Myanmar guide 2019 – our journey to this spectacular country in January. We had 3 weeks between visiting Myanmar and Cambodia, we allocated 8 days to Myanmar. If we could decide again we would for sure spend a lot more time in Burma, as it really did win us over. That is why after the cramped and fast paced guide we have written how we would done the journey if we could re do it – the Ultimate Myanmar guide. 😊 The first tip is go to Myanmar ASAP. We learned that it has seen a drop of turisem recently so it’s a great time to go.
- Mynmar is a very safe country! People are extremely friendly even if they don’t speak English and are most welcoming and open we have seen.
- Paying with Burmese Kyat-MMK is the way to go. You can pay also in USD but you will spend more money because of conversion and less negotiating power. Any tear, pen mark on dollar bills will mean they will not accepted it (they also don’t accept coins). ATMs are widely available and dispense up to 170€ worth of Kyat.
- Buy local SIM on your arrival from MPT. Their 4G service is good from our experience.
- Traveling with night buses is the best way to save you time. Distances between the cities are quite long so traveling during the night will often save you 10 hours of daylight. You can buy bus tickets at every accommodation with provided pickup from it. Alternatively for a few cents less buy tickets directly at the station but no pick up is provided. Keep in mind that different bus companies pic up passengers from different locations.
- Maps.me is a much more reliable app than google maps in Myanmar and Asia in general.
8 Day See it All Guide – no rest 😀
Yangon – 1 night
Welcome to the ex-capital of Burma
Most travellers will arrive to Burma by an airplane in the ex-capital of Yangon aka Rangon. If you are in north region of Thailand, you can also enter in to Myanmar via land and first visit the stunning Hpa-an region.
After immigration (don’t forget to get a Visa online – 50usd) we got a taxi to our accommodation for 10.000 MMK. As we arrived in Yangon in mid-afternoon there was not too much daylight left. The drive from the airport to downtown takes about 1 hour or more. As we had good location of our hostel, we spend the evening strolling around the streets towards Pagoda Sule, Maha Bandoola Park. The street around Pansodan street and 39th street were very charming with some Havana/socialism vibe that we really liked.
Shwedagon pagoda and Chinatown
The next morning, we got up early and went to Shwedagon Pagoda. We were there before it officially opens at 6am but you can freely enter it as many locals spend the night in it. After making a few circles around it and waiting for the sunrise we headed to Bogyoke Aung San Market. There you can get a great brew of coffee on the 1st floor of the market as well as a great art picture shop. Next stop is the vibrant Chinatown located between 17th and 19th street . It’s also a place for good view of sunset if you stay another day in Yangon. From Chinatown head down to the river. You can cross the barriers of main road at this location.
If you are like us at this point you will have to get to the bus station that is 1 hour outside of downtown for 14.00 bus to Hpa-an. As the bus takes 6 hours that was the end of our time in Rangon. We were pleasantly surprised by it and we can say that it was the first Asian capital that we liked.
EAT: 999 Shan Noodle shop and Rangoon Tea House.
SLEEP: 501 Merchant B&B, nice colonial hostel with basic breakfast, shared showers and AC (it’s needed).
Hpa-an – 2 nights
Hpa-an was the least touristly invaded stop on our journey. As far as we think that is beacouse you have to head south to reach it insted of north for the rest of attractions. We chose Hpa-an over Hsipaw and we were not disappointed. The landscape is fantastic and reminded us a little bit of Vietnam. As we arrived late in the evening, we had dinner and went to bed.
Temples, caves and limestones in Hpa-An
After renting a scooter in the morning it’s time to head to Kyaut Ka Latt Pagoda. It is located on a narrow rock in the middle of a pond and as a bonus the ride to it is very senic. Next stop is Sadan Cave wich is a nice break from the heat. The cave it self is amazing but the best thing about it is the little lake at the end. Insted of walking back, take the boat through a cave tunnel and rice filed towards the entrance.
We had a plan that after Sadan cave we will also visit Kaw Ka Thaung temple but between the scenic rides, and a bit late morning start we were running late for our sunset plan. Oh and not to mention Anabelle crashing us of the scooter inside of 10 minutes of taking over the driving when coming from Sadan cave. That’s why we headed straight back to Hpa-an to the boat crossing point over Thanlyin river for a hike on Hpa-Pu hill.
Hpa-Pu hill sunset
The Jetty is not marked on google maps but it’s located here. You can use maps.me app as it has marked the jetty and the correct location of your assent point to Hpa-Pu hill. Turn left when you get in to the village from the boat and then go around the hill to a concrete stairs that look like they lead to some houses to get up. The climb takes 20-30 minutes, but it includes climbing some wobbly bamboo ladders – pretty steap. 🙂 When you reach the top the view is absolutely spectacular especially for sunset. Mind that the last boat goes back at 18.00 and you need 50 minutes to get back so you might have an adventure of it like we did. 😊 … Read more here.
