I’ve recently completed a solo trip of Myanmar and thought I would share some details of my trip to help anyone out currently planning their trip.
11 May 2014
Arrived with Air Asia from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur into Yangon.
After immigration near baggage claim there is two money exchange places. There is more in the immigration hall (I noticed the rate was better at the one’s near baggage claim but I couldn’t return there after entering the arrivals hall). There is also ATM’s. There is plenty of people offering taxi service into the city, I booked one at the official taxi both, it cost 8,000 kyat to 12th street. They also gave me a great map at the taxi booth.
I stayed at Agga Youth Hotel, it is basic but clean and the staff are friendly.
I walked to the Shwedagon Pagoda from my hotel it is fairly easy to negotiate the streets, it took 45 minutes or so. I would recommend to take a plastic bag to put your shoes in to carry with you. There is four entrances which are a fair distance to the pagoda. I left mine at the start of one of the entrances and had to firstly remember where I left them and secondly I had to leave from the same entrance because my knees were weak from climbing all those stairs once and I was covered in sweat. There is an entrance fee of 8,000 kyats for foreigners, there is booths at each entrance and they are pretty good at catching all the foreigners to pay. There is also ATM’s at the pagoda.
12 May 2014
I flew to Bagan with Air Bagan, I booked online before I left home and got a e ticket. At the airport check in they didn’t ask to see my passport only the e ticket I had a print out of. When we boarded the flight it was an Asian Wings aircraft we were given breakfast included in the ticket price. If you have checked in luggage make sure to have your boarding card in the luggage hall. Luggage is brought in by porters to the hall and you must give them the tag on your boarding card which matches the tag on your luggage. There is a Booth at the arrivals hall to pay $15 USD for a visitor entrance fee, they give you a card which is valid for 5 days. (They do spot checking at the temples to make sure the tourists have these, I had to show mine for a sunset viewing in the temple.)
I caught a taxi to my accommodation in Nyaung U it costs 6,000 kyat. My accommodation is the Bagan Umbra Hotel, I can’t recommend this place enough it has lovely big rooms, buffet breakfast and a pool which is lovely with these hot days for a middle of the day swim and very friendly and helpful staff. It is located on the road outside of town to the temples (with walking distance to a few temples). The hotel has a restaurant but there is also restaurants along the same road.
I would recommend using Agoda to book accommodation, they offer good discounts and accommodation is paid for in advance and a hotel voucher is issued which is given to reception, it saves having to worry about carry large sums of cash. I have booked most of my accommodation in Myanmar using this website.
In the morning I took a half day horse and carriage ride to the pagodas. The price the hotel quoted and when I asked a driver directly were the same price of 15,000 kyat for a half day or 28,000 kyat for a full day. Half day I think is plenty I was taken to the main pagodas and also to the river and I thought for my first day this was good to get my bearings. The horse and carriage has a roof which is a great shelter from the sun.
13 May 2014
Today I hired an electric bike to view the pagodas, it cost me 7,000 kyat for a full day. They are easy to manage and a lot of fun, there is no way i could ride a push bike in this heat. Whilst i was looking at a pagoda a local boy asked me if I’d like to be shown around. He took me to his village and also to some pagodas off the beaten path which had great views and also well preserved paintings inside. I bought a painting off him at the end of our morning. It was very enjoyable the locals are very friendly and very proud of their country.
I had a great traditional Myanmar lunch, three courses, soup, main dish (I had chicken curry with vegetables) and watermelon, it filled me up for 4, 000 kyats. In the afternoon I headed back out for more temple hoping, it’s great this time of year as there isn’t many tourists and its possible to view a lot of temples with no one else about. Bagan was also the best area for buying souveniors, so if you see something you like buy it as you may not see that item elsewhere in Myanmar. I love Bagan!
