There is so much to say about this amazing country and so many stories from our travels here. None of it would have been possible though without tips and tricks from previous travelers (thank you JB, AB, and FB!) who had made there way to Myanmar before us. To help those who will be traveling after us, we wanted to post our itinerary and thoughts on traveling through Myanmar. Enjoy and happy travels!
- Day One – Arrival in Yangon — Checked into Hotel Esta. We flew in from Singapore and did not arrive in Yangon until about 6pm so we spent the first night just resting.
- Days Two and Three – Toured around Yangon
- Shwedagon Pagoda
- Botataung Pagoda
- Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda
- Bogyoke market
- Evening Myanmar Cultural Show and Buffet Dinner
- Day Four – Flight from Yangon to Bagan – Checked into Hotel Zfreeti.
- Days Five and Six– tour around Bagan
- Bagan Old City and as many temples as we could see!
- Grasshopper Adventure Bike Tour
- Balloons Over Bagan Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Day Seven – Flight from Bagan to Inle Lake
- Day Eight – Tour around Inle Lake
- Floating Market
- Cheroot Factory
- Umbrella and Paper Factory
- Red Mountain Estates Vineyards & Winery
- Day Nine – Inle Lake to Yangon – directly connected to International Flight out of Myanmar.
We would recommend using a local travel agent to book all of your flights for you (see contacts section below). It’s the same price for the flights and you pay only a small fee to the agent for their work. The benefit is that if you need to make any changes to your flights, the travel agent will be easier to get a hold of and communicate with than the airlines. The airlines for local flights in Myanmar don’t have online flight management systems and are closed on weekends, so it was not an easy process when we tried to do the one or two changes we wanted. That said, if you’re booking last minute or don’t want to use the agent for whatever reason, the online booking process is actually quite easy for Golden Myanmar Airlines and KBZ Airlines. Both were great airlines – they had good seats, were on time, and even served food on our 1 hour flights!
Our travel agent also set up all of our airport transfers, boat rides, and most of our accommodations. On the one hand, we found it a relief. It saved us from having to look for taxis, negotiate pricing, and most importantly, explain directions for where we were headed. On the other hand, taxis in Myanmar are not expensive at all so perhaps it may have been cheaper to do this ourselves.
Taxis: When taking a taxi around Yangon, expect to negotiate a bit, but the prices are generally around $1-$2 to get around the city. The biggest challenge though is that most drivers don’t speak English well so it’s useful to have the name and address of where you’re going to already written down for them to see.
We loved all four hotels that we stayed at!
Hotel Esta was basic, but clean and comfortable with good breakfast and friendly staff. Our only drawback with this hotel was that it was a little too far to comfortably walk into “downtown”, but it was never more than a $1-$2 taxi drive anyway. Hotels in Yangon are fairly pricey for what they are so be prepared to pay a little more than you would expect compared to the rest of SE Asia. Cost: Approx. $80-$100/night.
Hotel Zfreeti was incredible. Our room was clean and the rooftop buffet breakfast was great. The best part about this hotel is the location. It is right off of the main road leading to Bagan old town so it’s easy to jump onto a bike or moto. The road behind the hotel is “restaurant lane” so you can easily walk for food and drinks. Tip: Rent a ‘moto’ from the bike vendor across the street for three hours just to see the sunset. It should be around $2 per bike. Cost: Approx. $60/night.
Glam and Glitz: There is a small deck and pool on the property (with extremely cold water!) which is amazing to jump into after spending the morning wandering through temples in the heat. Laze about on the beanbags and either enjoy the sun beating down or shelter yourself with an umbrella, and order a drink from the bar. You’ll instantly be transported to any luxury resort!
Paramount Inle Resort is a unique hotel set up on stilts in the middle of the lake. It was definitely an amazing experience to spend one night out on the water and we would highly recommend it! Cost: Approx. $80-100/night.
Glam and Glitz: Tip: Sit on your balcony to watch the sunset as the boats glide by – it’s beautiful!
Golden Dream Hotel is in Nyaung Shwe which is the small town where you board the boat to go out onto Inle Lake. We chose to spend one night here because we had an early flight the next morning and didn’t want to take the extra one hour boat ride. Cost: Approx. $30/night.
Glam and Glitz: This hotel was small and basic, but the staff were SO friendly and helpful that it felt like a 5 star hotel! We would definitely stay here again.
We visited Shwedagon Pagoda, Botataung Pagoda, and Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda. All three were great, but obviously if you only have time for one you have to go to Shwedagon Pagoda. Give yourself time to walk around the entire place and even sit for a moment to people watch. Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda has a giant reclining buddha and Botataung Pagoda is known for it’s interior zig zag formation that creates little corners where people can sit and pray. Botataung Pagoda is a little out of the way and we would only say to do it if you have the extra time.
On one of the nights, we went to see the Myanmar Cultural Show and Buffet Dinner at Karaweik Palace (Cost: Approx. $32/person). Some may call this a little touristy, but we thought it was well worth it. The buffet was good,the performances were all professional. and the dances were entertaining. Plus, when you leave the show, you can get an incredible view with the reflection of the Shwedagon Pagoda in the lake outside of the palace. You can reserve your seat online or ask your travel agent to do this.
