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For the last few years Myanmar has been at the top of our travel list. Having already visited most countries in Southeast Asia, we considered Myanmar to be SEA’s last frontier, one that we wanted to visit before the masses.

This past September we finally did. Those of you that follow us on social media would’ve already seen some of the highlights from our time in Myanmar and know how thrilled we were to visit the country!  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: now is the time to visit Myanmar!

Street in Yangon, Myanmar

Street in Yangon, Myanmar

The country is just developed enough to make it reasonably easy for adventurous travelers to get around on their own and not yet popular enough to feel overcrowded with hoards of tourists.

Our time in Myanmar was short (we spent just over 2 weeks making our way from Yangon to Mandalay), yet it gave us memorable experiences from day 1.

Here are just a few of our favourites!

Experiencing Street Life in Yangon

We pictured Yangon to be just another large SEA city, expecting it to disappoint us the way Jakarta did just a month earlier. But Yangon was nothing like Jakarta! Yangon was alive, it was vibrant and full of culture. It was absolutely fascinating!

Colourful buildings in Yangon. Myanmar

Colourful buildings in Yangon

Street in Yangon. Myanmar

Monk in a monastery in Yangon. Myanmar

Monk in a monastery in Yangon

We spent days roaming the streets of Yangon, taking in the hustle and bustle of its day to day life. We loved discovering new street food at pop up markets, tasting local tea (they have it with condensed milk here) at street side restaurants while sitting on a tiny plastic chairs, and purchasing our own longiys (long skirt worn by local men and women) at the Bogyoke Market.

Drinking tea in Yangon, Myanmar

Drinking tea in Yangon

We were there just long enough (3 days total) to visit the big attractions (Shwedagon Pagoda is not to miss) and get lost among the locals in no name alleyways.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Street side restaurant in Yangon. Myanmar

Street side restaurant in Yangon

Cruising Beyond the Tourist Trail at Inle Lake

“Inle Lake will be the most touristy experience you have in Myanmar”, said the pages of Lonely Planet, “but it’s one you don’t want to miss”.

Fisheman on Inle Lake. Myanmar

Fisheman on Inle Lake

Lonely Planet didn’t lie, the touristy boat ride around Inle Lake was advertised on every corner and in every guesthouse, but we didn’t want to settle for touristy.

“Regular Inle Lake half day tour – 10,000 kyat”, explained a local woman who chatted us up on the side of the road with a map in hand.

“You go around top of lake. Longer tour you go to middle lake – 15,000 kyat, or for 20,000 kyat you can go to bottom of lake – full day tour 9-4pm, very nice”.

“What if we want to go even further south?”

She looked surprised but excited and told us her husband would be happy to take us.

Town of Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake

Town of Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake

We departed at 6am and didn’t return until 5pm, spending just short of 12 hours sailing down well past Inle Lake down to the remote yet absolutely beautiful areas surrounding Moebyel Lake.

Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Floating village on Inle Lake

Sailing in Inle Lake. Myanmar

Sailing in Inle Lake

Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Floating abandoned home on Inle Lake

As you can imagine, our favourite parts of the trip were those in the far south.

Foating village on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Floating village on Inle Lake

Tharkong Pagoda, Inle Lake

Tharkong Pagoda, Inle Lake

Young monks sailing on Inle Lake. Myanmar

Young monks sailing on Inle Lake

Family sails to their home in Inle Lake. Myanmar

Family sails to their home in Inle Lake

Exploring Temples in Bagan

Visiting 1000-year-old temples in Bagan is an amazing experience, no matter how touristy and crowded it might get.

Sunset in Bagan, Myanmar

Sunset in Bagan

Luckily for us, traveling during the shoulder season gave us the opportunity to explore Bagan without the crowds. We rented an e-bike from a shop with the cutest little puppy and rode it around from temple to temple for 2 days straight. We loved visiting the big important temples, like the Shwezigon Paya, Shwesandaw Paya, Sulamani Pahto, or Dhammayangyi Pahto just as much as getting lost and finding our own no name pagodas to explore.

