There’s so much about this beautiful country that I am clueless about. Ever since the reforms, it’s been a lot easier for tourists to travel in and out of Myanmar. My Myanmar trip was an impulsive one (again), so I didn’t have much time to do my research before heading over. Myanmar is huge and I only managed to cover Yangon and Bagan on my trip there.
Things I wished I had known before traveling to Myanmar:
- The Burmese have their own currency- the Myanmar Kyat but they do accept USD for the touristy places e.g temple entrance fees.
- It is more worth it to change your USD in large denominations. You’ll get a better rate at the airport. 1 USD is around 1364 MMK
- I’ve read online horror stories that you need clean crisp American dollars in order for the money changer to accept your notes. I read some blog entries stating that the money changers are very anal about this. They will NOT accept American dollars that are folded, even by a little. So I specifically told my money changer that I needed clean and crisp American dollars. When I spoke to a Burmese about this, she told me that yes indeed money changers were very strict about this 5 to 10 years ago, but now it’s not as strict.
- From 1st December 2016 onward, Singaporeans traveling to Myanmar do not have to apply for visa! (YAY)
- If you’re intending to visit pagodas and temples, which I bet you will, do remember to wear something that is long enough to cover your knees. You could potentially rent a longyi or buy one at the temples. (They’re not very particular about sleeveless wear, just no spaghetti straps/ revealing tops.)
- Wear flipflops if you can! I wore shoes throughout my trip and on each visit to the temple, I had to remove my socks and shoes, which was a pain. I ended up with black and dusty socks at end of the day.
- Some more popular temples/pagodas will have shop keepers that tell you to keep your shoes in their shop and they’ll ‘look after’ your shoes. When you’re back, they will get you to purchase something or give them a ‘present’. I had enough of the pestering, subsequently I brought my own paper bag to keep my shoes so that I don’t have to pay ‘protection’ fees.
- When we were in Yangon, we traveled around by cabs or booking a cab via the app Oway ride. It is almost like the Burmese version of Uber ; you can request for a cab through the app and it will tell you how much it costs to head to your location. Except that they don’t accept credit card payment, you’ve to pay the driver cash after your ride.
- Visa is more widely accepted than Masters for some reason. Most places that accept credit card only accept either Masters or Visa, not both (usually Visa).
Here’s how I spent 6 days (13th-18th December 2016) in Myanmar, specifically Yangon and Bagan.
Air tickets: $302.85 SGD from Tiger airlines (inclusive of travel insurance)
SIM card from Ooredoo: 7000 MMK for 2GB data, 4G (purchased from the airport)
I must say their 4G service was pretty reliable and fast (except in Bagan). I am still holding on to a 3G service in Singapore and I was really impressed at the speed and reliability of the 4G tel-co. (It’s a lot faster than my 3G connection back at home.)
Cab from Yangon airport to the city: 8000 MMK
When I spoke to my Burmese friend, she told me that her mom could haggle the cab price to 4000 MMK (half the price !).
Lunch was at this restaurant called Shan Yoe Yar.
It’s a little pricey but I LOVED IT. The food is amazing. Definitely worth a visit if you’re not on a tight budget. When I entered the restaurant, I noticed that the Burmese in the restaurant looked pretty affluent from their dressing. Well, it’s rather expensive, but if you don’t mind the splurge, I think it’s worth a visit.
After that, we went to Tony Tun Tun, a hair salon near Junction Maw Tin shopping mall.
Roger told me that he liked to visit hair salons whenever he travels to a new country to have a peek into how locals go about their daily lives. Roger went for a hair cut and a facial and I decided to go for a hair wash since I won’t be able to bathe that night (would be taking an overnight bus to Bagan).
After taking a long look at my hair (I’ve waist length hair), the shop assistant quoted me 8000 MMK for my hair wash.
Tony Tun Tun
279/281 Anawratha Rd
10am to 10pm
After that, we took a cab from the city to Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station (which is not far away from the airport).
Cab to Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station:
All the long distance buses are parked here and I must say it’s pretty confusing finding your bus. So do head to the bus station earlier so that you’ve ample time to search for your bus!
The Burmese were really helpful. When they saw our confused faces, they came up to us to ask which bus we’re taking and then directed us in the correct direction. One Burmese even walked us all the way to our bus! How kind of him!
Dinner: 6000 MMK for 2pax
The bus journey from Yangon to Bagan took us 10 hours. I was expecting an ordinary bus (trying not to keep my hopes high), but it turned out to be a legit sleeper bus! I slept really soundly throughout the bus ride, through the honkings and the traffic jam (then again, I could fall asleep almost anywhere).
Bagan Minn Thar VIP Express
$18 USD per person
We arrived at Bagan Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Station at 6 a.m the next morning.
It was actually pretty cold when we arrived in Bagan! We negotiated with a cab driver to send us somewhere to catch the sunrise and then dropping us off at the hotel. I am not good at bargaining so usually if the price isn’t too exorbitant, I’ll go ahead with it.
23 000 MMK
Bagan entrance fee:
25 000 MMK each
Bagan has a entrance fee of 25 000 MMK per person (ticket valid for 5 days). Remember to carry your tickets because they do require you to show your ticket at some sites (usually the more popular temples/ pagodas).
