Myanmar: Travel between Culture and Traditions

The adventure begins to Myanmar, a country almost isolated from the rest of the world. It is charming, mystical, full of ideas and surprises where time stands still! After a good day of walking we decided to return to Khao San to take a shower, hire the taxi to the airport for the next day, dine and try to get some sleep. All agencies of Khao San offer a shuttle service to the airport. Our flight to Yangon takes off at 07:15 so they are to pick us up at 04:00 in the morning! In short, these are our holidays! We make a stop in Chinatown to eat and visit the area.

Day 1 - Yangon

At 03:30 the alarm goes off. We check out at the hotel and go out to wait for transportation. 20 minutes later, and seeing that the mini-bus does not appear, we decided to call the agency with which we hired the service. Nobody answers the phone. A taxi driver asks us what problem we have and when we tell him what happened with us he explains that this type of transport is offered by a wholesaler.

He asks us for the phone and calls them. After 5 minutes of discussion he puts us in a taxi. Incredible, it seems that he is more serious than those of the agency that have sold it to us. Thanks to the taxi driver who called and the vertigo speed of the taxi driver that takes us to the airport we arrived at time to the airport!

The queue to leave the baggage is eternal. So I use my best smile and I get one of the stewardesses to leave our bags. Against all odds at 06:15 we are already inside the airport! This airport has free WIFI. We just have to go to one of the information counters and ask for the password to be able to use it.

The flight to Yangon is fast and at 08:00 we land at our destination. In the terminal we wait for both the people of the hotel and those of the tours with whom we have contracted the flight the next day to Bagan.

The issue of internal flights in Burma is very strange. It is not possible to buy flights over the internet. So we send an email to the travel agency, request price and schedule, and send them our passport number. We buy the next day's flight to Bagan. We go in the rainy season so there is usually availability. So there are effectively no problems in buying the rest of the flights.

Our hotel in Yangon is one of those recommended by the LP. They offer a free pick-up service at the hotel, and the pick-up truck is so strange that the trip itself to the hotel is a first adventure. The hotel fully matches the description of the guide. The staff is pleasant and diligent. After arriving while we manage the rooms they prepare a breakfast.

As we are only going to be in this city one day we decided to make the most of it. We changed in the hotel since the exchange offices of the airport were closed when we arrived, and we left quickly. The hotel is somewhat far from the center but the price of taxis is very cheap.

We start the day at the Sule Pagoda as the LP proposes, we continue with the proposed walk and get lost in the nearby streets. We pass through the port until we reach the Bogyoke market where we intend to exchange the rest of the money. The people around the market are supposed to have a good exchange rate. The truth is that we have heard so many scams that we directly approach one of the two exchange offices in the market where the change is reasonable.

The restaurants in Yangon are not abundant (not to say they are scarce). The normal thing is to buy food in the street stalls, where the food is very rich and cheap. After the early morning and the walk we feel like sitting at a table and taking a very cold Myanmar beer. So next to the market we found a small restaurant with internet and everything! The place is beautiful and the food is very good, although somewhat expensive compared to the rest of Burma.

After lunch we decided to walk to the hotel to take a shower and visit the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset. The pagoda at sunset and at night is especially beautiful, large and majestic, conveying a special peace. Only the bright neons that adorn any temple or pagoda in Asia can break it.

After the visit we considered where to spend the rest of the afternoon. In Yangon (actually in all of Burma) the streets are not lit and there are no places to sit and relax either. In the area of ​​the Shwedagon we do not find anything worth mentioning. So we stopped for a taxi and we go to the area of ​​the Sule Pagoda where we came across the night market. It is no wonder but Yangon does not offer a wide variety of leisure activities either.

We return to the hotel and booked with them a taxi to the airport the next day. The flight takes off at 06:15, but at the hotel they tell us that it is enough to leave at 04:30.