The Bogyoke market in Yangon is amazing. Definitely go and spend time wandering through all of the stalls. Start the day off with coffee and a pastry at Bar Boon Coffee Shop to give yourself energy and then for lunch eat at the stalls around the market.
For sunset we visited Vista Bar for drinks. It was a nice place with a good vibe. We don’t think it is worth it to watch sunset, but definitely go later in the evening for a drink. It’s a little hard to get to, so make sure you have the address on hand for the taxi. We also heard that the Library Bar is pretty good, but never made it there.
Places to Eat:
- Bar Boon Cafe – right beside Bogyoke market
- Nilar Biryani – in the Indian quarter near downtown (Walking distance)
- Shangri-La hotel tea bar — this was a great place to chill and relax for an afternoon. Wi-Fi is complimentary with a purchase.
We used Grasshopper Adventures tour for an “off the beaten path” bike tour of the Bagan temples (Cost: Approx. $33/person). The tour starts off early morning with a visit to a local market where you get to try some local foods. Then it winds through dirt rounds to see temples that most tourists don’t make it to, as well as the big three that are on everyone’s list (the Ananda, the Gawdawpalin, and the Dhammayangyi). The tour ends off around lunchtime at a tea shop where we had local snacks and drinks. We enjoyed the tour and the guide was incredible. Although, If you are good with a map and comfortable on a bike by yourself, we’d also recommend renting your own bikes and visiting the temples yourself so that you can go as quick or as slow as you’d like.
On our sixth day we did the hot air balloon ride with Balloons over Bagan. The experience was definitely one of a kind and something we will never forget BUT it is very pricey for a hot air balloon ride and if you choose not to do it, we think that you can get just as amazing views of the sunrise front the top of one of the temples!
The best thing to do in Bagan is to rent your own motorbike and head off to different temples to watch the sunrise and then the sunset. There are about 4000 temples, so you could spend days doing this! They are all completely different and the fun is sometimes in just getting to and finding your very own temple. Our favorite was the sunset we saw from South Guni Temple. At the end we were the only people left and we had to use our phone as a flashlight to crawl down the steps and make our way out to the front. It was an adventure! Our biggest tip is to make sure you stay for at least 1/2 hour after sunset. That’s when the crowds leave and the sky really becomes the most beautiful. Motorbikes should cost around $7 for the day or we were able to find a place across from the Zfreeti Hotel that rented them to us for $2 for 3 hours around sunset.
If you don’t have time to explore, here is our list of our favorite temples:
1. Ananda Temple is known as “the most beautiful”. It is one of the busy ones, but definitely worth a visit. The highlight of this temple for us was one of the four Buddha statues that turned a smile into a frown as you walked closer to it. It was pretty incredible to see! Do you know how they do this? (Hint: It’s all about physics…).
2. Shwesandaw Pagoda is known as “the sunset temple”. We were initially trying to avoid it as everyone said that it is just too crowded. Luckily we changed our mind and decided to take a chance on it. We figured that there has to be a reason why this temple earned that name! The views from this temple are unbelievable and if you don’t mind sharing, this is a great spot to watch the sunset. Here’s some tips to avoid the majority of the crowd: 1. Arrive early to find your ‘spot’, 2. Don’t go all the way to the top! The view is actually the best from the level one or two below, 3. Stay for at least 1/2 hour after sunset (the tour groups will be gone by then and you will be amazed by the colors in the sky!).
3. North and South Guni. These are relatively quiet temples and not on the major tourist trail, but we loved them both. We visited North Guni during the day and loved exploring our way to the top. South Guni was where we watched the sunset from on our first night and although it came with some adventure, it was a great experience!
Our travel agent booked a tour of the lake for us. We were booked for a full day tour, but only went to see the floating market, the cheroot factory (cigar shop), and the lantern and paper factory. There is a lot more to see and do around the lake but we only wanted to do a half day tour and spend the rest of the time on the patio of the hotel! You can customize this with your boat guide/tour guide however you’d like.
After arriving in Nyaung Shwe we decided to check out the Red Mountain Estates Vineyard & Winery for sunset. This is highly recommended!! Arrive around 5/5:30pm and grab a table at the back to watch the sunset. The view is incredible! Tastings are approximately $2 for 4 tastings. The best wines, but some are pretty decent, and you can’t beat the setting.
Seven Star Tours. Contact Ne Win at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can help you with bookings and itinerary planning.
As we mentioned above, using a travel agent will make booking your travel planning in Myanmar a lot easier. A big advantage to booking with Seven Star Tours was that Ne Win was able to book the hot air balloon tour for cheaper than the advertised price.
Grasshopper Adventures: – http://grasshopperadventures.com/tours.php?country=Myanmar+-+Bagan
Balloons Over Bagan: – http://www.easternsafaris.com/balloonsoverbagan_home.html
Karaweik Palace Cultural Show: – http://karaweikpalace.com