Kind of messy wires on the streets of Yangon
Myanmar is such a great country to be at. The people of a country are always most important to me and over here, they are so sweet! Doesn't it give you the biggest smile when I tell you the bus driver didn't want us to pay, because we were visitors of his country? And that's only the start...
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a country where many traditions are still good visible oa the streets. First of all: not only most of the woman wear traditional skirts, also man do. Above these skirts you'll see a not so white smile: many people chew on the betel nut. It's kind of for us the chewing gum. They chew on it and spew it out and their mouth becomes totally red. Not really wanting to have a red mouth but curious as always, I had a go: it was very bitter and I was happy to spew it out again ;) Another tradition is the white 'paintings' you'll see on many woman's faces. This is called Thanakha. It is originally to protect your face against the sun but these days they mostly use it to make themselves more beautiful. At the first hotel we stayed at, a lady was busy creating the paste and I asked if she could put some on my face. She was happy to do so!
Just like every country, Myanmar has some more touristic places and some less discovered. Myanmar might also be known
for it's (civil) wars. This is more in the northern and western area and when I was there you have to apply for passes to get
in there, in case you want to. So don't be afraid, it's very unlikely you'll wake up in war. For the rest, Myanmar is very safe,
you'll feel there is almost no criminality. And you can see it in these pictures:
So, the touristic places are more north of Yangon, where you'll probably fly on. Bagan is a place many people go to (and should), just like Mandalay and Hsipaw. But my favorite part was definitely the towns south of Yangon. We haven't gone further than Mawlamyine. It was our plan to do so, take a train and head to Thailand but people told it wasn't a real good idea: there wasn't much beautiful to see, the train would take ages and was expensive. So we went back to Yangon and took a plain out what wasn't too expensive at all.
In many countries it is almost just as cheap to travel by yourself as with others. You book a cheap hostel and stay in the room with a few others. When I was here in 2016, there weren't as many hostels yet. And if you found one, usually on bigger city's, they weren't as cheap as you know from other Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. In Bagan, where you can find hundreds of beautiful old temples, there where some hostels. I was traveling with a friend and we shared a room of a hotel where we got an amazing breakfast and great swimming pool included. This was around $17 per person. Over here we met a couple and their friend was staying in a hostel, in a shared room with exactly the same price! I bet I can guess which one you'll prefer for that $17 ;)
Myanmar is a country that is getting more and more popular and accommodation will get fully booked pretty quick. I don't like to book days/weeks ahead, but I can advise you not to wait until the last day.
"We sat in a train for 12 hours long that drive about 30 kilometers per hour...
On a wooden bench and I can tell you, we didn't have much sleep"
Let's say, it's old school ;) The busses are in general pretty good. Not the cheapest but pretty comfortable. Not when the road is totally open though and you drive for like 30 minutes on loose rocks. But I think they solve most of that by now, 3 years later. In the trains you'll have a choice of 3 levels. We thought it would be fun to take the lowest class from Pyay (2) to Bagan. This was a 12 hour train drive (30 kilometers per hour) on a wooden bench and I can tell you, we hadn't much sleep ;) Also, sometimes our luggage felt down from the shelves because of bumps. Let's say, once and never again. I would advise you to go from Yangon to Bagan by bus, no stops in between and no train.
But, I don't say 'never take the train'. It's a special way of traveling and you'll meet many locals and see how they live. Also, there are many beautiful train rides. Think about where you want to go and check on google what rides are best. Also private rooms with bathroom and all are available, not only wooden benches! ;)
This was, besides the public transport, really a downside. I am not that fuzzy with food and like to taste something different but it wasn't that tasteful to me (us). It can be spicy, it can be tasteless and to me it all had this weird aftertaste. They eat in a fun way though: all little dishes and you can find it everywhere, in restaurants just as on the streets.
And now the tips and tricks about the towns and city's I've visit. Have a look at the map
down below to get a good overview!
This is one of the biggest city's of Myanmar and used to be their capital. There is a really nice street market
in the evening in/around 19th street. Try here, but also everywhere you find them, the street food!
It's so much fun :D
Bagan is famous for her beautiful temples. It has got over 2000 temples to visit and there are big ones and
small ones. I can also say: touristic ones and undiscovered ones. We liked to visit the small ones and found
our own to watch the sunrise. At sunrise, you'll see the lucky bastards that booked for a hot balloon trip.
