In November/December 2017, I spent 25 days in the exciting country of Myanmar. Travelling around for about 3 weeks in Myanmar gives you a good amount of time to explore a large part of the country. That is, if you organise your travelling in an efficient way. As I was travelling on a group tour, everything was super efficient 🙂 We travelled by bus, trucks, trains, planes, bikes and walked a fair bit and saw a lot!! Have fun reading my 3 weeks in Myanmar itinerary – I hope it will inspire you!
Note 1: I won this trip with tour organisation Sawadee with an online contest!! 😀 I was so lucky! This is not a sponsored post but an overview of my own experiences on this amazing trip through Myanmar.
Note 2: Although I am not shy of a critical note, I purposefully do not include any political views in this blog and I have no interest in discussing them here. The goal of this blog is to show you the beauty of this country and to serve as a basis to start planning your own trip. Happy reading 🙂
2,5 days / 3 nights in Yangon
Day 1 & 2: We flew with Singapore Airlines from Amsterdam to Yangon, with a 2 hour lay-over in Singapore. A long, but smooth flight and we arrived safely in Myanmar. We stayed in the Clover City hotel in Downtown Yangon. A fine, clean, mid-range hotel, quite central to a lot of sights.
The day that we arrived, we had a stroll through the city. Yangon (previously known as Rangoon) is a city that is growing immensely. Like in many other Asian cities, this leads to lots of traffic, noise, pollution, stray dogs and trash in the street. Still, the smile of the Burmese people and some great touristic places make it worth spending a couple of days here. We did the walking tour out of the Lonely Planet Myanmar with as highlight the Sule Paya, a stupa in the middle of the city and the Mahabandoola gardens. We had a beer in a local tea house and a cocktail and snack in the fancy Strand Hotel.
On day 3, we visited the Shwedagon Pagode. Our guide took us through the surrounding monastery area where monks live. Via some backroads, we arrived at the pagode where we spent a couple of hours exploring. Busy, but beautiful, this is definitely a good start to any Myanmar trip! After that, we visited two huge sitting and reclining buddha statues (the Ngahtatgyi Paya and the Chaukhtatgyi Paya) which was enough to satisfy my Buddha craving for the entire trip 😉
To recover from the past two days, I went to get a Thai Body Massage at Inya Day Spa in the Junction City Mall. This was easily the best Thai Massage I ever had and for $12 this was a true bargain! Food wise, I had dinner twice at the hipster Rangoon Tea House (read my blog about why to visit Rangoon Tea House here) and for me it was one of the highlights of Yangon. If you like South-Indian food, make sure to head over to Bharat Restaurant (mentioned in the Lonely Planet Myanmar) for a good Dosa and curry. A meal will set you back less than $2 🙂
Visiting the Golden Rock (Mt. Kyaiktiyo)
On day 4, recovered from the jetlag, we left the Clover City Hotel in Yangon at 7am to beat traffic. We had a 4-5 hours bus drive ahead to Kinpun, the location of the famous Mt. Kyaiktiyo – also known as the Golden Rock. We had a quick lunch in town, before hopping on a truck to the top. This truck was like a rollercoaster – it was driving so fast on such a crazy road I was not sure whether to laugh or to cry. I decided to stick to laughing but it really was scary at times.
When we arrived at the top, it was a couple of minutes walk to the temple site. Although I didn’t expect much of this place, I was surprised about how cool the Golden Rock was! For some reason that I still don’t know, women are not allowed to touch the rock. Men are, and touch the rock for good luck or put gold leave on the rock.
After we explored the whole site, took some pictures and walked up to a viewpoint, it was time to make the crazy ride down. This was even scarier than the way up but we survived! That night, we stayed at the nice Golden Sunrise hotel which was set in a lovely garden. Unfortunately we could not enjoy the garden that much because it was almost dark when we arrived. We had a decent dinner in the hotel. There was also a new, Vietnamese restaurant across the road but otherwise there was not much nearby.
