These words barely describe our travel experience in Myanmar. One needs to physically go there to actually make sense of the place. We have allotted 5 days to explore its two cities, Yangon and Bagan, and it was definitely nothing short of awesome. From its temples, accommodation, food, clothing, to meeting its people, it was a totally different experience.
PEOPLE OF MYANMAR
Myanmar is golden. Not only because of its multitude golden pagodas but mainly because of its people. They are kind. We have not encountered even a single rude Burmese. They are not fluent in English but you can feel that they try their best to communicate and they are exceptionally helpful.
DRESSING UP IN MYANMAR
The majority of people, even men, wear Longyis in Myanmar. Longyi is a traditional piece of cloth that gets wrapped around the waist, like a sarong or malong. People visiting temples in Myanmar are required to cover up their knees so one needs to wear a longyi. I actually enjoyed wearing one! Pants and skirts are also allowed as long as they're below the knee.
EXPLORING TEMPLES IN BAGAN, MYANMAR
Bagan is home to thousands of temples in Myanmar. It has a remarkable array of pagodas in all forms and sizes.
Exploring Bagan can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many temples. There is so much to see but basically not enough time. But one doesn't need to see all. A visit to few interesting temples will get you satisfied.
There are lots of ways to explore Bagan. You can explore by car, horse cart, bicycle, e-bike or by foot. Riding an e-bike is the best way to go, IF AND ONLY IF you know how to use it properly. If not then don't take the risk. We saw some western tourists on e-bikes and they had difficulties navigating the road. We also saw someone drive out of control and crashed some parked e-bikes outside a temple, good thing no one got hurt. It's best to use an e-bike if you really know how to drive but if not, then don't risk it and just find another way to explore the area.
We requested Sky View to arranged our Bagan tour via car and didn't regret it. Our driver cum guide was informative and took us to the most interesting temples and places in Bagan. It was tiring but we had so much fun.
TIP: Bring plenty of sunscreen and water as it can get hot and dusty in Bagan. Also, wear slippers or sandals (easier to take on & off) because footwear is not allowed inside the temples of Bagan.
SUNRISE & SUNSET IN BAGAN
The most spectacular moments in Bagan happen when the sun rises and sets. Make sure you don't miss that.
I can't recommend a particular viewing point as I honestly don't remember the names of the temples we've gone to (they were so many). Even the view from our hotel rooftop was so good. What more if you're atop those beautiful pagodas?
ACCOMMODATION IN MYANMAR
We stayed in Winner Inn Yangon for a night & three wonderful nights in Sky View Hotel Bagan. These are budget accommodations but the amenities and services are great. Myanmar accommodations generally have lower prices than the hotels in PH and other Southeast Asian countries so staying in Myanmar won't break the bank.
One thing I didn't expect to see in Myanmar is its wide carpet flooring. I haven't seen carpets used so abundantly until I've set foot in Myanmar. Myanmar seems to be fond of carpet flooring. From the floors of Yangon International Airport to the floors of our room accommodations in Myanmar, they are all carpeted!
Aside from that, the reception in Myanmar is also great. They really provide impeccable service to their guests. From arranging custom tours, getting a ride, and to suggesting good dining places, they are all very keen on making sure that we have a comfortable stay.
GETTING TO MYANMAR
There are no direct flights from the Philippines to Myanmar. One has to go to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Singapore and take another flight to get to Myanmar.
We availed AirAsia's ASEAN PASS and booked a flight to Myanmar via Kuala Lumpur. We also used it to book for flights to Bangkok & Singapore. A cheaper option for backpacking Southeast Asia.
BUS TO BAGAN
Traveling by bus is the most common way to get around Myanmar, especially if your destination is Bagan. Travel time from Yangon to Bagan is approximately 8 hours.
Tickets are available at bus stations or arranged by your hotel reception, but it is recommended to book early for the major routes such as Yangon to Bagan, Mandalay or Inle Lake. I did an advance booking with JJ Express for a night trip to Bagan via their FB page. They were accommodating enough and reserved us 2 tickets from Yangon to Bagan.
Entry to Myanmar needs a travel visa. But there is an exemption for passports holders from the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Brunei. We can enter Myanmar without a visa and stay for up to 14 days. For Singaporeans, they can stay up to 30 days.
Myanmar is a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern cities. It is unhurried. It exudes an innocent and unpolluted vibe. It is still developing and it isn't perfect. But it's refreshing to see a country with a culture so rich but remains so grounded at the same time. Witnessing a glimpse of Myanmar is surely an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.