Day 1 in Myanmar
What a long day?
I left the US late in the afternoon on Thursday aboard a 13 hour flight to Beijing. Once in Beijing, I had to raise through the airport to my connecting flight to Bangkok that was luckily delayed by half hour otherwise I might have missed my flight. It turned out the flight ended up being delayed another 2 hours. This put me into Bangkok at 2:00 am. I then had to take a taxi from the main airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, to Don Meung for my 7:00 am flight to Yangon.
I arrived in Yangon around 10 where I got my visa on arrival. It went fairly smoothly. Upon exiting baggage, I was greeted by someone from Motherland 2, who would take me along with 10-15 others to hotel.
After checking-in, I grabbed breakfast, which was bread and bananas. At breakfast, I met a nice American girl, Rose, from the Poconos. We decided to tour Yangon together starting at noon after a 2 hour nap. At 12 noon, we set out to tour Yangon. We stopped at Sule Pagoda for 15 minutes before heading towards center of town. In particular, Rose wanted to check out a market with a bunch of shops. During our journey, we were constantly fighting the lack of sleep. At some point, we stopped for a couple of dollar beers (Nice). We then took a taxi to center of city to visit another pagoda and to walk around the Indian quarter on the way to the market. Yangon looks beat up and as Rose says, “jungle rot” We eventually made it to the market around 3:00. We saw a bunch of random shops, but we decided to buy stuff at a later date. We then decided to grab a drink at the “sky bar,” which is on top of one of the Sakura Tower. We grab a little lunch (pizza) and enjoy the amazing view of the lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda. Our original plan was to visit those two locations after this break and then head back to hotel to shower before going out for dinner. Unfortunately, the sky started to open up and started pouring rain to point where you couldn’t even see the Shwedagon Pagoda. With a quick look at Lonely Planet, we saw the Pagoda was open until 10:00 pm. With Rose having extra day in Yangon and me coming back to Yangon in a couple days, we decided that we leave the pagoda for another day. We decided to go back to hotel before grabbing dinner.
Rose and I got back showered and then met up. We both quickly determined that we were exhausted and it was time for bed. No dinner just sleep!
Day 2 in Myanmar
I had a taxi pick,me up at 5:30 am for my 7:00 flight to Yangon. It only cost 7,000 kyat or 7 dollars for the journey. With no traffic on road, we made it to airport in 30 minutes. The airline, Air Mandalay /KBW (code share), was very nice and felt reliable. In a little over an hour, we arrived in Bagan. you could just barely see the stupas as we approached. From the airport, I got a taxi to the Amazing Bagan Resort. It was a 5 star hotel that was great except that you had bit of journey to get to the stupas. It is a great hotel if you are in Bagan for multiple days, but I think there are better options if there only for a a day. I had option to ride a bike for free or rent a car for 4 hours for about 15-20 dollars. I had dreamed of riding bike even if it would be only for a day. I am so glad that I made that choice. It was an amazing experience, but it was exhausting being on bike for over 7 hours
As I rode to the first site, I had a smile from ear to ear. It was incredible feeling. I hit the first pagoda and meandered my way down to old bagan. The people were so friendly as they would smile and wave at you as you passed them. One of my favorite experiences was at a pagoda that was simply listed as number on the map – 2101. I rode my bike to it where four Burmese people were waiting outside and couple tourists were inside. It was small stupa, but you could go up the steps to the roof where you had a view over old bagan. It was INCREDIBLE.
I rode further down the road to where some other stupas caught my attention. It was here that I had a girl work me hard for my kyat – “2 for 5 or 1 for 3.” In the end, I got a little box for 2500 kyat (2.5 dollars). The afternoon was filled with me riding to all of these different stupas that were simply breath taking. While some of the stupas were amazing, it was the sheer number of them that was the most amazing. Once I got to the sunset/sunrise temple, I needed to get to the biggest temple. To get there, I took the shortcut requiring me to ride through a field and back roads to get there. From there, I headed east to another large temple in the center of Bagan. This temple was dividing line for most tourists in their travels around Bagan. With most people staying in old/new Bagan or Nyuang u, they did not want to have a long ride home. Once I cross this halfway point, the people just started to disappear. I went to one last major sunset point and practically had temple to myself. This Japanese girl and I kept seeing each other in our journey to the last half dozen temples. I finally made all the way east to the paved road. It took me another hour on paved roads and a missed turn before I was back between 4-5. I was exhausted to say the least.