A quick stop in Bago
On day 5, the day after visiting the golden rock, it was early rise again. Leaving behind the lovely Golden Sunrise hotel (where I could have easily spent a week), the bus was ready at 07h30 to take us to Bago and two hours later, we arrived.
Our first stop was the Shwemawdaw Paya, a very tall stupa (even higher than the Shwedagon Pagode in Yangon). It was already very hot in Bago when we arrived there, so we made a quick tour on the site. It was a beautiful golden (painted) stupa and very photogenic 🙂
The next stop in Bago was the Kya Khat Wain Kyaun Monastery. It’s one of the larger monasteries in Myanmar with around 500 monks and novices. We arrived there around 10h30 in the morning. At this time, all monks would line up to collect their donations (money and/or food) from the people before going to eat lunch. I can not recommend visiting this place as it’s a crazy scene. Cueing up with hundreds of people to watch monks walk by and eat. However, after this circus, we got to see the monks going to their classes, chanting and even had some small-talk with some of the monks.
After this slightly crazy and embarrassing experience, we still visited the Golden Palace and another reclining Buddha, which were both not highlights of the trip 🙂 . After this, we took the local train back to Yangon. The train was supposed to go at 3PM. Our guide assured us that it would be reasonably in time, “sharp at 3pm, maybe 5 minutes earlier or later”. The train arrived at 3:10 pm, so not bad at all 😉 We were sitting in “ordinary class” which was cool because we sat between all the local people taking the train 🙂 . The train ride took about 2 hrs and we arrived safely at the central station of Yangon. One more night at the Clover City Hotel and preparing to see more of rural Myanmar!
4 days in Hsipaw
Day 6: From Yangon, we took a domestic flight to Lashio. Miraculously, our whole group arrived safely with all our luggage. It seems like hand written boarding passes and manual luggage handling can never work, but there is a system 😉
Our bus was waiting at the airport and we had a 2 hrs bus transfer to Hsipaw. We arrived at the lovely Mr. Charles Hotel, right next to the more backpacker-style Mr. Charles Guesthouse. That night, we had a lovely dinner at Mrs. Popcorn as an introduction to the Burmese kitchen. You can also have a decent dinner in the hotel itself, or visit the Terrace Club, a lovely restaurant at the riverside.
Day 7: The first full day that we had in Hsipaw, we made a beautiful 5 hour trek through the fields, villages and nature around Hsipaw. We saw the people working in the tea fields, planting garlic and other products and visited a school. At night, we made the trip the sunset hill for an awesome view!
Day 8 and 9 we spent on a 2 day trek. Read this detailed blog on my 2 day trekking in Hsipaw and how we discovered the hills, nature, its people and a stunning waterfall 🙂
From Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin via the Gokteik Viaduct
Day 10 of the trip was a very exciting day! We would cross the Gokteik Rail Viaduct. This viaduct was built in 1901 and at the time was the second-highest railway bridge in the world! It is still the longest railway viaduct in Myanmar and it is a Myanmar highlight on many traveller’s list.
A stunning 7 hour train ride led us across a wide variety of flower fields, glooming hills and often jungle-like scenery. After approximately 4 hours we approached the viaduct. The train slows down a lot in order not to strain the old structure too much. This means you have plenty of time to take awesome video’s and pictures! After the viaduct, which I was very happy to have survived :D, we had another 3 hours to enjoy the scenery before arriving in Pyin Oo Lwin.
When we arrived at Pyin Oo Lwin Station around 4pm, we had taxi’s waiting for us to bring us to the hotel. We were staying in the Royal Parkview Hotel, close to the botanical gardens. We had a nice dinner at the Taj, an Indian restaurant close to our hotel.
