Myanmar (formerly Burma), is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the country’s largest city, is home to bustling markets, numerous parks and lakes, and the towering, gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, which contains Buddhist relics and dates to the 6th century.
Myanmar is quite expensive to travel in, and people are still willing to pay for it because of its exotic character. This trip I travel with my friends (3 of us). From Singapore to Yangon is 2 hours and 55 minutes, and [if you’re from Manila, Philippines to Myanmar is 3 hours and 30 minutes].
From Yangon International Airport we go straight to Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most popular and well-known pagoda in Yangon. This Pagoda has a great cone-shaped Buddhist monument that crowns a hill about one mile north of the Cantonment. The pagoda itself is a solid brick stupa (Buddhist reliquary) that is completely covered with gold. It rises 326 feet (99 m) on a hill 168 feet (51 m) above the city.
Shwedagon Pagoda during Sunset
Shrines surrounding the base of the Pagoda
And our next stop would the Inle Lake. We decided not to stay overnight in Yangon and spend our night on the road instead, so we could reach Inle Lake in the morning. From Yangon to Inle Lake is 9 hours and 20 minutes by land. And BIG thanks to my Burmese colleague for placing the comfortable lift for us.
Inle Lake is a shallow lake in the middle of Myanmar, south-east of Mandalay. The lake is 22km long, and is densely inhabited by many different tribes. A boat trip on the lake is a must do. Unfortunately, it is also one of the biggest tourist traps in Myanmar. The whole trip is 15,000 kyat [17 SGD] (1 boat sharing).
Inle Lake Floating Village
Inle Lake Floating Garden
Another worthwhile experience that most tourists miss is to see some of the thousands of waterbirds that use Inle Lake either as a breeding site or on migration. Some are rare species difficult to see anywhere else.
With awesome waterbirds flying behind us
And I met this Kayan (Karenni people), Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Myanmar (Burma). Padaung women gained fame through their custom of wearing heavy brass coils around their necks giving the appearance of an elongated neck. The Paduang is actually a bit of a misnomer since they prefer to be call Kayan or Karen people. This group of people are predominant here in the Kayah state on the Thai border south of Inle Lake. Myanmar’s famous ‘giraffe women’ – have become a victim of their own traditions. The ancient custom of fitting young girls with brass neck-rings has made them a major tourist attraction – and a major target for exploitation on both sides of the border.
With Kayan People
The coolest thing about Inle Lake is the Intha longboat leg rowing. Traditional fishermen of Inle Lake steer and row their boats using a technique with their legs. They wrap their legs around their oars and paddle about with great balance and strength.
Traditional Fishermen of Inle Lake
With a strong tradition of weaving in the country, Burma has been long producing the best hand-woven silk and the most intricately woven tribal cottons in the world. However there is one form of weaving that is entirely unique to Burma, the lotus fabric or “Kyar Chi”. Burma uses the lotus stem fibre to weave a silk like fabric. The best lotus weavers are women in Inle Lake.
Pretty Auntie preparing the Lutos silk for weaving
On the next day we continue our journey to Bagan. From Inle Lake to Bagan is 7 to 8 hours by land. Bagan is an ancient city in central Myanmar (Burma), southwest of Mandalay. Standing on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady River, it’s known for the Bagan Archaeological Area, where more than 2,000 Buddhist monuments tower over green plains. Holy sites around Old Bagan include ornate Ananda Temple, built in 1091 and topped with a golden stupa. Nearby is the vast 12th-century Dhammayangyi Temple.
Sunrise at Ayeyarwady River
Bagan (or Pagan if you can speak Burmese) is a spectacular ancient city in Central West Burma that expands for miles across arid land. Founded in the first century BC, the city flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries AD to become the Bagan.
Temples and pagodas galore sit amid this epic landscape, which lend the area the iconic image you’ve likely seen in travel magazines and on travel websites time and time again.
Climbed barefoot to reach the top of this temple
Meet new friends (2 boys are locals & 2 travelers)
So indeed we did. Taking a day trip from Bagan, we trekked up the 777 steps through monkey excrement in 40 degree weather and reached the top of this sacred mountain.
Most people advised that it takes 45 minutes to an hour to reach the top. For the first half you are able to wear your shoes. About 200 steps in you reach a platform where you leave your shoes and pay a donation. The rest you walk barefoot, being super careful of the monkey poop smeared over the steps. We were quite lucky that the majority were clean, as there were step cleaners almost on every stair case washing them as you go. They will all ask for donation but it’s impossible to donate to all of them as there are so many.
I did it..! “pancit ra ang 777 steps sa ninja”
Wow..!!! Fantastic Myanmar..!!! This trip we spend most of our time on the road”. T’was a long road trip.
And to note to all travelers who are planning to visit Myanmar soon, please make sure about your bills is not folded or wrinkled. Myanmar banks and money exchangers will only take American bills in perfect condition. American money needs to be mint, crisp and clean with no rips, folds, water marks or pen marks.
Only a few hotels in Myanmar accept credit cards, so you should plan to pay cash everywhere.
Thank You Myanmar..!!! Nice meeting you in person!