14 May 2014
I travelled to Mandalay on the 8am bus it cost me 7,500 kyat from my hotel in Bagan, I was picked up at the hotel at 8am in a pick up, the driver did the rounds of the hotels and we were chockers full by the time we rolled up to the bus depot. When the hotel booked for me there was no ticket but they gave me an assigned seat number. It was a modern coach with air con and a Burmese movie was played which was a comedy and quite enjoyable even though I didn’t understand what they were saying. The bus set off just before 9am and we stopped at a restaurant for a toilet/food stop about 2 hours into the journey. After the stop we drove onto what looks to be a new four lane freeway with no traffic on it which took us straight to Mandalay, which we reached by 12.45pm so even with the half hour stop it only took around four hours.
There was plenty of people meeting the bus offering accommodation, I caught a motorbike taxi (3,000 kyats) to my hotel A.D. 1 Hotel (it’s a very basic hotel) but is close enough to the sites. By the time I got settled in my hotel the afternoon was getting on so I decided to take a car taxi to U Bein Bridge (the longest teak bridge in the world). In the traffic it took about 30 minutes the cost was 15,000 kyats return, I stayed there for about two and a half hours and the taxi waited. I highly recommend to visit the bridge at sunset, the colours are amazing. I had enough time to walk the length of the bridge, it is filled with locals and monks which make for some great photos, and back to the centre where there is steps down to the bottom of the bridge where everyone gathered with their cameras for the sunset. It is very touristy at each end of the bridge but people don’t harass you to buy. But the local tourists do, I lost count of how many people stopped me to ask to have their photo taken with me!
15 May 2014
I caught a motorbike taxi to the bottom of Mandalay Hill which cost 2,000 kyats, it didn’t look far on the map but the hotel said it would take two hours to walk, after taking the bike I think they were right. I spent a few hours walking around the bottom of the hill looking at the Shwenadaw Monastery, the Paya’s and Pagodas. I walked around the Paya’s no problem but got stung at the Monastery to pay 10,000 kyats for a tourist card, I think just to stand outside at the fence and take photos is enough there isn’t much inside. I had lunch near the steps to the entrance of Mandalay Hill (3,000 kyats). The going rate for a taxi to the top of the Hill is 4,000 kyats or 2,000 kyats for a motorbike. I decided to walk up the 230 m, it is a pleasant walk, which is done barefoot (your feet will be filthy by the end) there is a roof over the walkway with plenty of seating, I took my time but was still drenched in sweat, the view from the top was nice, they charge foreigners 1,000 kyats to take photos but I hid mine in my bag and got away without paying. I caught a motorbike taxi from the top of the Hill back to my Hotel for 3,000 kyats.
In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk around the streets near my hotel it’s hard to walk as every second person stops you to ask if you want a motorbike taxi. One guy stopped me and said what are you doing here there is nothing to see. He was kind of right I couldn’t find any restaurant or place to sit and have a drink, there is only the stalls on the side of the road and the traffic is very heavy. If I’m honest i didn’t enjoy Mandalay very much except for U Bein bridge.
16 May 2014
I caught a share taxi arranged by my hotel to Inle Lake, it cost 24,000 kyats (its extra if you want to sit in the front seat) to leave in the morning this was my only option as the buses only run in the evening. I was picked up at 8am. If you have the time I highly recommend to travel during the day, we drove over the mountains to awesome scenery on a small windy road sometimes dirt, sometimes rocks but mostly paved. Driving down the other side of the mountain was farming land and small villages, many people were out working on their plots of land. We also stopped in a small town for lunch.
We arrived into Nyaung Shwe at 3.30pm. I think Nyaung Shwe is the best place to locate yourself for Inle Lake, staying on the lake itself will be very isolated as we went past them while on the lake and they are just the hotel and nothing else around them. There is a tourist tax of 10,000 kyats to enter the town but my taxi drove straight past and I didn’t have to pay and was never stopped during my time there to show the card. I’m staying at the Sin Yaw Guesthouse, which has large rooms and not far from the jetty with very welcoming staff.
17 May 2014
The guesthouse cooked up a lovely big breakfast, with fruit, toast, omelette and juice. I hired a bike from the guesthouse and explored the town, it’s a great city to bicycle around, there is many restaurants dotted around town, also art galleries, places for massarges, a market and Buddha museum. The jetty to the lake is at one end of town and a road out to the hot springs. I didn’t go to the hot springs it’s about an 11km ride. I rode out along the road it takes you along farming land and small villages, is great for people watching. For the first time on my trip I encountered a down pour, fortunately I was in a restaurant having lunch so didn’t get wet, the heavens opened up for half an hour then the sun came back out and everyone went on their merry way.
