A lot of people ask me about what places or activities to include on a trip to Myanmar.
I know, everyone is different and has other preferences. That’s why I made a personal top 5 of my favourite activities.
The way I experience places doesn’t only depend on the place itself because there are a lot of factors like weather, people, … that can make or break your holiday. So this blog post is totally subjective, just to give you an idea of what might be fun to do in Myanmar.
Number 5: Schwedagon pagoda in Yangon.
Sleeping in Yangon
After a twelve-hour bus ride we finally arrived in our last destination: rainy Yangon. Super happy to take a shower in our hotel room, cosy up and get a good night rest. Except that little gecko that lived in our hotel room thought otherwise. He wasn’t too happy with us sharing his crib, so he screamed all night long. We tried to catch him several times, but he was so clever to hide behind the airco system. I heard his screaming loud and clear even with earplugs in. Also I was afraid that he would crawl into my mouth when I would finally fall asleep. So you can imagine my mood the next morning: not that happy. Btw: this is a serious understatement.
That day we were planning to discover Yangon. It rained all day so we couldn’t go for much sightseeing. We took the circle line train and enjoyed the views from the window.
It was late afternoon when we arrived at the Schwedagon pagoda. It hadn’t stopped raining for a moment and we were tired, wet and moody.
When we entered the domain this immense golden pagoda overwhelmed us. It was just mesmerising! We walked around the pagoda and took place in a little shrine with a beautiful view over all that gold. We became quiet. I think we sat there for at least an hour because we were so impressed. All our stress disappeared in just one moment.
It became dark and the lighting made the whole environment even more magical. It was simply divine to stay for a while to just relax, admire the pagoda and observe the Buddhist rituals.
All de-stressed we came back to the hotel. And surprise surprise: we were offered a new room. This time without a roommate! What a visit to the pagoda can do…
Number 4: E-bike ride through Bagan
Ever since I know we would be traveling in Myanmar I wanted to visit Bagan. It was my number one destination on paper. I had seen all the beautiful pictures of the orange sunrises and sunsets with the hot air balloons and I wanted to take a picture just like that.
Sunrise in Bagan
We stayed in a hotel a little outside town and decided to rent an e-bike there to go see a fantastic sunrise. We woke up at 4 AM , took the e-bike and looked for a good spot to watch the sunrise and shoot some beautiful pictures. It was very dark and off course we got lost on the way searching for the pagoda.
A very helpful local showed us the way to a pagoda where we could get the best view over Bagan, according to him. It was a little pagoda and we were fine with it because we didn’t have to share our spot with another 50 tourists. By the way this helpful local scammed us afterward. Read the whole story in ‘Is Myanmar a safe country for traveling.?
We travelled Myanmar in July. That means in the middle of rain season. So we were not that lucky to catch a gorgeous, orange sunrise or breath-taking sunset. We decided to go back to the hotel for breakfast. I remember being very disappointed. When we drove back on our e-bike there was already daylight and we could finally see the surroundings. At that moment I don’t know if it was the tiredness or the disappointment but Bagan didn’t feel as magical as I had expected. Also the battery of our e-bike died on the way to the hotel. So we had to walk all the way back.
That afternoon we decided to give Bagan another chance with the e-bike and I am so glad we did that. We had great weather and drove through the ancient pagodas, stopped to visit and climb a few of them and had a refreshing drink in a beautiful garden at the water. It turned out to be a fantastic day and I started to like Bagan.
A day trip to Mount Popa
Another fun experience is a half-day trip to mount Popa. This mountain is actually an old volcano. Now it is a famous pilgrimage site with a temple on top a temple. To reach the temple you have to climb the steep stairs barefoot, because it is a sacred place. The disadvantage is that you literally walk through monkey shit. On top of that you have to watch out not to get jumped by those little bastards. The temple itself is not that spectacular, but the view is breath taking.
Number 3: Boat trip on Inle Lake
If you want to discover Inle lake, go for a boat trip. You can arrange a boat trip via the most hotels or you can go to the harbour of Nyaung Shwe and arrange one yourself. The advantage here is that you can discuss which places you want to visit and do not have to follow the prepared route.
The best time to take a boat is just before sunrise to see the fishermen work their magic when the sun comes up. Again it was raining so hard, so we had to wait till 10 AM to start our boat trip. Don’t forget to take a sweater, raincoat and umbrella if it’s rain season. It can be really cold and wet.
When you do the fixed tour, you will see the fishermen carry out their special technique. They peddle with their leg to be able to fish with their hands. It is so special and both fascinating to see them balancing on one leg in a tiny boat. If I had to do it, my boat would definitely flip over.
You will sail between the floating gardens and be amazed how these are constructed. In between you will visit a lot of workshops where you can see how local products are being made , such as the silk weaving workshop, the silversmith workshop and the cigar workshop. Off course in every off these shops you can buy a lovely souvenir like my boyfriend, who bought my engagement ring there without me knowing. But the good thing is that you are not being pressured to buy anything.
