Myanmar (formerly Burma) bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand, is the destination on every travellers mind right now. The name hints at the exotic, off the beaten path adventures. Everyone who visits comes back saying the same two words “go now!” Myanmar is catching up to the rest of the world at a record pace. If you can, go now, before it changes completely.
1. See The Hot Air Balloons Of Bagan
No visit to Bagan is complete without getting up before dawn to see the sunrise. Seeing the silhouette of the 2,000+ temples as sky changes colour is one of the most magical experiences you could hope for. Just when you think it can’t get any better, a fleet of hot air balloons takes to the sky. You want to be the person in the balloon!
Ballooning with Oriental Ballooning was far and away the most expensive thing we did in our week in Myanmar. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
You arrive in the pitch black with occasional bursts of flame as balloons are prepared for take off. The anticipation builds as the balloons are inflated and before long you hear “all aboard” and its time for take off. Part of the magic of ballooning in Bagan is the number of balloons around you. The flight itself was incredible with phenomenal views over the plains of ancient temples, but for me, having the experience with twenty other balloons drifting across the horizon was the real highlight.
Before long we had passed the temples and were off in the countryside. As we passed villages the locals would race outside to wave in fascination as we passed. We were close enough to see their cattle, herds of goats and the fields of peanuts, chickpeas and rice paddies!
2. Spend A Day On The Waters Of Inle Lake
Leading up to our trip my Pinterest feed was full of photos of fisherman on long boats with their unique fishing baskets and one-legged rowing techniques. I hoped it wasn’t all for show. Thankfully, within a few minutes on the water we spotted the first of many fishermen collecting their daily catch.
The catch is then taken to the local market. Sounds straightforward enough. This market was a little different though. It rotates daily between five locations around the lake. Villagers from the hill tribes of Shan state venture down the mountain every five days to stock up on groceries for the week ahead. It is a time to socialise as well as shop and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in a local teahouse to watch the locals go about their lives.
The villages surrounding Inle Lake are each famous for different handicrafts. We spent our day visiting silversmiths, boat builders and cigar makers over the course of our day. Our guide was from the town famous for weaving lotus fibre and sure enough as our boat pulled into the village his smiling four year old daughter ran out to give her dad a big hug.
3. Stare In Awe At Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
In Yangon you cannot miss the Shwedagon Pagoda. Standing 110 metres tall, covered in gold plates and the top of the stupa is covered with over 4000 diamonds- the largest is 72 carats! You’ll catch glimpses of it as you drive around the city, but nothing beats getting up close.
It is open all day, but for the best experience time your visit for an hour or so before sunset. Then you will get beautiful light to explore the 114 acre complex and have enough time to pick you best spot to see the stupa in all it’s golden glory with the last light of the day. Lamps are lit once the sun has dipped below the horizon transforming the temple into a photographers dream.
4. Grab a Bargain At Bogyoke Aung San Market, Yangon
I’m not normally one for markets. I find them cheesy and selling the same old fridge magnets and postcards. However I LOVED the Bogyoke Aung San Market and wished I’d had more time to properly explore. The front of the market has a beautiful colonial façade and the inside cobblestone streets selling everything from lacquerware, artworks to rows and rows of Burmese jade and gemstones. Just take your time and enjoy getting lost in the maze of shops and stalls.
5. Listen To The Chanting Monks Of Mount Popa
Just an hour drive from Bagan is the mystical Mount Popa. Set high on an extinct volcano is the Popa Taungkalat Monastery famous for being home to 37 Burmese spirits called nats. After climbing the 777 steps to the monastery you are rewarded with a 360-degree view of the surrounding area! For a real treat spend some time at sunset in the nearby Mount Popa Resort. The resort boasts a beautiful terrace overlooking the monastery, where you can hear the monks chanting across the valley, creating a perfect evening!
Have you been to Myanmar? Please share your experience in the comments below! Read Next > The Truth Behind Myanmar’s 6 Travel Rumors