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Myanmar [Burma]

Curious what backpackers do in Myanmar? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day99

    I'm in Myanmar or Burma if you prefer (it changes every so often based on the political situation) but the local people seem to favour Myanmar. I arrived in Yangon after the bus to Bangkok. Firstly the airport was impossibly pristine - not what I was expecting at all. The friendly lady checked my passport and waved me through - so far so good. I managed to grab a taxi with a guy who I met at the ATM heading the same direction too.

    Yangon is a very busy city with a lot of British Colonial influence to the buildings. Compared to the well trodden path I've been in SE Asia so far there are very few tourists here, so the feel is quite different. I can walk for an hour or so and I'm unilkey to see a Western face - it makes it feel far more authentic. The locals are very curious too and many will stop and talk to you without always trying to sell you something - unbelievable!

    On the first day I visited Shwedagon Pagoda, a beautiful temple that defines Yangon and can be seen from most areas of the city. It's made of thousands of gold leaves and carved into intricate shapes. I had to wear a longyi - basically a sort of long skirt: all the men wear them here for some reason - not many people wear anything else. Many people also like to sport tannika, a kind of sunscreen slash make-up that's bright yellow made from a certain tree bark. They just slather it on their faces. It looks a bit silly and clown-like to be honest but it works here as everyone has it. It's weirder to see the people without it.

    On the second day I went with a few people on the local circle train around the city - it's basically a three-hour train ride that circles the entire vicinity and shows you a real local insight. Well, what an experience... firstly we had to locate where the platform for tickets was - that took about half an hour of backwards and forwards with the station staff. We eventually got them and waited for another half hour. When the train pulled up it might as well of been something out of the eighteenth century. It was hilarious - decrepid, smelly, busy, noisy and slow - but it cost about 30p for the whole trip so can't really complain.

    We clamboured abroad and set off - a friendly local man decided to chat to us for ages. He was very knowledgeable about lot of things and it was nice to talk to him - he gave us all various history lessons on Myanmar and other countries and also seemed fascinated by James Bond for whatever reason. The journey itself was fairly eventful too. At every stop literally dozens of people rushed on the train shouting all sorts and yelling to sell stuff; food, toys, toiletries - you name it they sold it. It was so bizarre, it was like a market on the train. At each stop people would just throw stuff out of the window and new people would board the train balancing things on their heads or carrying various items that really didn't belong on a train. Dead crickets, grapes, lottery tickets, rice, party poppers were all on offer. Others would rush down the carriage handing items out and peddling their wares. If you were to try that in London or another Western subway system they would probably get stuck on the train due to the amount of people squashed in - it would be anarchy. We all bought some corn on the cob from a guy and sat and munched it along with the locals feeling amused and watching the city role by.

    The next day I wandered around the city a bit more and went to the market - zero foreigners again and a lot of colourful textiles and materials - mother would have loved it. I then ate some tasty noodles and headed back. On the way I stopped at Sule Pagoda, basically a temple in the middle of a roundabout. I also passed a lady who had loads of seeds and was surrounded by hundreds of pigeons - she waved and chucked a load of them into the air laughing - the birds went mental for it - I wouldn't want to be caught in that swarm.

    I'm heading back on the road to Bagan now, the ancient city with thousands of temples. Getting to the Yangon bus stop was ridiculous though - it was two hours away from the city, what kind of nonsense is that? Eventually got there and registered for the bus. Nearly ended up on the wrong one again thanks to a guy that directed us to a similar service. I booked the VIP bus for an extra four dollars and what a dream - it's probably the best bus experience I've had on the whole trip. The Burmese know how to manage night buses. Firstly you check in like an airport, then there is a little bus stewardess that directs you to your seat and announced the bus itinery in Burmese and broken English (not sure the need as there were no Burmese on the bus, but whatever). She then brings a little snack around for you and a towel - absolutely quality, the roads however not quite the same experience. Bumpy, twisty, loud - typical SE Asia.
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  • Day13

    What better way to learn Myanmar culture then through there food!?! It was quite the experience at the market seeing the butchers and learning about the spices and vegetables. Once we got back to the school we got to see how they give all the profits back by setting up a school for under privileged children in Myanmar.

  • Day108

    Bagan - a definite highlight. It's absolutely stunning. An ancient city with thousands of pagodas and temples dotted around the landscape. Small ones, medium ones and large ones as far as the eye can see - incredible. Despite having seen numerous temples on this trip (if you didn't know, they are quite common in Asia 🤓), Bagan is still a site to behold. I arrived just in time for sunrise so the taxi took us to a viewing temple - the sun was just about up when we got there but the view was still great. I got to the hostel and for a lot of the rest of the day caught up on some sleep. In the evening they organised a boat tour on the river to watch the sunset.

