An easy way for Myanmar travel is with a group tour; and my tour with G Adventures was fantastic. We had an awesome group which always makes a trip much better of course, a hilarious tour guide who made us laugh daily and of course we saw the key sights of Myanmar with no stress.
We visited some beautiful pagodas, took boats, trains, buses, trucks and ebikes, ate curry, noodles and watermelon everywhere and of course drank and won plenty of Myanmar beers through their bottle top competition! After the group tour I spent a further two weeks exploring beaches in Myanmar, notably Ngapali and the Dawei peninsula – spectacular stretches of sand, some with very little or even no one else on – WHAT A DREAM.
Top Tip for Myanmar Travel; “Mingalar Bar” is hello and goodbye in Myanmar. You can say it to everyone and receive a warm response and typically a big smile. Prices are around 2000 kyet (pronounced chet) to £1. Accommodation in Myanmar tends to be kinda pricey and not everywhere has hostels however, Guest Houses are available for sure. Traditional food is curry, which you eat with rice and sometimes a variety of fresh salad and veg to accompany. My favourite food was the Shan Noodles.
Here’s my best of Myanmar, from my one month experience:
Best for city life
I didn’t spent too much time in Yangon but had some exciting experiences despite this. Firstly, downtown Yangon is a great spot to stay, having stayed more North in the city a couple of times I much preferred being near to Chinatown for the bustling markets, street food options and of course a little bit of nightlife (you know me, rum sours and a Myanmar beer, sure).
Head to 19th street for fresh fish and street BBQs. Looking for a sit down meal? Try LinkAge Restaurant (Seikkantha Street) for a delicious twist on typical Myanmar cuisine, served and cooked by students in training! What about fast, tasty food whilst shopping? Shwe Palin, in shopping centres is cheap and fast AND actually tasty. Try Myanmar Noodle Salad or Shan Noodles mmm.
Check out Bogyoke Aung San Market for hours of shopping, bargaining and of course eating at the food court there. I found an amazing, CHEAP, Shan noodle place, literally under the stairs of the first ground floor section – it’s around 1000 kyet for a bowl of delicious noodle goodness (50p).
Fancy a boogey? Head to 47th Street for 7th Joint (loads of great tunes to dance to), I heard 50th Street is great for this too so have an explore down that way.
Last but not least, do NOT miss the Shwedagon Pagoda, as mentioned in my previous post it’s the largest Buddhist site in Myanmar and boosts some impressive architecture. I visited early morning and during sunset – definitely recommend those times with the low light for the most gorgeous reflections and light rays peeking out amongst the glittering temples and stupas.
Best for boat trips
I mean, let’s face it, Inle Lake is the obvious spot for this. I loved powering through the lake in a long tail boat, wind blowing through my hair, not a care in the world (apart from my toes being cold haha). Great to spend the day on the lake, exploring the temples (in particular the Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda which has a shit ton of stupas, see below), visiting different craft shops and of course eating (ha like I’d forget that bit). Definitely do a boat tour and see as much of this beautiful watery lifestyle as you can.
Another great place for a boat trip is in Mandalay. Take a ride up the Irrawaddy River to Min Kun, see floating Bamboo Markets and let the wind blow through your hair.
Top Tip for Myanmar Travel: make sure you check the visa requirements before you travel. As a British Citizen I had to get an eVisa before I travelled and identify which border I would arrive through. Double check on the Myanmar website here to be sure of your visa requirements. Always carry your visa documentations with you when travelling around, for state border checks and hotel/hostel requirements.
Best for impressive pagodas
Ahhh, literally the whole country – there’s so many different temples, stupas, designs, colours, towers, buddhas, tiles, LED lights – the list goes on and on. These were my FAVE pagodas for a variety of reasons, mostly cos they were just so damn beaut but also, impressive views and surprises around every corner.
- Yangon – Shwedagon Pagoda (explore during early morning or during sunset to see the sunshine peeking from behind a buddha).
- Mandalay – Kithodaw, and the World’s Largest Book (that photo with me and the red umbrella which we promptly lost a day or so later haha), Mya Thein Tan Pagada (the cool one with the wave like structure) and for views across the city visit Sagaing Hill (and some awesome green tile work at this pagoda).
- Bagan – Lawka Nandar (visit this golden stupa at night to see it glittering in the spotlights), Manuha Temple (this temple was built around the huge buddhas inside, you literally have to squeeze around them to get past, AWESOME) + over 2,000 other bad ass temples.
- Inle Lake – Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda (this place had a lot of stupas, like so many our tour guide said no-one even knew how many there were, it was so cool)
Best for beaches
I mean, there’s so many nice ones. Ngapali Beach was recommended to me by Shannon and Gunner when we were on our trip, and it didn’t disappoint. Take a flight or overnight bus from Yangon up the coast there and relax. Massages are on hand, as is fresh seafood aplenty. Stayed at WeStay@Chillax Hostel and had the BEST time with a great group of people. Cue beers, and a long long game of “never have I ever”.
Dawei was next on the list, it was from here I headed to Maungmagan Beach first. Popular with the locals, however actually really dirty. It was here I did my spontaneous beach clean and hung out at Freedom Bar with Yaou and some other locals. The following day Yaou took me to “no name beach” – the complete opposite to Maungmagan, this place was deserted and completely clean (cos there was no humans messing the place up). That whole coast is full of beaches which are easily reached by motorbike (obviously I was too much of a scaredy cat to get one haha).
My final Myanmar beach stop was Paradise Beach, 2 hours further down the coast, no phone signal and only reachable by motorbike through the jungle – it was literal paradise. Take a front or back row bungalow, or if you’re feeling especially remote then grab a tent and sleep right on the beach. Watch out for the puppy sneaking in if you don’t zip it up though! Good vibes, the coconut curry is unreal and there’s a bonfire everynight if you gather wood for it.
Oh and didn’t I even mention the stars, oh my days.
Best for Balloon Rides
Personally I didn’t take a balloon ride in Myanmar, although many of my tour group friends did, and they LOVED it. From the balloon ride in Bagan you can see the vast amount of temples across the old town. Other locations to view Myanmar’s beautiful landscape are Inle Lake and Ngapali Beach. It’s not a cheap activity so definitely plan into your budget if you’re thinking about taking a ride.
Top Tip for Myanmar Travel: you’ll see a lot of traditional dress; the Longyi (a long skirt), this is worn by both guys and gals and is ideal for visiting religious sites as it covers the knees and ankles, keeps you cool and is very fashionable in Myanmar. Pick one up literally everywhere you go, and if you don’t want to wear all the time, have it in your bag just in case. People are typically wearing what looks like yellow paint, this is Thanakha a natural moisturiser, sun protection and make up that Myanmar people wear. It’s often available in hostels and hotels for you to try out. It’s particularly good if you’re really hot as it has cooling qualities too.
Hopefully some useful guidance there based on my trip. Many of the people I met at Ngapali Beach had plans to be more adventurous with the local buses