However, I only had 30 min to freshen up before I needed to leave for sunset point. It would cost me 8000 kyat for taxi to take me there, wait, and then take me back. Sunset point was crowded. It is quite the thing to see. Unfortunately with clouds in the sky, there was not much of a sunset. Since I didn’t want to pay for anymore taxis, I decided to have dinner at hotel. I followed dinner with a swim in the pool and a good night sleep.
Day 3 in Myanmar
With my flight not leaving until 9, I still wanted more Bagan. I headed to the sunset/sunrise spot again to be disappointed in clouds ruining a beautiful sunrise. After sunrise, we headed to the one group of temples that I missed between old and new bagan. The coolest thing was actually seeing the monks line up for breakfast at one of the temples. We quickly raced to several temples before heading to hotel and then on to airport.
The Air Mandalay flight made a quick stop in Mandalay before arriving at the Inle lake airport (Heho). I luckily found a Portugese teacher that would split the 25000kyat cab ride since the airport is nearly 50 km from the lake. He was very nice and like most backpackers was traveling around SE Asia for a while.
Taxi dropped me off at the Viewpoint lodge, which was very nice. I quickly dropped off all my stuff and asked the concierge what should I do on this half day. She suggested bike ride to spa and then onto kiang you where you then take a boat across the lake and then bike back on the other side with stop at the winery. This sounded like a perfect plan. I got on bike and just started heading west and then south. Ultimately, I made it to the spa. The water was very hot to say the least. After taking a dip and planning to head further south to boat launch, I met a British couple, who were doing the same trip as I was. They had a flat tire and were waiting for a replacement. We exchanged travel stories and were soon on our way together. As we waited to cross the lake, the rain decided to come down in buckets for 10-15 minutes. This town was amazing with the house on stilts and all of the long boats. We put all three bikes in the boat and were off. I was speechless on my first real glimpse of the lake from the floating gardens to the fishermen.
We arrived on other side around 4:45 and were determined to get to the winery before it closed. After about 30 minutes, we finally arrived to winery that was up on the hillside. We got a lovely wine tasting for 2000 kyat and then headed back to center of town around 6:15. We split off from each other, but it was great sharing the experience with them.
For dinner, I ordered a couple of dishes including chicken in a curry sauce. It was pretty good. I then booked a tour the following day including trip to Indein, temple area by the lake.
Day 4 in Myanmar
I woke up early with goal of being on the lake by 6:30. Once you are on the river, you need to go about 2 to 3 miles before the lake opens up. The lake is about 13 miles long.
We first arrive at a silver smith and stop around the floating market. I expected the floating market to be composed of many different ships close together, but it is on land. Many of the booths were still being set-up, but I did see lots of booths containing both souvenirs and produce.
After seeing the floating gardens, we continued up this stream to Indein. The journey was amazing as we zipped up the river. There were even make shift bamboo dams to slow down the pace of the water.
I loved Indein. It arrived me a lot of the jungle temple in Angkor waht. There were a number of temples that were cracked and had plants growing out of them. It was awesome. I also was one of the first people there. As I walked around the temple, I saw this overlook on top of the mountain. I knew that I had to get up there. I luckily found the small little trail that took me to the top. The view from the top was amazing. I raced back down the hill arriving at 9:45.
From here, we went to see the silk weaving. They not only weave with cotton and silk, but also lotus. Lotus costs seven times that of silk. It was here that I ran into my Portuguese friend again. I ended up buying a scarf to support the local community.
The next stop was to the blacksmith. One person would hold the piece of metal while three people would whack the heck out of it.
Afterwards we traveled from east to western portion of lake through the floating gardens, it was pretty amazing. We eventually got to the jumping cat monastery where a monk had before he died taught cats to jump through hoops. We had one final stop to see the long neck women that wear multiple hoops. It was interesting, but I felt dirty as they were mainly there to get people into the store. They weren’t native to the area.
I now went straight back and headed to airport for 14000 kyat. While my flight left at 4:00, I head to go via both Mandalay and Bagan taking 3 hours. While I won’t go into long story, I thought that I had lost my passport, but luckily I had just left it at airport and was able to get it back.
Upon getting to hotel around 9:00, I headed straight for the golden pagoda and wasn’t going to let the rain stop me. I made it in time and was able to see it. It was quite impressive. It was now time to head to Bangkok
Dollars need to be PERFECT! Little rips, stains, pen marks, and/or creases are all enough to make them not take a bill.
There are increasingly more ATMs, but there are not a ton of them. I tried to use one in Yangon and Internet collection was to slow. I ultimately did find one that would work
2 days in Bagan is ideal
2 days in Inle lake is also ideal
Yangon can largely be missed excluding the pagoda
Renting a bike in bagan is a must. Getting electric bike is the best option, especially if biking multiple days