    I signed up for the hostel tour around Bagan the following morning. You had to rent an e-bike, basically an electronic moped that was practically silent (I want one, they are great for buzzing around!) and follow the group. It was excellent. The guide took us to a few of the main temples and explained a lot about the history of Bagan - he was pretty amusing. He also took us to a school for young monks (more like misbehaving monks based on our experience). About a hundred kids were shouting, play-fighting, throwing stuff etc - just being kids, it was quite funny. The guide was trying to teach them English and they eventually calmed down a bit and came to chat to us for a while. Their English was actually pretty good and they were well versed in basic phrases. They also knew a fair bit about football too, but after ten minutes or so they lost concentration and it all decended into chaos again and they just wanted to wrestle and take selfies. I ended up with two trying to arm-wrestle me at once while another would violently smack his mate with a plastic fan - less 'ohm', more arrgh! 🤣

    After that energy, we went back on the bikes to a little restaurant before winding our way through the temple grounds back to the hostel. In the evening we went for another sunset tour, this time to the pagoda area. You could climb up and see all around Bagan. Unfortunately clouds got in the way of an amazing sunset - a recurring problem in Myanmar but definitely a nicer 'problem' to have.

    On my final day in Bagan, I went to Mount Popa, a large temple situated on top of a hill that's an extinct volcano. It looks very impressive from afar, but when I got to the top it's a bit of a standard affair. The view of the surroundings however was really nice and there are loads of wild monkeys running about. One stole this man's cigarette much to his irritation and my amusement. On the way back we stopped at a palm sugar making place and tried a few flavours - very tasty but probably a quick route to diabetes if regularly consumed.

    Got the night bus to Kalaw (the jumping off point for treks to Inle Lake) we arrived annoyingly at 3.00am it was supposed to be 5.30am. So we wandered to our hotel and slept until the morning. The following day we walked around the town and compared trekking companies. Our group settled on one due to start the next day and for the rest of the day we pottered about, had some noodles and got ready for the trek.

    Day 1

    It's tipping down with torrential rain and I'm about to start a three day trekking experience - current mood: unamused 😒 We're in the office of the trekking company awaiting our start and eventually set off sporting our much needed rain ponchos up the hill and into the Kalaw countryside. The rain is lashing down as we ascend into the surrounding areas. We stop for lunch at a viewpoint where we can see precisely nothing owing to the cloud. After a while it clears a bit and the view is better. A woman dressed in traditional tribe clothing is having a photo shoot too on the mountain which is cool to see.

    After lunch we set off walking again, thankfully the rain has subsided and we're able to enjoy the trek. The surroundings are very scenic and our guide is hilarious. He has this weird laugh he does when you ask him a question, then sort of nervously runs away grinning slightly maniacally. Endearing and strange at the same time. We continued walking and reached our guesthouse for the night. A giant spider decided to appear in our room and we spent the next 20 minutes trying to catch it, eventually we managed to put it outside much to everyone's relief - rather not have that fall on you in the middle of the night 🕷. We ate some great homemade food and played a few games before retiring for bed and getting set for day two. be continued
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  • Day112

    ...Day 2

    I'm awoken from slumber by bashing pots and pans, surprisingly slept well despite the potential for hazarddess spiders and the like. After breakfast we continue the trek across the fields pausing so often to admire the views. We walk down a railway track and I feel like I'm in the film 'Stand by me' - children pass us, holding hands and delicately balancing on the track beams - looks like something out of the 1930s. We reach our second village and have a bucket shower which has a ludicrously low wall - it may as well not be there as leaves little to the imagination.

    The following day we set off for the final walk to Inle Lake, it comes into view as we're walking across rich and thick red soil with farmers toiling in the fields. We say goodbye to our crazy tour guide. He gives us his cursory mad laugh and rides off. The rest of the day is spent on a boat tour around Inle Lake. It's a town on water - instead of walking or driving, children paddle in boats to school, old women sit in wooden rafts and motorised boats ferry folk to their respective destinations. The entire place is filled with buildings on large stilts with canals everywhere - bizarre but really cool at the same time. 🚣

    We stop off at various highlights including the silk factory where they weave intricate patterned material in what looks like the most painstaking process - very talented but pretty laborious. We also watch the fisherman in the middle of the lake. They cleverly paddle their boats with one foot while simultaneously managing to fish in the water with a large net. It's an awesome site against the surrounding scenery.

    The following day a few of us hire a bicycle and explore the surroundings. We go for a tofu tour, which sounds boring but was genuinely really interesting. The guy took us around a local village and we learned how it's made, turns out there are like 40 different varieties, who'd of thought?! He gives us some tofu at the end and it's absolutely delicious - I need to figure out how to make it properly as it's alway pretty tasteless at home. He also gives us a pure sugar candy ring. More than one or two and you'd be bouncing off the walls like a hyper kid on e-numbers.

