Myanmar is one of the most interesting countries I have visited so far. I didn’t really know what to expect before I went there. The border has only been open for tourists for about 8 years and I hadn’t met any people who had been there yet. With a lot of curiosity I arrived in Yangon and after only a few hours in this city, I was blown away. There is so much untouched culture in this city, but it is also vibrant and alive with travelers. You can have the most pure local food for a few dollars, but also splurge on trendy vegan food. I also visited Bagan, Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake while I was in Myanmar. This is my top 7 things to do in Myanmar and I will warn you, there are many, many more!
Number 1 – Schwedagon Pagoda
One of the main attractions of Yangon is the Schwedagon Pagoda; which is definitely worth the visit. It has a beautiful and incredibly large main pagoda (it’s 98 meters high!!). You can walk all around it and see the dozens of smaller pagodas, temples and statues. The entrance fee is 10.000 Kyats, which is around $7 USD. I spend the whole day there, wandering around and watching the locals.
Number 2 – Street Food
Yangon is one of the best places to try the street food of Myanmar. I visited a small local restaurant which I cannot remember the name of, but there are many options out there. A famous street to eat on is 19th street, as well as the night market on Strand Street. Try the fresh fried Samosas, or the unofficial national dish called Mohinga. There is something for everyone’s taste.
Number 3 – Bagan and The Burmese Pagan Kingdom
After Yangon I traveled up to Bagan, which is in the Mandalay Region. It is one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited. I spend 3 days there and I still didn’t want to leave.. Rent an electric scooter and wander around the countless Pagodas that scatter the surroundings. Watch the sunrise from one of the little hills and see the hot air balloons drift over the foggy landscape that is Bagan. This was truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my whole journey. If you find the right spot, you will be all alone watching the sunrise. Ask your hotel or a friendly local to point out the good spots! (Food tip: there is a great pizza place in Bagan as well, called La Pizza, and for amazing local food definitely visit The Moon).
Number 4 – Mandalay Temple Tour
When I got to Mandalay, I was a little lost. The city is definitely not as fun and vibrant as Yangon, and I struggled to figure out where to go. Normally I walk everywhere but because Mandalay is a very spread out city, I decided to gather some people and ask a taxi driver to show us around for the day. If you’re good at haggling then this can be quite cheap. We visited multiple temples, but the highlight was definitely the U-bein bridge at sunset. If you walk half way along the bridge, you can go down to a little restaurant. Sit down, drink a fresh coconut and enjoy the beautiful scenery! (Food tip: for a delicious local taste, visit Marie Min. One of the best curries I’ve ever had!)
Number 5 – Trekking From Kalaw to Inle Lake
This was truly one of the best experiences in Myanmar. I did the 2 day trek, which was about 40 km. We started early in the morning, and the first day we walked about 23 km. It was super hot so make sure you bring a lot of water. It was a truly unique experience because we got to visit the Pa’O tribe as they were having a celebration for the teachers in their town. Everybody was dressed up in traditional and very colorful clothing, and they were selling local food in little stands. We also visited the chilli fields, where they grow and dry the red chillies. We stopped half way through and had an amazing lunch. Just before dark we arrived in our homestay where we had some more food, played with the local kids and fell asleep super quickly. On day 2 we walked another 17km. It is a harder path than the first day, with a little bit of downward climbing involved. Nothing too intense by the way. I was totally not in shape and I did it. It is also an amazing way to get to know the local culture by talking to your guide. I literally spend the whole two days asking him questions about religion, love, freedom and the government. It is a great experience. Be warned, there is no hot water or real toilet in your homestay so you’re probably not gonna feel clean for two days straight. But who cares, right? It’s definitely worth it.
Number 6 – Winery In Inle Lake
The Winery in Inle Lake is definitely a must-visit! They have a large assortment of wines, and the most beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding area. Just sit back, enjoy the sun and get a little tipsy! God know you deserve it after that 2 day trek!
Number 7 – Inle Lake
Explore the village that is literally built in the water, and watch the fishermen put on a show with their nets. Definitely visit during the sunrise/sunset times, as it is extremely hot and you don’t want to sit in the sun with the sun beaming on you. Another great thing about Inle Lake is the amazing restaurants they have, from a bit more expensive Western food (again, amazing pizza at Asiatico Pub) to cheap local food (must visit: Bamboo Hut and Dosa King). Another fun thing to do is rent a bike and cruise around the area for a day.
These were my top 7 things to do in Myanmar, but you will find that this list can be endless when you visit. I visited Myanmar in January of 2018, which I am stating because I know how there is some speculation about if it’s safe to visit Myanmar. I felt very safe visiting this country. I think that if you stick to the tourist route (which is a loop from Yangon to Bagan, Bagan to Mandalay, Mandalay to Kalaw, and Kalaw to Inle Lake) it is just as safe as any other Asian country.