It's amazing to see, but another and heaps cheaper option is to have a look from high above from the
Nan Myint Tower. You'll have a 360-degree view and to see the sun going down from here is just magical.
In Bagan is the hotel I wrote about before: the one with that amazing all-including breakfast and swimming pool. Its name is Kaday Aung Hotel and has a very good value for your money.
Many times I look on Tripadvisor to see where it's good to eat. One of the most popular places was the restaurant “Be Kind To Animals The Moon”. It's nice here, but kind of popular and with many white people. You will see a restaurant with almost the same name and same food, signs with they are better than their neighbors. I liked it more, I had more the feeling I was supporting locals than a already busy and good money making restaurant, it is way more personal, the owners were very friendly, food is delicious especially the crackers with guacamole!! Hopefully they will still have it ;)
I wasn't that impressed by this city, To me, you can skip it when you don't have so much time. It's big and I didn't find it that beautiful. But IF you go, don't miss out on the U Bein bridge for sunset, pretty busy and a lot of monks.
I didn't go but I wish I would have. You can do a trekking to tribal villages and I think it is a very unique experience. A friend recommended me "Mr Charles hostel" and to eat at "Mrs Popcorn Restaurant". So you know ;)
Inle lake (6)
Even though you'll hear the name 'Inle Lake' the whole time, you won't really stay in Inle Lake but in a town around it. The most popular one is Nyaing Shwe. We stayed in the hotel Aung Mingelar, rooms are nice, friendly people and it's not so expensive.
As the name of the town assumes, there is a lake ;) Book a boat (yes it is really that easy) and go around. If you're really lucky you arrive when there is one of the most important festivals of Myanmar going on: Phaung Daw Oo Festival. Many many boats pass by and man paddle with their legs! Crazy to see and special to experience.
Kalaw is an old hill station in the mountains, knows for the beautiful trekkings. Get that fresh air in you! I could really recommend you to go to the Thitaw Lay House. It's a little out of center but a nice walk to get there but also the taxi is a good and cheap option. It has beautiful wooden houses, amazing breakfast and a friendly (forner) helpful owner.
Hpa An (8)
This place was my favorite!! Not so touristic, and nature around is just STUNNING.
Go to Galaxy Motel. It is super cheap, you'll get a simple breakfast and room but the
owners are so welcoming and so it's all definately worth it. Don't forget to check out
the sunset on their rooftop!
The Motel will give you a map and there is so much to see, plan 2 days for it, it's worth it.
You NEED to go to Saddar Cave and DO NOT forget your headlight. It is a huge long cave,
smelly and a lot of bats. My friend made the joke what would happen when the lights
would stop working. Guess what happened ;) At the end (yes, there will be an end) is a
beautiful little lake and guys in boats will wait for you to bring you to the beginning of the
cave. We were a little late and in the boat by sunset, and I've never been that happy to be
'late' somewhere. So we had the boat ride by sunset and it is probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen in
life. Around you it is stunning and so peaceful. Go for it!
Also, do yourself a favor and go to "Kaw Ka Taung": is an amazing natural pool with some cheap and nice restaurants
around it. Swim with cloth on just like the locals and enjoy the coolness and nature around it. You can definitely spend
some hours around here. And last but not least (forgive me, I am a girl) there is a MARKET! Just in the center,
every day. It's big chaotic and a lot of people who will stare at you, but again, lovely and welcoming and it's nice
to go for a wander.
This an old city from the colonial time, I would not say it is a city you can't miss, but it is not to bad :)
You should go to the ROOFTOP of the Myo Ma River View Restaurant around sunset, their food is nice and the view amazing. When I was there, the service definitely wasn't the best. They where slow and their English was really bad. But it gave me the feeling I am really in a outside place and I liked that about it.
And then there is this “crappy restaurant”. You know, a place you would never walk in because the tables are dirty and they don't have anything like a menu. In this place, the bar is a wall and there are some plastic chairs and tables on the street, but the food is good and cheap. There was a big sign with “smoothies 1 dollar” (don't really remember the price but it was super cheap) so we go for it and eat something good and super cheap. People who work there are super kind and ask if you can go to the toilet and you will see a Myanmar house from inside. So how to find this place. Walk north on the Strand Street, heading the markets (street next to the river). I think this "crappy restaurant" is around 20 meters before the restaurant Ponngyi Restaurant (don't go there, not a nice place). I'm already excited to know if anyone who read this found it? ;)
Well, that was it. My Myanmar experience. This all took me about 3 weeks which is to me perfect for this country.