Day 11: The next morning, we took a taxi to Anisakan Falls. After a great view, we then asked our taxi driver to take us to the Botanical gardens. Here we had a nice stroll before heading out for lunch to the “Feel – Lake Front”. The food was awesome, and with full stomachs we were ready for the trip to Mandalay around noon.
Read from about the trip from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin via the Gokteik viaduct here.
That afternoon, we took a shared taxi from Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay. 3 people fitted in the taxi with the luggage. The road to Mandalay was under heavy construction and it was a dusty ride with much, much honking by the driver. In Mandalay we stayed at the Ayarwaddy River View hotel. A nice luxury hotel with a small pool, right alongside the river (as the name suggests 😉 ). The best part about this hotel is the Skybar on the 5th floor! A lovely terrace with free drinks from 5pm to 6pm with a sunset view to die for!
I decided to skip most of the temples and the palace as I was suffering from temple fatigue 🙂 So many impressions over the last couple of days, I needed some rest before heading to all the temples of Bagan!
The first night we met our family living in Kuala Lumpur who also happened to be in Mandalay. We had a lovely dinner at the Mandalay Hill Resort. They served a scrumptious buffet accompanied by a puppet and a traditional dancing show.
On Day 12, it was time for a morning off and relax a bit. We had lunch at the western BBB restaurant. The burgers and the service were average, but it was good to have some western food again 🙂 . We then took a tuk tuk to the handcraft area where we admired some of the gold leaf workshops. Knowing how much work goes into creating a piece of gold leaf, it’s hard to imagine that the complete golden rock and many temples are covered in this!
We then had a coffee and awesome cake in the La La Cafe that we randomly found along the way 🙂 After the delicious cake we headed off to Mandalay Hill. The pagoda was SO busy but the sunset was beautiful! Whole tourbuses showed up, so make sure to be early to get some beautiful light on the shimmering pagoda.
That night, we had a great taste of the Burmese kitchen in the Ma Ma Guest House. We enjoyed traditional, hand made noodles which tasted amazing! It was great to stock up on some carbs before our next adventure: 2 days of cycling!
2 days of cycling around Mandalay
Day 13 and 14: Early next morning, we were welcomed by our local tour guide Kay, and the cycling company “Grashoppers”. They would take us on a 2 day cycling tour around Mandalay. With the tour we would see some highlights of the area and visit the old royal capitals of Myanmar. Check out this extensive blog on cycling in Myanmar for a detailed itinerary.
To sum up the trip: we cycled 45 minutes through the crazy traffic of Mandalay to arrive in Amarapura. In this town, we visited the famous U-Bein Bridge and the Maha Ganayon Kyaung monastery. We then had to take a small ferry boat to get to Ava. We visited the teak Bagaya Kyaun Monastery and the Maha Aung Mye Bom San Monastery which for me was one of the highlights temple-wise!
We then cycled about 30 minutes more to Sagaing where we spent the night in the Shwe Pyne Sone hotel in Sagaing, which you can barely call average. The next morning we left Sagain and cycled to Mingun. Here we visited the Mingun Paya, the Mingun Bell (made by the same king who wanted to have the biggest stupa) and one of my favourite temples in Myanmar: the Hsinbyume Paya.
After a hot day, we were pleasantly surprised with a luxurious boat back along the Ayeyarwady River to the hotel. A hot shower and an awesome dinner at local barbecue joint “Shwe Khing Barbecue” ensured a great night of sleep.
Off to Bagan for 4000+ temples!
A definite highlight in any 3 weeks in Myanmar itinerary! Day 15: early rise, for a long bus ride to Bagan! On the way, we stopped at the Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary where we got see star turtles. This project breeds turtles and then places them in the wild. In the early afternoon, we arrived in our hotel. We stayed in Nyaung U, in the nice Thante hotel. Even though the rooms were a bit outdated, they were large and clean and the whole setting with the lush garden and the swimming pool was very nice!