Day 2 - Bagan

At 04:00 the alarm clock sounds. The people of the hotel prepare breakfast for us and at 4:15 the taxi is already waiting. We share it with another Belgian couple who have the same flight. Yangon airport is very interesting. When we check in they put a sticker and manually pick up our bags. A kid takes them rolling and we go to the international zone which is nothing more than a door with a security arch. I forgot to take off my belt and pass with the bag full of coins.

At 05:45 we embark punctually but at 06:15 we disembark for technical problems. Against all odds, only 40 minutes later we return to embark and take off. The flights in Burma are punctual and the staff is very efficient. The attention during the flight is exquisite with refreshments, breakfast, wipes, smile of the hostesses!

At 08:30 we arrived in Bagan. After going around and around to see which of the three areas we are going to stay in (Old Bagan, New Bagan or Nyaung) we opted for New Bagan. We go to the Hotel recommended by LP that despite being in New Bagan overlooks the temples.

The day before we called from Yangon to confirm the reservation and ask for the price of transportation from the airport. The journey has a fixed price and it does not matter if you hire it directly at the airport or at the hotel as it does not vary. So we booked it with the hotel.

The hotel does not disappoint. It is a small resort with spacious bungalows with pool and jacuzzi and overlook the pagodas. After checking we decided to rent some bikes and go hunting and capture pagodas. We ask at the hotel for a map of the area and ask for the best ones. All this information appears on the LP but in the plan they offer they summarize it in a single sheet. Without a doubt it is much more practical and manageable.

Personally the bike tour seems to me one of the best options since it allows us to discover for ourselves the pagodas. It is very fun and pedaling along the roads with the views is amazing! I looked like a tourist and did not even ask the price until we realized that is their means of transport. The horses are not there for tourists but for locals.

The day is gray and threatens rain but thanks to this it is possible to pedal, I cannot imagine the heat with the sun at its peak. The hotel is relatively close to the temples located in the Myinkaba area. So we started with Abeyadana (beautiful with 550 paintings inside), Manuha, Nan Paya. In short all those who have pointed out to us the guys at the hotel and match those highlighted by the LP.

It is rainy season and therefore low season (there are hardly any tourists). So the sellers of paintings and other souvenirs assault us in each temple. The good thing is that they are not pushy and a smile and a thanks are enough. In addition, this personalized attention on the part of the sellers has its good part.

Many of them are in turn responsible for the maintenance of the pagodas. They tell us the history of it, or they show us the corner from which to take the best photos or small details that for us would go unnoticed. They also have the keys to climb to the top of the temple where the views over the plain are breathtaking. Wherever we look there are pagodas!

There are many vendors and we have cool water. It's so hot that the water we carry turns into soup in a few minutes. After this area, we continue to old Bagan where are the city walls and the entrance of Tharabar. In addition there are the most beautiful pagodas like Ananda, Gawdawpalin, and Thatbyinnyu.

Back at the hotel we approach the pier where is the Bupaya, a golden stupa but with a restoration so poorly made that it looks like a shabby monolith. At 3:00 pm we cannot take it anymore, as we are hungry and exhausted. So we go back to New Bagan. We eat at a very good and cheap beach bar and when we get up to go to rest at the hotel we find that the streets are full of people. There is music and a parade with some giants and bigheads that are made with cardboard.

It is the festival of the Lawkananda Pagoda, the most important in New Bagan and one of the most revered in the area. They tell us that the next day we should get closer to the pagoda area, as there are rowing races and offerings for the temple.

Before returning to the hotel we asked at the agencies of the town for the tickets to Mandalay. At the hotel in the morning we decided to close it with them and rest a while. It is very hot and the pool calls us. Sure enough there is no flight to Mandalay but we are informed that one of the buses (the one at 08:30) takes only 5 hours and so we bought it.

After relaxing hour and a half later we are already replenished and as new, we want to see the sunset over the pagodas. So we take our bikes and go to the pagoda recommended by the hotel, the Dhamma and zka pagoda. From the hotel it takes about 40 minutes by bike and sunset is at 18:30. So we leave at 05:30. The pagoda is beautiful. We climbed to the top barefoot and the view is impressive. The site transmits a special feeling.

