Like many of Myanmar’s delicious neighbors, the cuisine in this country is a fusion of flavors, ingredients, and dishes that have come together to make this country one of the most coveted among foodies. Those who crave a unique main course may opt for nangyi thoke, while those with a palate craving something different may instead try Myanmar’s famous tea leaf salad, that is chock full of nuts, tea leaves, and shrimp sauce, making for one of the world’s most interesting salads. Dishes can be as cheap as 1,000 kyat depending on where it is visitors dine.
Whether visitors are zipping around the islands of Thailand or motorbiking down the coast of Vietnam, tourists to Southeast Asia are always finding ways in which to hop on a motorbike and explore. While Myanmar has its fair share of motorbikes, the electric bicycles in Bagan are what make this country special. These quiet bikes are not only safer than motorbikes (as they do not go as fast) but they are also better for the environment. This is often the highlight of visitors’ trips to Myanmar, as drivers zip around from stunning temple to pagoda in the ancient city of Bagan. Renting an electric bicycle in Bagan should cost about 3,000-5,000 kyat per day.
Visitors do not need to be avid trekkers to take on the route from Kalaw to Inle Lake on foot. There are many tour companies offering anywhere from one to four-day journeys, allowing visitors to see Myanmar in a way they would be unable to do so by any other form of transportation. Visitors will take to winding trails, where they will come across things like farmers caring for cabbage or children playing caneball. Meander along railroad tracks with sloping, emerald hills on either side, taking in all of the sites as visitors make the less than strenuous trek to Inle Lake. Treks range anywhere from about 30,000-40,000 kyat. Eversmile Trekking is one of the best companies in Kalaw, equipped with friendly, knowledgable, and fun guides who make the trek that much more memorable.
Yangon, though renowned for its delicious street food and cool city vibe, has visitors traveling from around the world to lay eyes on some of the country’s most stunning pagodas. The two most famous of them all are the Sule Pagoda and the Shwedagon Pagoda. The Sule Pagoda, found in the city center, is estimated to be about 2,000 years old. It is certainly a stunning structure, with its golden leaves and shining mirrors reflecting the sunlight during the day and lit up after dark. The Shwedagon Pagoda is stunning as well, if not even more so than its competing religious structure. Expected to be over 2,500 years old, it is considered one of the holiest relics in the entire country. Visitors can spend a few hours meandering its holy grounds, taking photographs, and waiting for the sun to set to get some of the most amazing views of this Buddhist pagoda.
No locals are friendlier than those dwelling in Myanmar. Whether visitors find themselves in Yangon’s city center or in the jungle on the way to Inle Lake from Kalaw, not a single local is unwelcoming of foreign visitors making their way through the country. When visitors look just the slightest bit lost, locals are known to come running in hope of offering a helping hand. Many locals will often approach visitors just in hope of practising their English. No scams, no tricks: just friendly Myanmarese looking to chat.
Southeast Asia is filled with amazing countries and cities, but that does not necessarily mean every traveler will be able to afford to visit every one of these. Those visitors balling on a tight budget will be happy to hear Myanmar is one of the cheapest countries to visit in terms of well, everything. Entire meals can be bought for 600 kyat, transportation is affordable, and accommodation options are certainly not going to break the bank. Those suffering from indulging themselves in neighboring countries and looking to save a buck or two need to head to Myanmar for this reason alone. The souvenirs are also extremely cheap.
Though cycling around the thousands of temples and pagodas of Bagan is certainly a memorable experience, one of the most awe-worthy (yet expensive) ways to view the temples is by hot air balloon. Catch a glimpse of the Bagan Archaeological Zone from one too many meters high in the air in one of these balloons, which apparently began in 1999.
Markets are certainly popular entities in Southeast Asia, and while neighboring countries have Myanmar’s markets beat in terms of size, they cannot compete in terms of the unique finds at these bazaars. A great example of this is the Jade Market found in Mandalay. Locals examine, cut, buy, sell, and trade this unique product, without (normally) a single tourist to be found. There are also a plethora of cool food markets found throughout the country, where visitors can watch (possibly in horror) as fish are sliced and diced right in front of their eyes only to be devoured soon afterwards by another local.
Cycling around the city of Mandalay will certainly be one of the highlights for visitors on their trip to Myanmar. The city is well-known for Mandalay Hill and its monasteries and more, but there is no better way to experience the authentic side of this city than by bicycle. Cycle off the beaten track and visitors may find themselves riding through markets with one too many aromas stifling the air. Make a wrong turn at any intersection and find that the mishaps along the way to your final destination are sometimes more interesting than where you originally intended to go.
Unlike some of Myanmar’s scalding neighbors, the weather in particular areas of the country remains cool, almost too chilly for those who started their journey in countries like Thailand or Cambodia. The best time to visit is from October to March. The country sees little rainfall, is less hot, and in some areas, evenings can even get a bit chilly.
The circle train ride in Yangon will be one of visitors’ most memorable experiences. Without a foreigner in sight, visitors will purchase their tickets at the stunning train station with unique architecture found throughout before hopping on. Equipped with plush seating and metal fans for a slight breeze, visitors will explore the outskirts of the city in a unique way. The train moves at a relatively slow pace, allowing visitors to watch as food markets, rice fields, local homes, and more lull by before disappearing. The train ride takes about three hours in total.
No night bus in Southeast Asia can seemingly compare with those found in Myanmar. Some of the buses traveling from city to city are equipped with a hostess of sorts, who comes around to all of the passengers asking if they need food, drink, and even extra blankets. While overnight forms of transportation are never necessarily enjoyable, visitors will find themselves opting for an overnight bus every chance they get if not just to save on accommodation expenses. Some of the buses are even equipped with televisions in the back of the headrests with an abundance of Western movies to choose from.
The country of Myanmar may not necessarily be known for its stunning, white sand beaches, however, it surely has its fair share of stretches of sand that are worth a visit. Some of the top beaches visitors must try to go to during their time spent in Myanmar include Ngapali Beach, Ngwe Saung Beach, and Chaung Tha Beach.
Many Myanmarese practise Theravada Buddhism, and this is certainly reflected in the number of monasteries found around the country. Some of the most noteworthy ones are found in Mandalay, and visitors will find friendly monks roaming the grounds, many of whom are happy to chat and talk with visitors about everything from their lifestyle as a monk to US President Donald Trump.
Tourism is slowly yet surely developing in Myanmar, so travelers will want to get there, and fast, before the country loses some of its authenticity to prepare for incoming visitors. Already the country can be seen tailoring to its foreign customers and the country is even aiming to have 7.5 million visitors by 2020.