In the evening I cycled to Red Mountain winery, it’s about a 25 minute ride out of town, the last 100m up the hill is a killer! It’s a great sunset viewing spot and they also have a restaurant and wine tasting four types of wine for 2, 000 kyat.
Food was a bit more expensive in Nyaung Shwe than other places but there is a lot of restaurants to choose from. For lunch I was having my staple rice or noodles with vegetables for around 2,500 kyats and soft drink is 1,000 kyat a can. For dinner I was trying the local Myanmar or Shan curries with rice and a Myanmar beer (640 ml) the price was around 8,000 kyat.
18 May 2014
Another guest at the guesthouse and I shared a boat for a full day on the lake 9,000 kyat each. I had a great day cruising the lake. The day was spent watching the fisherman, boating through villages on the lake, their houses are on stilts over the lake. We did stop at many shops on the lake but I found them enjoyable as it wasn’t just a shop to buy but we were shown around and watched them work. We watched how they make there local cigars, watching a family make silver jewellery, to a weavers where they make scarves etc out of the silk of the lotus plant, to a blacksmiths where they make everything from knives to tourist trinkets, visited the long neck women and some pogados and a monastery where the monks teach cats tricks. The lake has many waterways running off it and it was great to just cruise through these and watch life go by on the lake. The day started at 7.30 am and we were dropped back at 5.00 pm.
19 May 2014
Today I flew back to Yangon (flight arranged by my guest house), I would have loved to take a bus but due to time constraints, the bus takes 13 hours and only leaves in the evening. The guesthouse also arranged a taxi for me to Heho airport 15,000 kyat, as it is low season there isn’t much option for a share taxi, it was a 45 minute drive to the airport. There is morning and afternoon flights, I chose the morning flight so I could explore some more of Yangon. My flight was scheduled for 9.45am but we were boarded and up in the air by 9.10am.
This time I’m staying at Chan Myaye Guest house which is on Garden Street and seems to be a street filled with guest houses and electronic stores. Today it rained all day, not great for sightseeing but I still walked around the streets, the buildings are big old colonial style in this area and would have been grand back in the day but are now falling apart which I guess also brings some charm to them. I ate at Suzuki for lunch a Thai restaurant not far from the train station it was a nice meal but I made the mistake of asking to use the bathroom, I’m still traumatised.
In the evening like many parts of Asia all street vendors appear and restaurants are set up on the side of the street with the kid sized plastic chairs.
20 May 2014
This morning I flew out of Yangon 😦 There is a lot of souvenir stalls past immigration which I found to be cheaper than bargaining on the street. Great for last minute souveniors or using the rest of your kyat.
The people of Myanmar are very welcoming, hospitable people. Always smiling and waving and saying hello. In tourist areas they have mastered the art of helping you part with your money. They are very persusaive and make you feel guilty for not buying something, especially in Bagan if someone starts a conversion with you, you will most likely be lead to their shop to buy something or they will have a backpack full of treats to buy. In having said that though I was lead to a few great photo opportunities amongst the temples I wouldn’t have discovered by myself and so was happy to buy a small trinket as a thank you.
One thing I’ve noticed with the currency even though the exchange rate is roughly 1 USD = 930 kyat with buying everything it is rounded to 1,000 so if they say $15 you would give 15,000 kyat and not expect any change. Wearing thongs (flip flops) is essential footwear in Myanmar as with visiting every pagoda and temple you must leave your shoes outside and there is a lot of visiting of these and a lot of fast running with burnt feet on the hot bricks or pavements!
Things are changing at a fast rate in Myanmar with plenty of ATM’s about now and I saw the MasterCard symbol in many places. New hotels are being built in most places I visited. I think Myanmar will be a very different place in a few years. It is quite expensive compared to the rest of South East Asia I don’t know if it will get better or worse with more tourism.
But one thing is for sure I really loved Myanmar!
Travelled to Myanmar 11 to 20 May 2014