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For the last few years Myanmar has been at the top of our travel list. Having already visited most countries in Southeast Asia, we considered Myanmar to be SEA’s last frontier, one that we wanted to visit before the masses.

This past September we finally did. Those of you that follow us on social media would’ve already seen some of the highlights from our time in Myanmar and know how thrilled we were to visit the country!  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: now is the time to visit Myanmar!

Street in Yangon, Myanmar
Street in Yangon, Myanmar

The country is just developed enough to make it reasonably easy for adventurous travelers to get around on their own and not yet popular enough to feel overcrowded with hoards of tourists.

Our time in Myanmar was short (we spent just over 2 weeks making our way from Yangon to Mandalay), yet it gave us memorable experiences from day 1.

Here are just a few of our favourites!

Experiencing Street Life in Yangon

We pictured Yangon to be just another large SEA city, expecting it to disappoint us the way Jakarta did just a month earlier. But Yangon was nothing like Jakarta! Yangon was alive, it was vibrant and full of culture. It was absolutely fascinating!

Colourful buildings in Yangon. Myanmar
Colourful buildings in Yangon

Street in Yangon. Myanmar

Monk in a monastery in Yangon. Myanmar
Monk in a monastery in Yangon

We spent days roaming the streets of Yangon, taking in the hustle and bustle of its day to day life. We loved discovering new street food at pop up markets, tasting local tea (they have it with condensed milk here) at street side restaurants while sitting on a tiny plastic chairs, and purchasing our own longiys (long skirt worn by local men and women) at the Bogyoke Market.

Drinking tea in Yangon, Myanmar
Drinking tea in Yangon

We were there just long enough (3 days total) to visit the big attractions (Shwedagon Pagoda is not to miss) and get lost among the locals in no name alleyways.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
Street side restaurant in Yangon. Myanmar
Street side restaurant in Yangon

Cruising Beyond the Tourist Trail at Inle Lake

“Inle Lake will be the most touristy experience you have in Myanmar”, said the pages of Lonely Planet, “but it’s one you don’t want to miss”.

Fisheman on Inle Lake. Myanmar
Fisheman on Inle Lake

Lonely Planet didn’t lie, the touristy boat ride around Inle Lake was advertised on every corner and in every guesthouse, but we didn’t want to settle for touristy.

“Regular Inle Lake half day tour – 10,000 kyat”, explained a local woman who chatted us up on the side of the road with a map in hand.

“You go around top of lake. Longer tour you go to middle lake – 15,000 kyat, or for 20,000 kyat you can go to bottom of lake – full day tour 9-4pm, very nice”.

“What if we want to go even further south?”

She looked surprised but excited and told us her husband would be happy to take us.

Town of Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake
Town of Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake

We departed at 6am and didn’t return until 5pm, spending just short of 12 hours sailing down well past Inle Lake down to the remote yet absolutely beautiful areas surrounding Moebyel Lake.

Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar
Floating village on Inle Lake
Sailing in Inle Lake. Myanmar
Sailing in Inle Lake
Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar
Floating abandoned home on Inle Lake

As you can imagine, our favourite parts of the trip were those in the far south.

Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar
Floating village on Inle Lake
Tharkong Pagoda, Inle Lake
Tharkong Pagoda, Inle Lake
Young monks sailing on Inle Lake. Myanmar
Young monks sailing on Inle Lake
Family sails to their home in Inle Lake. Myanmar
Family sails to their home in Inle Lake

Exploring Temples in Bagan

Visiting 1000-year-old temples in Bagan is an amazing experience, no matter how touristy and crowded it might get.

Sunset in Bagan, Myanmar
Sunset in Bagan

Luckily for us, traveling during the shoulder season gave us the opportunity to explore Bagan without the crowds. We rented an e-bike from a shop with the cutest little puppy and rode it around from temple to temple for 2 days straight. We loved visiting the big important temples, like the Shwezigon Paya, Shwesandaw Paya, Sulamani Pahto, or Dhammayangyi Pahto just as much as getting lost and finding our own no name pagodas to explore.

Waiting for a sunset view on top of a small pagoda in Bangan. Myanmar
Waiting for a sunset view on top of a small pagoda in Bangan
Inside the Shwesandaw Paya in Bagan. Myanmar
Inside the Shwesandaw Paya
Sunrise in Bagan. Myanmar
Sunrise…
Hot air balloon at sunrise in Bagan. Myanmar
Hot air balloon at sunrise in Bagan

Riding on a Scenic Train to Hsipaw

Most train rides are merely a way to get from Point A to Point B, but for us, the train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw was a destination in its own. It was a fascinating journey that took us through remote towns and villages in the Shan province, allowing us to interact with locals on the train and in the villages where we stopped, all while enjoying the scenic views of rice paddies fields, rolling green hills, and the famous Gokteik Viaduct bridge.