On top of this you can also bring a visit to the Kayan women, better known as the long neck ladies. These women are originally for the Kayah state in Myanmar but fled to the Thai border area during the military regime. A few of them still live on Inle lake. But I think this is more a tourist trap to take a few pictures in exchange for a little gift.
You will also visit the Hpaung Daw U pagoda and the jumping cat monastery. The days that these cats did tricks such as jumping hoops are over, but the monks in this monastery take great care of these cats. And I think this is a very good initiative.
You MUST ask you boat driver at the start of the boat trip to take you to Indein. You have to pay a little bit extra because it’s further, but I promise you will not regret this! Arriving there you have to pay a little Photo fee. (I am sorry that I haven’t mentioned this before but at a lot of tourist attractions you have to pay a little amount of money to be able to take pictures).
You have to walk through a long gallery with different stalls where you can buy the most beautiful souvenirs. So don’t spend all your money in the workshops you will visit earlier. At the end of the gallery, believe me, you will be blown away by what you see. It is a village with a variety of ancient pagodas. This place is too crazy for words. It left me speechless! and It honestly impressed me more than Bagan.
Extra: If you want more inside on how these people live on the lake, don’t forget to visit Maing Thauk. Walk across this long wooden bridge and take a canoe to discover the life on the lake. This little extra trip is totally worth it.
Number 2: Explore Mandalay and surroundings
Actually this activity is sort of a tie with the boat trip on Inle Lake. But I placed Mandalay a bit higher because of the magical atmosphere. I can’t explain why exactly, it is just a feeling.
Mandalay is the cultural and religious centre of Myanmar. It has more than 700 pagodas in and around the city.
First explore the centre of Mandaly. Climb the many stairs of Mandalay hill in the late afternoon and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Many students and monks are happy to lead you around here in exchange for a short conversation to practise their English. This atmosphere of friendly smiles and words and genuine interest in other people made me so happy. I think that this is the moment when I fell in love with Mandalay and the inhabitants. Now I regret only staying there for 2 days.
When the sun goes down, take a motorbike taxi and head back to town. Enjoy the of some fantastic street barbeque at ‘Shan Ma Ma’. This is honestly the best traditional Myanmar food I have ever eaten on this journey.
We didn’t really have the time to explore the city of Mandalay further. The hotel advised us to take a taxi to explore the surroundings of Mandalay and we didn’t regret this for a moment. The places we visited were all stunning.
We started off with a couple of workshops such as a leaf gold-, woodcarve- and weaving workshop.
Afterwards we stopped at the Mahagandayon monastery to see the student monks’ lunch. It’s quite an experience to see the monks line up with their rice pots to get supper. Honestly at that time there were so many tourist that I felt a little ashamed to take pictures. If I were in their place I would not feel comfortable when eating. They didn’t seem to mind, but I felt a little guilty.
The next stops where some of the most colourful and beautiful pagodas I have ever seen. First there was the The U min thonze pagoda. It was just mesmerising with its entire Buddha collection.
Then there was a gorgeous bright colored pagoda on top of Sagiang.
Last but not least we were blown away by the Pathodawgyi. It was so impressive.
To end the day we visited the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world: the amazing U bein brigde. Here we also weren’t lucky to enjoy a beautiful sunset. Instead it started pouring rain, which also produced magical images.
We had a short but really great stay in Mandalay. There is so much more to discover here.
Number 1: trekking kalaw –Inle Lake
Myanmar is known for its gorgeous nature. Off course we wanted to explore that so we decided to do a trekking. There are many possibilities for hiking, but we chose the trail from Kalaw to Inle Lake.
This is apparently one of the most popular and beautiful hikes. We booked a guide with Uncle Sam because it had great references in the lonely planet. There are many tourist in Kalaw who want to do the same route. So I was a little afraid that the group would be very big. But Uncle Sam stands for quality and not quantity. We all got divided in little groups of maximum 4 persons with a guide. We hit the road with another Belgian couple and our fantastic guide Tin Tun.
The hike itself was amazing even though we had to take an alternative route because of the rain. We passed alongside rice terraces, fields, rocks, and jungle. There is so much variety in the landscape.
We ate and slept with local families and had the chance to experience the real Myanmar country life.
For me it was an experience I am never going to forget. I loved the diversification of hiking an incredible area and interacting with local people. There is a saying that the people of Myanmar are the most friendly of Asia and on this trail I must say I really felt the love!
I hope I gave you guys some insights in a couple of great activities in Myanmar. Off course there is so much more discover. I can’t wait to go back and explore the areas I haven’t seen yet.
Watch our short compilation video about our adventures in Myanmar right here.
If you have any questions, additions or just want to share your experiences, please leave a comment below.
Pin it for later
[custom-related-posts title=”Related Posts”]