Waiting for a sunset view on top of a small pagoda in Bangan. Myanmar

Waiting for a sunset view on top of a small pagoda in Bangan

Inside the Shwesandaw Paya in Bagan. Myanmar

Inside the Shwesandaw Paya

Sunrise in Bagan. Myanmar

Sunrise…

Hot air balloon at sunrise in Bagan. Myanmar

Hot air balloon at sunrise in Bagan

Riding on a Scenic Train to Hsipaw

Most train rides are merely a way to get from Point A to Point B, but for us, the train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw was a destination in its own. It was a fascinating journey that took us through remote towns and villages in the Shan province, allowing us to interact with locals on the train and in the villages where we stopped, all while enjoying the scenic views of rice paddies fields, rolling green hills, and the famous Gokteik Viaduct bridge.

Views from the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar

Views from the train to Hsipaw

Max hanging out on and off the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar

Max hanging out on and off the train to Hsipaw

Monk on the train to Hsipaw. Myanmar

Monk on the train to Hsipaw

Old school train carriage. Hsipaw. Myanmar

Old school train carriage

Inside the train carriage, Hsipaw. Myanmar

Inside the train carriage

Oksana looking out the windon on train to Hsipaw. Myanmar

The views are so good, I couldn’t stop looking out the window!

It was the most interesting 10-hour train journey we have ever been on!

Trekking to Hill Tribe Villages in Shan Province

Pushing further North from Hsipaw to explore the remote Shan and Palaung Hill Tribe villages was by far the most culturally immersive experience we had in Myanmar.

Trekking in the Shan province. Myanmar

Trekking in the Shan province

Not only did we get a chance to stay in villagers’ homes, eat homemade food, interact with locals, and witness their day to day lives, but we got a chance to participate in a rare celebration known as the Monk Harvest Festivals.

Little girl in the Palaung village showing off her 1000 kyat bill. Hsipaw. Myanmar

Little girl in the Palaung village showing off her 1000 kyat bill

Monk on a bike in the village in Shan state. Hsipaw. Myanmar

Monk on a bike

Young girl carries water to her home in Palaung Village. Hsipaw. Myanmar

Young girl carries water to her home in Palaung Village

Max drinking tea in Palaung village. Myanmar

Max drinking tea in Palaung village

Local villager and his waterbuffalo. Hsipaw. Myanmar

Local villager and his water buffalo

We were mesmerised by the rhythmic dancing, chanting, and singing of the women, men, and children, who were all dressed in bright colourful traditional clothing (even more traditional than their every day longyis) on the night of the festival. We watched them for hours, mesmerized by the atmosphere all around us. We felt honoured and extremely grateful for the opportunity.

Villagers signing during the Monk Harvest Festival in Palaung Village. Myanmar

Villagers signing during the Monk Harvest Festival in Palaung Village

Young monk hugs their sibling at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival

Young monk hugs their sibling at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival

Learning the traditional dance at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar

Learning the traditional dance at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival

Making friends at the Palaung VIllage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar

Making friends at the Palaung Village Monk Harvest Festival

That night we not only learned the steps to their local dance but felt like we gained a better understanding of the culture and local traditions that seemed to be so difficult to grasp throughout our travels in Myanmar.

Young girls in traditional outfits at the Palaung VIillage Monk Harvest Festival. Myanmar

Young girls in traditional outfits at the Palaung VIillage Monk Harvest Festival

Saying goodbye to Myanmar was hard. The deeper into the country we traveled the more we wanted to see. In the end, only one thing was certain: Myanmar is a country with many fascinating and memorable experiences and one that definitely will see us coming back for more!

Trekking in Hsipaw, Myanmar

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Our top 5 experiences in Myanmar

Have you ever visited Myanmar? What were some of your favourite experiences? Share them in the comments section below!