Day 16, 17: Bagan is famous for the crazy amount of temples that can be found there. Combined with the easy of exploring by bicycle or e-bike, the stunning sunrises and sunsets and the relatively good touristic infrastructure, this is a highlight on many a visitor’s list!We firstly explored the temples on a horse-cart tour with a guide to get a bit of a feeling for the lay-out of the temples and get some orientation. We visited some of the main temples. After having ticked off the highlights, I rented an E-bike for the other days 🙂 Check out my detailed post on visiting Bagan here 🙂
Our hotel was a 10 minute walk from “Restaurant Row”. We tried Weather Spoon’s Bagan (great burger and best Thai curry we had in Myanmar), La Terrazza (expensive, but nice pizza and pasta) and a Little Bit of Bagan (mixed menu, I had Indian food which was great).
From Bagan to Mt. Popa
Day 18: From Bagan, we had a bus transfer to Meiktila, with a stop over at Mt. Popa. The weather had been pretty bad for the last few days and a lot of people were a bit ill. I was one of them and therefore I stayed down and had a drink in one of the local teahouses. Despite the mud and the climb, some people of our group still made it up there and enjoyed the view and the monkeys on the road. However, they did say it was a bit of a circus and the foreigners are seen as walking ATM’s. Also, the monkeys can get aggressive and attack you / steal your stuff. Out of the 3 weeks in Myanmar, this was not the highlight!
We stayed the night in the Floral Breeze Hotel in Meiktila, simply as a stopover on the way to Kalaw.
Kalaw & Elephants!
Day 19:We left Meiktila by bus and started our way to Kalaw. Kalaw is, similar to Pyin Oo Lwin, a village in the hills where the British would escape from the heat. It’s a calm village that is mainly used for hikes in the surrounding hills or to the Inle Lake.
On the way to Kalaw we stopped at the Green Hill Valley Elephant sanctuary. This organization rents elephants from their owners, so that they don’t have to work anymore. Check out below video to see how we fed and bathed the elephants, it was so much fun!!
Day 20: Although I love towns like Kalaw, the most I saw from this town was my hotel room. I was sick while I was here and couldn’t really do anything. Some people of our group went on a local hike, or went to Pindaya, a cave with thousands of Buddha statues. People liked both activities but I could only sleep!
Enjoying the Inle Lake
Day 21: The last destination of the trip was the Inle Lake! We took 2 hours to drive to Nyaung Shwe, the town next to the lake. On our way, we visited another monastery and had a short break. We arrived at the boating dock in Nyaung Shwe and were loaded onto multiple small, motorized boats. These boats brought us to our accommodation for the night: the Ann Heritage Lodge. It was simply amazing to be right on the lake and I wrote a review of the Ann Heritage Lodge here. On the boat ride there, we already saw the fisherman that row with 1 leg! Such a cool technique and with the sunset in the back, even better 🙂
Day 22: We had one full day to explore the lake. Together with a friend from Germany that I met up with at the Inle Lake, we had a boat and saw so many things! Local markets, villages and monasteries on poles and just the boatride itself made it a great place to be.
Day 23: On the last day of the trip, I decided to have a relaxing day, eat a big lunch and visit the Red Mountain Winery in the afternoon. Out of the 4 wines up for tasting, the Sauvignon Blanc was the only decent one – so we ordered two bottles of it 😉
Day 24+25 were our travel days. We took a domestic flight from Heho to Yangon, then flew from Yangon to Singapore and from Singapore to Amsterdam. A long journey but everything went smooth!
3 weeks in Myanmar – simply amazing!
Although Myanmar has been in the news lately for terrible events and questionable government policies, with this blog I want to highlight the beauty of Myanmar and (most of) its people. Many people are becoming increasingly reliant on tourism. I tried to spend as much money locally where I could and supported smaller entrepreneurs.
Also check out my blog with things I love most about Myanmar and I hope this blog inspires you to visit this amazing country with some of the nicest people I have ever met 🙂