I loved this temple; away from the tourists yet similarly spectacular.
I think this must have been the most epic sunrise I’ve seen till date.
I did my research on how much it would cost to ride a hot air balloon in Bagan and I found out that it costs a whooping $320 USD to ride one! According to my friend, riding a hot air balloon in Europe would only cost half the price. So I decided to skip the hot air balloon experience. Hoping that I’ll return to Europe again to ride one!
After that, we checked in to our hotel.
Image from Kumudara hotel
$55 SGD for 2 pax (booked through Agoda)
After washing up, we set out to explore Bagan. There are over 2000 temples in Bagan and there are several ways to explore Bagan. One can rent a bicycle, an electronic bike or a horse cart. We chose the electronic bike because it gives us more freedom to head wherever we wanted.
There were e-bikes for rent just beside our hotel and the best thing? Just return it after sunset!
e-bike rental: 10 000 MMK
Lunch at Sarabha restaurant: 9000 MMK for 2 pax
After that we made our way to the grand palace
Grand Palace: 5000 MMK each
We went in and out of random temples and pagodas with our e-bike that I can’t even remember the names of a lot of them.
The Shwesandaw Pagoda is a very popular temple among tourists and a lot of them would camp here for the sunset. So we decided to come here in the noon to take a look when there are fewer tourists and return for the sunset.
This is one of the places recommended by Roger’s burmese friend. There are a lot of side dishes and you can choose if you want chicken, mutton or pork curry. It was a little strong for my taste buds. Roger even skyped his friend so that she could explain to us the dishes on our table! The only taste I could get used to was the coke that I ordered.
We settled dinner at star beam restaurant, a restaurant that sells western food.
Dinner at star beam restaurant: 16 000 MMK for 2 pax
We were supposed to wake up early and head to some pagoda to catch the sunrise but we slept through our alarms and by the time we woke up the sun had already risen.
We rented the e-bike again and began our travels.
A pity the dome is covered for reconstruction.
Lunch was at Weather’s spoon. I was pleasantly surprised that they have weather’s spoon in Bagan!
Weather’s spoon: 19 100 for 2 pax
After that we headed to Novel restaurant, which was just beside weather’s spoon, for desserts. We ordered a banana pancake to share.
Novel restaurant: 4100 MMK
After that we made our way to Htilominlo temple.
Then we took the overnight bus back to Yangon.
JJ VIP Express
$18 USD each
The journey back to Yangon is another 10 hours.
We finally arrived at Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station at 6 a.m. We took a cab straight to our hotel. And our hotel allowed us to check in early without any extra charges!
Cab to hotel: 10 000 MMK
Image from Agoda.
RGN City Lodge
$59 SGD per night for 2 pax (booked through Agoda)
After washing up, we started our day in Yangon.
Cab to oriental restaurant: 1700 MMK
Oriental restaurant: 9000 MMK for 2 pax
Made our way to the national museum next.
National Museum Yangon: 5000 MMK each
Gerneral Aung San’s last residence before he was assassinated.
Cab to Bogyoke Aung San Museum: 3100 MMK
Bogyoke Aung San Museum: 5000 MMK each
Our next stop, the Sule Pagoda
Cab to Sule Pagoda: 2200 MMK
Sule Pagoda: 3000 MMK each
One of the locals recommended me this, the soupy base shan noodles and I loved it.
999 Shan noodles:
11 235 MMK for 2 pax
After that we went back to our hotel; Roger left for a friend’s wedding shortly after and I fell asleep. I had planned to explore the city a little more on my own but too bad I fell asleep and by the time I woke up, it was already 1 a.m.
Our last day in Yangon and we met up with Roger’s Burmese friend who brought us around Yangon. She brought us to Junction Maw Tin shopping mall to have breakfast.
I ordered another type of Shan noodles as recommended by my new Burmese friend. The portion was fairly small and we gobbled everything in no time.
Breakfast: 6900 MMK for 2 pax
I even got a pair of spectacles made for 42 000 MMK!
This pagoda is considered the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar and boy, it’s huge!
They even have escalators in the pagoda!
My Burmese friend told me that she will make it a point to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda whenever she is back in Yangon.
We were really lucky to catch the ceremony because the ceremony usually takes place early in the morning.
When we were walking around the pagoda, there was a tourist who was lying on the ground with his feet pointing up (he was trying to take the perfect photo of his friend). My Burmese friend shook her head disapprovingly and said,” Never do that. It is extremely rude to point your leg to the Bhudha.”
8000 MMK each (only for foreigners)
After that, our Burmese friend brought us to Chinatown and we tried this food stall by the night market.
Hygiene wise it’s definitely not the best. The stall was by the highway, with heavy vehicles driving by. But if you’ve a strong stomach, I would definitely recommend this place! We loved the Burmese tofu so much that we ordered 2 plates of fried tofu, tofu salad and tofu stew!
Dinner: 15000 MMK
Overall, I had a really great time in Myanmar and I absolutely loved Bagan. The Burmese are really friendly and helpful and I felt pretty safe while I was traveling. Most importantly, I love the Burmese food, especially the Burmese tofu and shan noodles. I would definitely visit Mandalay and the Inle Lake next time!
Till next time, Myanmar.