The sunset lasts about 30 minutes and at 07:30 it is totally dark. When arriving at the town we verified that the internet does not work in any of the cyber, which is a task because we cannot organize the rest of the trip. We return to dinner at the hotel as the restaurant has a lot of charm and the prices are very good. I think we have been awake for 20 hours, and rightly we are exhausted!

Day 3 - Mandalay

At 06:00 sounds the alarm clock. I prefer to take advantage of the cool hours and enjoy the view with this light. We decided to visit the most distant temples also with the bikes. Today it's time to visit the temples of the northern plain and the central plain that are on the way to Nyaung U.

They are impressive on the outside but many of them inside are full of those neons. Halfway we remember the Lawkananda festival and we asked what time it ends. They tell us that it is at 12. It is 09:00 and if we want to see it we have to turn around and go back to New Bagan.

The kilometers are worth it. The road to the temple is crowded with people wearing their best clothes and full face Thanaka. There is a wheel worth seeing, with 5 people moving it, manual horses also, merrymaking and screaming. People are happy and the joy is contagious. As I mentioned we decided to go to Nyaung U to continue the visit where we left it.

The bus arrives punctually and is decent. In addition they leave us the back seats where I try to sleep. The 190km journey theoretically takes 5 hours, but seeing the roads that we are going through, I find it hard to believe. Against all odds before 6 o'clock we are in the Mandalay bus station which in itself should be considered an LP point of interest. It is a dusty crossroads with Burmese-style buses and trucks parked here and there. There are people and more people shouting, laughing, chickens, dogs and in short everything is a show.

We agreed with a taxi driver the trip to the lodge and half an hour later we arrived at the hotel. As we have advanced one day the arrival there are no rooms and we stayed in the bamboo house. The soul falls to our feet when we enter that cabin! It is very hot. There is noise and the shower works badly.

After leaving the bags we asked for the flight to Heho. We booked it, as well as the flight from Heho to Yangon. Tickets can only be purchased from Burma. The issue is very strange because they give a few tickets with a copy that we have to deliver at the airport. They exchange it for a sticker that identifies us, since all the companies fly at the same time.

After settling the issue of tickets we opted for the bikes to get closer to visit the hill and the nearby temples. It is easy to get from the hotel!. The climb lasts 45 minutes. Anyway, it's supposed to have charm but we do not like it. The best thing about the climb is when the monks come to us to practice English. We take advantage and ask them all the questions that have been assailing us throughout the trip.

The views from the Top of the hill are very nice and worth seeing the sunset. We return to the area of ​​the hotel to look for a cyber to buy the flight to the island. We found a beautiful place, with music and air conditioning where we pay double for a coffee but it is worth it.

The internet access from Burma is horrible, and after an hour trying we cannot buy the tickets! What despair! We decided to return to the hotel to take a shower and go out to dinner, hoping that the speed would improve later.

When we look for a place to have dinner, we meet a boy in his tricksaw with a smile who offers to take us to a site for locals with good price. So we trust in him and we ended up in the restaurant, a place that is highlighted in LP where we choose the fish and they serve the rest, soup, vegetables and rice.

After chatting he offers to show us the cities the next day on two motorcycles. We think it is a good price but we adjust with it that he also take us to see the temple of snakes that is quite far away.

Day 4 - Amarapura

At 06:30 sounds the alarm clock. The bikers come to pick us up at 7:30 but we prefer to get up with time and breakfast quietly. The motorcycles are punctual. We started with the neighborhood of the gold leaf, the sculptors and the mahamudi paya.

It is full of people venerating Mahamudi, a seated Buddha completely covered in gold. Millions of faithful wash daily at 4:00 with care. We continue towards Amarapura, to see the famous food of the monks. It is a monastery inhabited by thousands of monks and at that time they all go out to eat.

An endless corridor of monks who receive their portion of food is formed. I had read that it was not worth it for the amount of tourists. Perhaps because of the lack of expectations or because in the rainy season there are few tourists. I particularly thought it was something interesting and worth seeing.