Views from the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar
Views from the train to Hsipaw
Max hanging out on and off the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar
Max hanging out on and off the train to Hsipaw
Monk on the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar
Monk on the train to Hsipaw
Old school train carriage. Hsipaw. Myanmar
Old school train carriage
Inside the train carriage, Hsipaw. Myanmar
Inside the train carriage
Oksana looking out the windon on train to Hsipaw. Myanmar
The views are so good, I couldn’t stop looking out the window!

It was the most interesting 10-hour train journey we have ever been on!

Trekking to Hill Tribe Villages in Shan Province

Pushing further North from Hsipaw to explore the remote Shan and Palaung Hill Tribe villages was by far the most culturally immersive experience we had in Myanmar.

Trekking in the Shan province. Myanmar
Trekking in the Shan province

Not only did we get a chance to stay in villagers’ homes, eat homemade food, interact with locals, and witness their day to day lives, but we got a chance to participate in a rare celebration known as the Monk Harvest Festivals.

Little girl in the Palaung village showing off her 1000 kyat bill. Hsipaw. Myanmar
Little girl in the Palaung village showing off her 1000 kyat bill
Monk on a bike in the village in Shan state. Hsipaw. Myanmar
Monk on a bike
Young girl carries water to her home in Palaung Village. Hsipaw. Myanmar
Young girl carries water to her home in Palaung Village
Max drinking tea in Palaung village. Myanmar
Max drinking tea in Palaung village
Local villager and his waterbuffalo. Hsipaw. Myanmar
Local villager and his water buffalo

We were mesmerised by the rhythmic dancing, chanting, and singing of the women, men, and children, who were all dressed in bright colourful traditional clothing (even more traditional than their every day longyis) on the night of the festival. We watched them for hours, mesmerized by the atmosphere all around us. We felt honoured and extremely grateful for the opportunity.

Villagers signing during the Monk Harvest Festival in Palaung Village. Myanmar
Villagers signing during the Monk Harvest Festival in Palaung Village
Young monk hugs their sibling at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival
Young monk hugs their sibling at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival
Learning the traditional dance at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar
Learning the traditional dance at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival
Making friends at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar
Making friends at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival

That night we not only learned the steps to their local dance but felt like we gained a better understanding of the culture and local traditions that seemed to be so difficult to grasp throughout our travels in Myanmar.

Young girls in traditional outfits at the Palaung VIillage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar
Young girls in traditional outfits at the Palaung VIillage Monk Harvest Festival

Saying goodbye to Myanmar was hard. The deeper into the country we traveled the more we wanted to see. In the end, only one thing was certain: Myanmar is a country with many fascinating and memorable experiences and one that definitely will see us coming back for more!

Trekking in Hsipaw, Myanmar

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget travel insurance!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Myanmar. Whether you plan to explore the cities, visiting the beautiful temples or going on a trek, being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.

Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

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Our top 5 experiences in Myanmar

Have you ever visited Myanmar? What were some of your favourite experiences? Share them in the comments section below!

8 thoughts on “Our Top 5 Experiences in Myanmar”

  1. Beautiful photos guys. When we did the Inle Lake trip we also elected to go further out, spending the entire day cruising including to the beautiful temples that were being completely swallowed up by vines! But that’s besides the point — did you notice how those famous Inle fishermen – would “pose” for photos? I am pretty sure the picturesque ones are staged! Every time we would pass closer to one of the fishermen, they became much more active and their movements appeared almost choreographed! Not that that took away from beauty of the place, it was just fascinating to observe…

    1. Yes, we definitely noticed that about the fisherman on the lake. In fact our boat driver even gave money to the fisherman as a thanks for posting. We were a bit shocked to see it. Makes us wonder how many of them were actually out there fishing and how many were just posing for photos.

  2. All about Myanmar, this country is our(India) neighbor and it is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us.

  3. We just wrapped up 3 weeks in Myanmar. Our highlight was the 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Village Myanmar is amazing, I want to trek all around the country now.

    (website is my son’s, not mine)

    1. Sounds amazing! We heard about the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek, but didn’t get a chance to experience it! We’d love to go back to Myanmar! Hoping that more parts of the country will open up soon and there’ll be a good reason to head back for more exploring then!

  4. very nicely done. I made the mistake of not cashing in my kyat before leaving,, and now have a fistful of them because I couldn’t exchange them anywhere. Love your photos.

  5. Hi there. I really appreciate all of the helpful information you share and it’s been super helpful when traveling through SEA in recent years. I’m visiting Myanmar this September and I’m wondering if you used a guide service or trekking/tour agency to explore the Shan State and how many days you spent in Hsipaw and Palaung and any other local villages. Thanks in advance!

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