Exploring Myanmar aka Burma was one of the highlights of my trip around South East Asia. My Dad spent about a year working in Myanmar and made sure we made a trip there to experience the relatively undiscovered country. There is a bit of controversy surrounding the name since it was changed from Burma to Myanmar. The United States refers to the country as Burma and does not recognize the name change. There is a lot of history and politics surrounding the name change, but today I will focus on a Myanmar Travel Guide.
Tourism in Burma has not really existed until the last five years. Due to the government instability, tourists were not really welcome. Luckily, the country is reforming their government and things are changing rapidly. The borders are now open and the country is making it easier to visit.
Our trip to Myanmar initiated in Bangkok, since this is the easiest and fastest way to get a visa. But this has recently changed and now it is possible to do an E-Visa or a Visa on Arrival. I highly recommend this since it avoids wasting a day at the embassy.
We flew from Bangkok to Mandalay since my Dad wanted to visit somewhere new. Mandalay was pretty interesting, but it certainly isn’t the highlight of Myanamar. At least not in my opinion or other travelers I have spoken with. The city is quite quaint and there isn’t much to do in the city besides visiting the palace. Outside of the town there are a few attractions that will require a private guide.
The palace is absolutely massive and luckily we had free bikes at our hotel to bike there. The city is not really ideal for walking, so if you want to visit the palace I recommend taking a taxi or bike. It would literally take you hours to walk around the entire thing.
There is only one entrance for tourists and about 95 percent of the palace walls are not accessible to tourists. This is for people who live here, but most of the palace is full of houses and residents.
Overall Mandalay was a bit of a let down since we did chose coming here over going to see Bagan. I wouldn’t recommend spending more than a few days here or keep your plans open to see if you really enjoy it.
Inle Lake is a must see in Myanmar! Imagine a lake with a sustainable floating gardens and community living solely off of the water. Inle Lake has a nice and relaxing feel in the surrounding towns and once you are on a boat cruising along the lake you will understand the appeal.
Experiencing Inle Lake and Myanmar in general is pretty hard since the public transport options are not always available.
We had a great tour guide Sandy who helped us out with everything and invited us to dinner at her home where she fixed us an amazing feast! We got to experience factories and a festival on long boats (cigar, umbrella, lotus, etc).
Also, we visited some pagodas surrounding the lake. We were lucky enough to witness a local boating festival on the lake, the timing was great and each village gathers on a boat and paddles together on the lake!
The history of Myanmar has a lot of influence from China and India. The cuisine is no different and the majority of restaurants seemed to be Indian, Burmese, or Chinese.
After an amazing time in Inle Lake we flew off to Yangon. This is the biggest city in Burma and former capital (which has a controversial political backstory). Yangon is bustling city with some amazing sights to see. No trip to Yangon is complete without a trip to the Shwedagon Pagoda. This place is absolutely stunning and one of the most impressive pagodas in all of South East Asia! The day of the week you were born is important in Buddhist culture, the temple has different statues for every day of the week and you will see people putting water on Buddha for good luck.
If you want to experience a bit of the club nightlife in Myanmar then Yangon is one of the only places for that. There are some clubs throughout the city, but I recommend starting at Vista Rooftop bar before heading out for the night! Overall the Burmese people were extremely hospitable and it was amazing to experience and learn about their fascinating culture.
Myanmar Travel Tips
Changing money is interesting in Myanmar: They will only accept fresh crisp $100 bills (Dollars, Euros, etc) with no marks or rips, ATMs are almost non-existent.
SIM cards used to be really hard and expensive to obtain, like it was almost impossible and would cost insane amounts of money. Luckily, this is changing rapidly and the process is becoming a lot more simplified.
Guides: I think booking a tour or guide is worthwhile in Myanmar due to the lack of public transportation. It makes things pretty hard and there is not a ton of information readily available for tourists.
Hotels: The majority of accommodation is extremely overpriced due to the fact that hotels are limited and there is sort of a monopoly on the industry. This should ease up over the years when more foreign competition enters the market