Myanmar (Burma)



I dreamed about visiting Myanmar for a few years. I was looking forward to see wonderful Buddha temples and Myanmar people who don't treat tourists as ATM.


I was walking down the street of Yangon. It was hard to believe that there were 4 million inhabitants in former capitol of Myanmar. People were relaxed and didn't hurry. They often smiled and said Hello to travelers.
Shwedagon Pagoda was founded 2500 years ago. It was situated on a hill and there were 4 gates to get inside. Everybody had to climb barefooted almost one hour. The floor was very slippy and it was better to go very slowly and carefully.
The most important Buddha temple in Myanmar is gold and decorated with gems. There is 78 carats diamond of the top of the highest stupa.
Shwedagon Pagoda was tremendous. I was walking around and watching Buddha stupas, altars and local people praying and meditating. It took a few hours to see the religion complex.
I visited Luna Park in Yangon. I could not believe my eyes to see man's muscle power made a ferris wheel work. The height of the wheel was 10-15 meters. A few young men went to the top of the wheel. They climbed there without any safety protections. They were barefooted or wore flip-flops. At the top they stared to move one direction. The move made the wheel work slowly. When they reached the bottom of the wheel they jumped on the ground. Generally they were as agile as a monkey. Some strong and fit men speeded up ferris wheel. It was also stopped by man hands.
There was a carousel which woman's muscle power make work in Luna Park. Fuel cell generator made only lights work. Unbelievable in XXI century.
You can watch movies from Luna Park:

Famous White House Hotel was my accommodation in Yangon. I paid 12 USD for a bed in dorm. The hotel was nice and clean and breakfasts are delicious.


A bus came to Bagan in very early morning. It was still dark outside. I had breakfast and was looking for accommodation. I was walking down the street and drop in every hotel, hostel and guesthouse. It was full everywhere. I was so tired and asked to make calls to hotels with distance location. I only heard: full. Finally I was lucky and book accommodation for following night. What about that night? It was brilliant idea to go a monastery. Monks were not very happy but allowed me to sleep in the monastery.
Conditions were very simple. I had thin matters on the floor and dirty blanket. There were not hot water in a bathroom. I took cold shower and went to bed.
I rent a bicycle and went to visit temples. They occupied 60 sq. km area. There are ca 2000 bigger or smaller pagodas and stupas in Bagan.
Bagan is the magic site. It is prefect place to pray, meditate or relax. Most of the travelers spend here 2-3 days, but some of them stay here even 2 weeks.

Trek to Inle Lake

Trekking is the best way to explore ordinary life villages of Myanmar. 3-days trek from Kalaw to Inle Like gives the opportunity.
I had impression to move in 4 dimensions. It was like time traveling. I moved to the past - 50-100 years.
We passed villages with very simple houses. There are no electricity or tap water in the houses. People had no modern gadgets but they seemed to be happier then many inhabitants of modern cities.

Inle Lake

I followed common tourist trail by motor boat on Inle lake. First we visit Padaung woman. Originally they live in the villages at the north part of the country, next to Thai border. Some of them came to Inle Lake and make money on tourism. Long neck women were happy to take photos with tourist. It was free but visitors were encouraged to buy souvenirs from local shop.
Next stops were even more commercial. We visited craft workshops. It worked like that: employees showed us the way of making Burmese cigars and offered to buy some boxes for very high prices.
Local market, floating gardens and Shwe Inn Thein Paya were the most interesting sites at the boat trip. The complex of 1054 stupas were was built from XVII -XVIII century.
The most famous attraction of the lake are fishermen. They drive wooden boats with a paddle wrapped around a leg. It is very unique technique of rowing.
I paid 12 USD for single room in Big Drum. It cost 15k Kyats to rent a motor boat for whole day. The capacity of the boat 4-5 people.

Mandalay & surroundings

I was climbing up to Mandalay Hill. I had to take off my sandals at the bottom of the hill and went up very carefully. Stairs were very slippy. I passed many small temples and shops.
There is panoramic view on the city, fort and palace from the top of Manadalay Hill.
Mandalay palace looked very impressive outside. Inside almost all rooms and building are empty. Throne room is decorated with kings' everyday items.
In my opinion Shwenandaw Kyaung is the most impressive temple in the city. It was made of teak wood in XIX century. It's decorated with gorgeous teak-wood reliefs and sculptures.
Amarapura and Inwa used to be capitols of Burma. There is the longest teak bridge (1,2 km) in Amarapura. U Bein Bridge looks lovely at sunrise. Temples and leaning tower are the most interesting sites in Inwa.
I paid 10 USD for single room in Mandalay
One day trip around Mandalay is not cheap. Motorbike and driver cost 15k Kyats. Boat to Inwa 1k Kyats. Inwa is quite big island and it takes to much time to visit it on foot. You can rent a bicycle but the roads are very sandy. It's difficult to go there by bicycle. Horse cart ride is charming and optimal for visiting the island. It cost 15k Kyats for 2-3 people.


Bago is not very touristic site. Local people are very interested in foreigners. They often say hallo and chat with visitors.
There is 55 meters reclining Buddha in Bago, one of the biggest in the world. Large feet of the statue are decorated with 108 religious symbols.

Golden Rock

I was going to Kyaiktiyo Paya, the second most important religious site in Myanmar.
Golden Rock is situated on the edge of a cliff. It seems to roll down the hill in a moment.
Granite rock is gold because pilgrims affix gold leaves on the face of it.
Half-way transport up to the hill - 1,5k Kyats. Full-way: 2,5k Kyats. Down-way transport from the hill - 1500 k Kyats. Entrance fee for foreigners : 6USD + 2 USD camera fee.

Useful Information

  • The prices are changing rapidity in Myanmar. Touristic boom and poor infrastructure made the price double during one year.
  • Accomodation. prices are one of the highest in South-East Asia. I paid from 8 to 15 USD for a bed. In peak season it is difficult to find accommodation. It is good to book it by phone or email a few days early.
  • Night in Monastery.I could not find accommodation in Bagan and spent in monastery one night. Conditions were very simple. I had thin matters on the floor and dirty blanket. There were only cold shower. It was free of charge.
  • May I help you? You can find 'May I help you' banner on police station. One of the travelers could not find accommodation. He was so tired and desperate that went to police station. He wanted to ask for a night in cell. Policemen gave him a coffee and made two phone calls. They arranged accommodation for the tourist in a hotel which supposed to be full. May I help you – it not only propaganda
  • Money. Not only brand new US dollars notes are accepted in Myanmar. You can exchange worn notes but the rate is not good. 100 brand new USD are changed for the best rate.
  • ATM Visa and Mastercard ATMs can be found in very touristic places. In January 2013 I saw two or three in Myanmar. It is still better to have cash.
  • Breakfast is usually included in accommodation price. Eggs, toasts, jam and butter is the most popular breakfast set in Burma's hotels. White House Hotel in Yangon is the exception. They offer huge and delicious buffet breakfast.

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