After the lunch of the monks we went to the U Bein Bridge of Amarapura. After the Sagaging Hill, which in my opinion is prettier than the Mandalay Hill since there are no posts in the climb and the view from the top is beautiful. After Sagaging we return to our bikes and go to Inwa.

We eat before crossing the river in a stand that has stunning views over the river. We bought a round trip ticket to cross the river. On the other side, the only way to visit the different pagodas is to hire a horse cart. The pagodas, the children and the views of Inwa are beautiful but I think we started overdosing on pagodas!

At this point we only have to go to the snake pagoda. It is quite far away so it took us almost an hour to arrive. Once again we find the pagoda festival. So there are beach bars, music and people. The pagoda is not worth it. There are only three snakes and the locals touch one of the snakes. We also believe that snakes are drugged because they do not move!

The heat is unbearable so we decided to return to Mandalay. We are further away than we thought and when we arrived we had a broken back from the road bumps. Even so it has been a good day! Our guide proposes us an excursion in a single motorcycle and we pay for gasoline.

He wants to show us the eastern part of the city, a less known but very beautiful part. He also takes us to an Indian restaurant and above all the food is delicious!

We climbed on the motorbike and left towards the eastern part of the city, with rice fields, water buffaloes, fog over the mountains. The landscapes are beautiful, while people greet us from the road and smile at us. I'm sure they think that we are crazy!

We arrive at a temple famous for the healing properties of the water but we do not dare to drink the water from the cauldron! We climb a hill and have a tea with the guide while he gives us lessons of Burmese. The truth is that despite his limited level of English he tells us many things about the different religions that live in the country, people, language, and customs.

He takes us to lost corners. We stopped in different places, where people did not stop smiling. He took us to his house so that we could see his town, his humble house and we knew his children. Already in the city, we asked for the price of a taxi to the airport, since in the hotel they tell us what seems expensive. Our guide calls a taxi driver friend for the next day at 6:00 (our flight to Heho leaves at 08:30).

After lunch we rent bikes to take the recommended route by LP, the neighborhoods from the west and watch the sunset over the river. Until this moment we do not realize how tired we are so we ask for a place to give us a message. They recommend a place. We dine with rice, noodles and salads! We are tired so we decided to return to the hotel to be rested for the next day.

myanmar wallpaper images travel tourism

Day 5 - Heho

At 05:30 the alarm goes off. We check out and go out to the airport. Before 7 we arrived at the Mandalay airport. It is very small so we did not take anything to check in and go to the boarding gate. At 8:00 we embarked, at 08:20 we take off, and before 9 we are already in Heho!

We have booked a room but the airport transfer seems expensive. There are hardly any tourists so we have to catch a taxi for ourselves! The day before reviewing the emails with the hotel to see the address we realize that there is an error in the rate. We caught a taxi and go to find other hotels. We stopped at the hotel recommended by the LP. The owner shows us the rooms and bungalows and the site is fine so we stayed.

After having paid we felt somewhat uncomfortable. It is the first time we have to pay in advance. We went out with the boatman to tour the lake and visit the villages. The view is beautiful. The boatman stops us in a couple of typical shops. We tell him not to stop us in those places and he seems to catch it because he does not stop again.

We left the village and go through different villages. He tells us many things about the country, its religion, its history, the fauna, and the flora. The truth is that the landscape is impressive but the conversation is as much as the landscape.

We arrived at a school. It is a joy to see the faces of the children! It is a school founded by Japanese where the four teachers work altruistically, without any salary. They have to walk several hours to get to school from their village, taking their own food. The guide explains that these villages have a serious problem of alcoholism. There is no electricity, or any entertainment for what people are dedicated to drinking. Of course children copy this behavior.

We continue the trekking and on the way a monk joins us, since he has to reach another village and does not remember the way. The ascent towards the mountain begins to harden. We climbed for almost 4 hours but the views over the rice fields and the lake are worth it.

