accommodation and ample amounts of green tea on route. The scenery is beautiful on the trek as you will hike up to the top of mountains for panoramic views of the scenery. We met so many lovely local villagers on the way, the children even let us join in with a few games with them. The accommodation is basic as you would expect but all part of the experience. But the food they cook you…. Wow! Amazing, fresh and healthy. The three day trek is long and the sight of the water and floating villages is so welcome by lunch time on the third day! We made it!! Get your shoes off and relax for a lovely hour long boat ride across the lake.
Quick tip: If you are not sure about the length of the trek skip the first day and do the two day trek. The full three days is 60 kilometres and in the heat can be hard. The two days has more than enough beautiful scenery and village stops to satisfy.
Book your accommodation for Kalaw here
Stop 4, Inle Lake
The lake itself if amazing, still, calm and beautiful. It isn’t overcrowded with boats just a few tourist boats and the local fishermen. Take a tour of the lake to go to the traditional craft shops, here you will see silversmiths, weavers, learn how to make clothing out of the lotus flower and see where they make the famous Burmese cigars. The lake will offer a good place for r&r to rest those sore feet after the trek.
There are lots of things to do around the lake, and staying in the town of Nyaung Shwe will see you a good base.
Quick tip: If you are looking for a chilled out evening, get a tuk tuk to the vineyard for s sunset slurp over the lake.
Book your accommodation for Inle Lake here
Stop 5, Mandalay
I had enjoyed myself so much in Bagan that it meant unfortunately that I had less time in Mandalay. So to make the most out of the one full day that I had left I hired a scooter taxi. This was great if you are short on time as it is quick to get to all the places and my driver was a complete gem. If you aren’t on temple overload by this point, Mandalay has some very beautiful and unique temples. I would recommend if you have more time going to the U-Bein bridge at sunset as it other travellers photos look spectacular.
Quick tip: Head to Mandalay hill temple for unspoilt 360 degree views of the city.
Book your accommodation for Inle Lake here
My two weeks in Myanmar were a dream come true, I have never met people that are so warm and welcoming. As a solo female traveller I can honestly say there was never a moment I felt unsafe or unsure of my surroundings. The people here have very little but want to share what they have with you, I was touched at the kindness the people show to travellers.
The scenery here speaks for itself, it is one of the most magical places. The Buddhist culture is wonderful to be around and is it amazing to visit a county so unspoilt by tourism and so traditional.
After speaking to a hotel owner in Inle Lake, Myanmar is experiencing a tourism drop by nearly half this year. It is awful what is happening in the north of the country. However the south and middle of the country are still very safe places to visit. Don’t let this put you off visiting an incredible country with lovely people. Now is the time to go!