    In the evening we head to Inle winery for a few tasters of Burmese wine (not the best) and a great view. It's really windy and the sample promptly falls over. The lady brings over another chucking and we head inside for a few of the preferred glasses. The place is supposed to shut at 6.00pm, we finally head back at around 7.30pm in bike convoy as it's now pitch black.

    I'm off on the road to Mandalay, pretty sure that's a film or a book... anyway I arrive at around 5.00am and immediately we decide to go to Ubein Bridge to try and catch the sunrise. Clouds once again have other ideas but it's a nice spot nevertheless - apparently it's the longest wooden bridge in the world. We pass lots of monks on it and a few people exercising in the morning light. We potter through a couple of very local markets and the selllers look like they have seen a load of ghosts. We catch a boat across the river and wander around some temples and a few other interesting bits before heading back.

    My final day in Mandalay starts off fine. A few of us hire bicycles and cycle around the city. We go to a gold leaf making shop which unfortunately is quite underwhelming - it's just people hitting the gold to make it flat. After that we head towards the jade market. On the way my bike breaks and we spend the next 20 mins trying to fix it. I set off again and literally within ten minutes someone else's bike breaks! Hmm pattern emerging here...? Again we fiddle around and some locals come and help us. They fix the bike and it breaks again within five minutes. A couple of our group have to leave so we say goodbye and send them off with the two knackered bikes and three of us continue on to the jade market.

    Interesting fact, Myanmar is apparently responsible for producing around 90% of the world's jade. Pretty awesome, the market is mad with people buzzing about selling and bartering for jade. We watch it being, cut, cleaned and poished. It's a hive of activity. We then set off towards Mandalay hill for a sprawling view of the city. A bike breaks yet again on the way but we manage to get to to the top with a lift in a truck. The view is fantastic. We stay a while then aim to ride back down the hill. Surprise, surprise... a bike breaks! 😲 you couldn't make it up! The pedal is bent and the breaks are shot. We make it to the bottom alive and toss the bikes in the van, we give them back to the guy and tell him they're all crap, he pretends not to understand - classic get out technique. We leave it but mention the place to the hostel.
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  • Day6

    Our first Pagoda in Myanmar. The amount of detail on the walls inside. The Botahtaung Pagoda is one of the few that can go inside. It houses one of the 8 hairs from Buddha. We had fun trying our skill at getting the folded money bills in the rotating dishes. Jardin's basketball skills came in handy here!? Haha

  • Day7

    Wow there is a lot of gold in Yangon!? The Shwedagon Pagoda is the oldest (~600 BC) and tallest (100 meters) in the world. It has 4 tons of gold plates screwed to the outside...equivalent to over $150 million. The diamond orb at the top has 4,351 diamonds with a total of 1,800 carats and the largest being 76 carats! 😳💍

You might also know this place by the following names:

Union of Burma, Birma (Myanmar), Myanmar [Burma], Mianmar, Miyanma, ማያንማር, Myanmar, ميانمار -بورما, М'янма, Мианмар [Бирма], Myanimari, মায়নমার, འབར་མ།, Myanmar [Birmania], Mijanmar, Myanmar [Birmània], ބަރުމާ, མེ་མར, Myanmar [Burma] nutome, Μιανμάρ, Birmo, Birma, Birmania, مایانمار, Miyamaar, Burma, Birmanie, Maenmar, મ્યાંમાર, Miyamar, מיינמר, म्याँमार, Bimani, Մյանմա, Birmania/Myanmar, Mjanmar, ミャンマー連邦, მიანმარი, Myama, មីយ៉ាន់ម៉ា, ಮಯನ್ಮಾರ್, 미얀마, म्‍यन्मार, میانمار, Byrmani, Мьянма, Myanima, Börma, Mozambiki, ສະຫະພາບພະມ້າ, Mianmaras, Myamare, Mjanma [Birma], Мјанмар [Бурма], മ്യാന്‍മാര്‍, म्यानमार [ब्रह्मदेश], မြန်မာ, म्यान्मार, ମିୟାମାର୍, Mianmar [Birmânia], Birimaniya, ब्रह्मदेश, Myämâra, මියන්මාරය, Mjanmar [Burma], Мијанмар [Бурма], மியான்மார் [பர்மா], మ్యాన్మార్, Birmánia, Мянма, เมียนม่าร์ [พม่า], Pema, Birmanya, بىرما, Мʼянма [Бірма], میانمار [برما], Miến Điện (Myanmar), Mianmarän, Orílẹ́ède Manamari, 缅甸, e-Myanmar [Burma]

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