While we go up our guide tells us many things about the different plants, the crops, the problem of deforestation that they start to have. The morning is one of those magical moments that linger in our memory. At 1 finally it's time to eat, as we're really hungry. We climb to the top of a house at the top of the mountain. It's a family that, like so many others, is dedicated to drying leaves to wrap tobacco. The noodle soup is delicious, as also the tofu appetizers, the mango and the pineapple.

We visited towns and more villages and several pagodas, one of them very interesting with monks who train cats that jump! After sunset we return to the village and decided to look for a trek for the next day. After asking in several places we sat down to have a Myanmar beer. The boy who serves us is charming and asks us if we have contracted trekking. We have not hired anything yet he tells us that he is a guide and that if we want we can go with him. The truth is that the boy is charming, so we booked him at 08:00 for the next day!

After the meal, we descend. We arrive at a winery! We had no idea that in Burma they made wine and as we walk fast our guide tells us that we have time to try a wine if we feel like it. The winery is impressive! From the winery we have one more hour walking to the town. We have shower, and go for dinner. The fish is delicious. We return and go to sleep.

Day 6 - Heho

The dogs have not let us sleep for the whole night. For some strange reason they have been howling in the hotel door. Our guide proposes a new route to the west that crosses the mountains and reaches Heho. It seems that he took this route a few months ago with a friend and says there are no tourists.

A van brings us to the foot of the mountain. We get off and start climbing. It has rained a lot so the path is covered and the guide is lost several times. We climb and then go down. The views are beautiful but the climb is full of mud. It's hot and humid and mud floods everything.

When we think our guide is totally lost, we find a power plant that serves as a point of reference towards the falls. We continue climbing. After several hours of climbing we arrive at the area of ​​crops. People look at us strangely and do not stop asking where we are from. Knowing that we have crossed the mountain they offer us tea and a kind of rice They are delicious.

We cross several small towns. The lovely people greet us, and give us peanuts. We eat in a stand of Heho with a noodle soup and a kind of garlic dumplings. In order to return to the town it is necessary to stop to a bus that approaches us to another intermediate town. There we take a tricksaw that already takes us to Nyawshe.

We have mud up to our ears. We need a shower, so we go to the hotel. After a well-deserved rest we try to book the hotel in Bangkok and Koh Samui. The internet connection is painful and making the reservation takes two hours! But at last we have a hotel.

We booked the taxi for the next day. We will share the taxi with some Americans who asked us if we were flying the next day. We took a walk through the town and we met a guy we had met in Bagan. They tell us that they are in a new hotel which is charming and cheaper. We dined in the night market! The food is much better than in the restaurants and much cheaper. We are tired so we go to the hotel soon.

Day 7 - Yangon

We believe that the sermons or mantras that are heard through the loudspeakers of the temples are altered. The sound is constantly heard and even it is driving us crazy! We had breakfast and at 07:00 we left for the Heho airport (it is about an hour) to catch our flight to Yangon where we landed at 10:30. The next flight to Bangkok is at 6:00 PM so we will spend the day in Yangon.

When we arrive in Yangon we have to walk from the domestic flight terminal to the international terminal. Our idea is to do the checking to get rid of the suitcases but they tell us that until 4:00 pm it is not possible. At the airport it is not possible to leave our bags and they recommend us to try it at the hotel in front of the hotel!

We decided to go to Yangon with our suitcases. We walked again through the Sule Phaya and nearby neighborhoods. We ate the Biryani recommended by the LP and spent a relaxed day in the city. At 4 we again take taxi to the airport and 45 minutes later we arrived at the international terminal. At 8 we arrived in Bangkok. We booked a very cheap resort, with pick-up service at the airport. The hotel is more than decent! We had dinner.

The bad thing about the hotel is that we do not close our eyes all night. The room overlooks the courtyard from which the vans leave for the airport and the constant slamming of the porters does not let us sleep! The absence of sleep is our condemnation in this trip!

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  • Mariko Margetson
    Mariko Margetson August 30, 2016 at 8:10 PM

    Wow you sure are prolific! I really liked reading this post... you had me from the first sentence - I'm a sucker for soul journey holidays :-)

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