Sunrise on Mount Zwegabin
Mount Zwegabin is the mountain that you have drive around the day before to and from Sadan cave. We recommend going up for sunrise because the mist makes the morning magical or at least early in the morning due to the heat. Point in your navigation towards Zwegabin junction and turn of just before it to reach the start point of the hike. You will see a Budha “forest” and you can park at the end of it.
The path is mostly illuminated with street lights ans stairs or rural path with no light so have a head lamp with you. It took us less than 2 hours to reach the top with injuretis from the scooter crash so any one can do it in that time. For the best sunrise views stop just before the top and find a vantage point. After the sun is up, go to the top and the other side of the Pagoda. Other side of the Pagoda has just as great view as the sunrise side.
In the afternoon we were taking some time off by the pool – Hpa-an lodge. Afterwards we got off the main streets around Mount Zwegabin. It’s a nice area to get lost as there is always some hidden view available.
SLEEP: Galaxy motel
Inle Lake – 1 night
From Hpa-an there is 1 local bus (not VIP) that goes to Inle Lake. It takes 14 hours to reach and the seats don’t recline much. The bus departs at around 20.00 but it gets full so reserve it a day ahead. Bus stops at Kalaw so you can or should get of there for the 2-3 days trek to Inle Lake. It’s good to book accommodation ahead as you may be lucky and be able to check in early before you start the day. Entrance fee for Inle lake region is 15.000MKK. Mornings in Shan state are cold around 10 ºC so have some warm clothes before the sun comes out, especially for the bus ride.. it was freezing.
Budget accommodation and good restaurants can be found in Nyaungshwe which is a few km from the lake. Only from luxury on lake hotels you will have the view of the lake as it’s otherwise mostly inaccessible.
Cycling around Inle Lake
Most people decide to rent a bicycle and go to Maing Thouk Bridge. From there you can get across the lake or go back the same way. We highly recommend going across the river, the boat ride is very nice, and the other side of the river is so much nicer to bike back to town!! Renting a scooter is also possible if you don’t like 24 km of cycling… The main sights on the cycling tour are around the Maing Thouk bridge. On the other side of the river the best sights are in the last few kilometres before the Nyaungshwe.
Sunset at Maing Thouk Bridge
We wanted to be at the brother of Mandalys U-bein bridge for sunset and are so happy we made it. We came back to the village just 20 minutes before the sunset so we rented a scooter and rushed the 12km to the Bridge which we caught just in time. The tourist hunting locals and tourists disperse by that time so you have the bridge mostly empty to enjoy.
Boat trip on Inle lake
Book the trip the day before. We booked with Inle boy which is located on the canal across from Sweet inn where we stayed. Most tours are designed to take you to the shops to get commission and more money out of you. We negotiated to go on the south tour, so we left the lake and went further south were we didn’t see a single tourist. We payed 40.000 for this private tour but it was worth it. Do note that the boat driver doesn’t speak English so insist that the woman at the shop prepares the list of stops on your way in order to not get ripped off by shop stops and lose time. From our last stop we needed 1.5 hour to get back, so it was already dark when we got back.
From the shops we liked textile, cigare and boat tour. Part of the south tour was also clay shop which is a must. From other stops you must go to floating market (if it’s happening that day), Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda. Floating village is very nice but in South tour villages are even better. Also stop at Taung Tho Pagoda were you will be alone. If you are like us you will come back at 19.00 and only have time for quick dinner before the bus to Bagan. 🙂
SLEEP: Sweet inn is located on the canal bank with great breakfast view of passing boats. For 18.000 found on booking with breakfast the cheapest accommodation on the trip. We got a free early morning check inn which was nice after 14 hours on a bus . 🙂
EAT: Paw Paw Cafe & Restaurant – the best curry in SE Asia!!! Sin Yaw Restaurant – a bit more expensive than regular (still cheap) but great food and service. Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant – great Indian food.
Bagan – 1 night
The bus from Inle lake for Bagan will drop you off at Nyaung U. The road is bumpy and has plenty of curves. At 4am you will arrive to the station from where you can stay in Nyanung U or find accommodation in New Bagan which is aht we did. Be prepared for the taxi mob and quite a long negotiation to get to New Bagan for 12.000. Entrance to the region will cost you 25.000.
The only way of getting around temples in Bagan is on e-scooters that are sold everywhere. You could also rent them on the main road at 4am (Bagan – Chauk Rd). We booked the hotel online as we knew that they have 24/7 reception and rent e-scooter so we could go straight in pursuit of a sunrise and also for the possibility of early check-in and some chilling by the pool.
Currently all big temples are closed to visitors so you can’t climb them. There are many reasons that the locals will give you for that. We hope that you will be lucky, and they will reopen fully after the renovation. But all is not lost. There are still 5 small temples that are open to watch sunrise and sunset.
