Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia that has been opened recently for tourists. The people of this country were victims of human rights violations during many years when the military dictatorship was installed. After the general elections of 2010, things apparently have changed in Myanmar and the future seems brighter.
Taking into account that Myanmar is new in the world of tourism, it is worth visiting now before it becomes another touristy destination in Southeast Asia. When I visited Myanmar I met the most amazing people. The locals are still authentic, friendly and welcome you to their country. Most of them approach you with good intentions and offer their hospitality.
Traveling around Myanmar was an interesting adventure. Some of the roads are not in the best conditions, so getting to a few places required an ‘extra’ effort. Nonetheless, the buses to the “touristy” destinations of Bagan and Yangon include comfortable seats with AC, TV and snacks.
The landscapes and contrasts that you will see while you travel around this country are still authentic. There are pagodas in every single town representing the strong influence of Buddhism in Myanmar.
The markets show a very special side of this country. They are normally crowded with locals and you can easily interact with them. Vegetables and fruits are fresh and sold for very good prices.
What makes this country special is the people and their culture. Locals are not used to seeing many foreigners. As soon as they see you, they want to approach you or ask for a picture. They try to communicate with you even if you cannot speak the same language. Burmese people are very hospitable and this is why I think that, just as in every country, we should respect the local culture and prevent ourselves from doing things that may affect the locals in a negative way.
You will observe a lot of Buddhist temples everywhere and monks walking day and night giving a special vibe around the country.
Below you will find the places that I visited, my daily budget, visas and some costs and prices. I hope that the following information is useful during your travels:
Dawei is a small town located in the south of Myanmar. This is the place where you will arrive when you pass through the overland crossing from Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I feel really lucky to be one of the few people that really got to experience the hidden beaches in the Dawei Peninsula.
The Dawei peninsula has a group of untouched, white, silver and gold beaches that have nothing to envy other beach destinations in Southeast Asia. They are located on the outskirts of the town and not easily accessible since the road conditions are not the best. Nonetheless, I rented a scooter and went exploring the peninsula during 10 days. Some days I would sleep on the beach and others in the pagodas. The beaches around the area are worth exploring before they start building hotels and resorts.
To read about my Adventures in the Hidden Beaches of Dawei, click here.
For more information, refer to https://myohmyanmar.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/no-need-to-archipelago-try-the-beaches-on-the-dawei-peninsula/ . During my stay in Dawei, I met Stephen Barker, author of this article and the guidebook that travelers use in Dawei Peninsula (very complete and self explanatory, I recommend it).
Accommodation in Dawei is very limited but you can find affordable options. I shared a room at the Dream Emperor Hotel. The room had AC, TV and private bathroom for USD 20. Therefore, 10 per person.
I stayed a couple of days in Yangon, former capital of Myanmar and home to the huge and impressive Shwedagon Pagoda. I was lucky to be there during Full Moon and got to see the different ceremonies that the locals had for this event. The entrance fee to the Shwedagon Pagoda was Kp. 8.000.
There is also a slow train in Yangon decorated with Red Bull banners that goes around the city. The train passes through many neighborhoods and gives you a broader impression of Yangon.
I booked a dorm room in Sleep Inn which is conveniently located, has good WiFi and includes a basic breakfast.
This is one of the most magical places in Southeast Asia. Bagan is an ancient city that hosts thousands of Buddhist temples, shrines and monasteries. Every day (except Sundays) hot air balloons decorate the landscape of Bagan during sunrise.
It is best to wake up before sunrise and ride either a bicycle or an e-bike towards one of the pagodas to enjoy one of the most fantastic sunrises that anyone can experience in Asia. One of the pagodas that offers a great view during sunrise is Bulethi.
Shwesandaw Paya and Pyathaya Paya are good for sunsets but they are also the busiest ones. There are checkpoints in many of the touristy pagodas. They will check if you have a ticket or not, so make sure to carry it with you or you will miss the show.
The entrance fee for Bagan is USD 20 and they charge you when you get by bus to the town. If you drive in with locals, there is a high chance that you don’t have to pay (just like I did).
I shared a double bed room at Innwa Hotel. It was not the cheapest option but it was definitely a good one. The facilities are in good conditions, they have private toilets and the rooms have AC and TV. WiFi is also decent. But the highlight of this hotel is the breakfast buffet, its delicious.
I went trekking for 3 days from a town called Kawal to the famous Inle Lake. During this trek, we had to walk through local villages and enjoy different landscapes that included rice fields, ginger fields and potato crops.
Once you arrive to Inle Lake, you jump on a small boat that takes you through the “floating” houses and around the most famous lake in Myanmar. I was lucky to go on this trek with amazing people which made the hikes even more enjoyable. It was a really good trek for a great price (USD 16 per day) which included the guide, 3 meals and accommodation.
I booked the trek through Ever Smile in Kawal. They transport your luggage to Inle Lake so you do not have to carry it or worry about it during the trek. Even though I am not a fan of tours with guides, this one is necessary and very helpful.
In Inle Lake, I shared a 3 bed room at Lady Princess which has a really cozy atmosphere. The staff is very friendly and the facilities are in good conditions.
In Kawal, I shared a double bed room in Pine Land Inn. The facilities are good enough for one night or two and breakfast is included.
Myanmar is still new in tourism so there are not many budget accommodation and transportation options. During my time, I spent an average of USD 20 per day. This included meals, transportation, accommodation and the trek from Kawal to Inle Lake.
Visa: Most of the nationalities are granted a 28 day visa to visit Myanmar. If you are not applying online, one of the best places to get it is in Bangkok (it takes 1-3 days to be granted). Prices range between 800-1350 Thai Baht (USD22-40).