The locals have made it their business to give you access to the currently open temples so you can always pay them to take you to a temple (don’t worry they will found you). Keep in mind that these will be full of people – so come early.. There is no excaping the crowds. The first morning will be hard to locate the temple as you need to get off main road to access smaller temples. The balloons that make the famous picture of Bagan usually take of round Nan Myint Tower Bagan. Wher ever you end up it’s going to be a cold morning but really really a beautiful sight. When the sunrise magic stops it’s best to get some breakfast and a bit of sleep befoure lunch.
After lunch we suggest to get back on the scooter and explore and research the area. We drove for 3-4 hours searching for sunset and sunrise points. The range on the e-scooter is about 50km. But since these are Chines scooters and we were two on one scooter, so after 35km the e-scooter went in to limp home mode and only went up to 20km/h. We luckily switched the scooter with a friend and barely made it back to the hotel.
The next day it’s time for another sunset and sunrise until is time to go on a bus to Mandalay. We chose too relax in betwin in the hotel pool but it was rateher cold as the nights are not warm.
Which Bagan temples are open – 2019
At the time of our visit this temples were open for public:
- 21.176708, 94.873114 open for sunrise
- 21.16147, 94.867761
- 21.150101, 94.86139 sunset
- 21.158819, 94.876733 sunset
Also use maps.me as it has quite a good feedback from others.
EAT: San Thi Dar – restaurant in Old Bagan. The best Tea leaf salad we had and very cheap. The family is very nice and open for tourists. Shwe Ou Food in New Bagan is the second option.
SLEEP: Areindmar Hotel – the most expensive accommodation on the trip at 67.000. We book it because of the stated reasons above. But we were very happy to get some rest time there by the pool from the busy schedule.
As our schedule was very busy, we decided to go on the evening bus at 20.00 and got in to Mandalay around midnight. If you have more time you can easily add another night in Bagan and make your way onwards in the morning. As we didn’t, we booked a hotel online took a shower and went to bed.
Mya Thein Tan & Min Kun Pagoda
After breakfast we went on a 2-hour scooter ride to Mya Thein Tan Pagoda. You can cross it on a ferry but being time limited and U Bein bridge being on the way we don’t recomend it. Not to mention that the ride is an adventure on its own. So after 2 hours you will first get to Min Kun Pagoda. You will have to pay the entrance fee for the area which is 5.000. We stopped for lunch before moving on at Garden Cafe which has a nice view on river.
On the contrast to Min Kun the Mya Thein Tan pagoda is snow white and has a wavy shaped arcade- it’s very amazing. After you got your photography be mindful of time in order to get to the U Bain bridge back in time. Stop also at the Lions Of Stone and Saggaing Hill if you have enough time.
U Bein bridge
It takes around 70 minutes to get to the bridge from the temples. For sunset there will be a lot of people. Some decide to be on a boat for sunset. We were very late and went a few hundred meters on the bridge to the restaurant in the middle of the lake for the view. We found that it was a great location as there was also a sunflower field there and actually there was so many boats that the last ones didn’t have a clear view.
Start the last day at the Kutodo pagoda which is the pagoda with the biggest book in the world. The book is displayed page by page in stupas. Unfortunately you can’t go inside of stupas corridors but only stay in the main corridor.
After Kutodo drive to the nearby Manadaly hill for some nice views of the city and a colourful pagoda at the top. 🙂
If you have some time left like we did go to Zay Cho Market. The market is very vibrant so we drove 3 times throe it. 😊
We headed to Bangkok from Mandalay airport but if you have enough time and want to save some money a cheaper flight can be found from Yangon airport.
EAT: The Garden Café great location on the river bank with great BBQ food. Located next to Min Kun pagoda so outside of Mandalay itself.
SLEEP: Hotel Boss-Mandalay is a bit out of strict city centre. But they rent scooter and for 22.000 provide quite a modern room with free breakfast.
The ultimate Myanmar guide
As promised the following is the Ultimate Myanmar guide. The previous itinerary is in do it all style which means cramp everything in a little time as possible. That is why this guide is perfect if you have enough time for this truly breathakin and actually our favourite country.
- Days 1&2 – Yangoon
- Day 3 – Kyaikto (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda)
- Days 4&5 – Hpa-an
- Days 6&7 – Kalaw to Inle lake hike
- Day 8&9 – Inle Lake
- Days 10&11 – Bagan
- Day 12 – Mandalay
- Day 13 – Pyin Oo Lwin
- Days 14-16 – Hsipaw (hiking & train ride)
- Day 17 – Travel to Ngapali beach (fly or bus)
- Days 18-21 – Ngapali (every one said that it’s the best beach in SE Asia)
- Day 22 – Travel out via Yangoon
You can also fly to the far north – Puta-O to hike the foothills of Himalaias. From Ngapali beach you can also go to mini Bagan in Mrak U.
Hope this guide was helpful and if you have any questions pleas feel free to ask in comment section 🙂