If your thinking of visiting Myanmar (Pronounced mee-an-mar) the time to do so in now!

I honestly believe even the most jaded of travellers will be delighted with this extraordinary country.

My journey through Myanmar took me through Yangon, Bagan, Mayaing, Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake.

Myanmar, or as the western world commonly know it, Burma is yet to be completely overwhelmed by tourism. Everywhere you look you will see men wearing skirt-like attire called longyi, you will see women pAinted in tree bark paste called thanakha, instead of handbags and backpacks things are carried on bamboo sticks, \240handwoven baskets or trays balanced on heads and locals mouths are stained blood red from betel-tobacco-leaf chewing.

There is an incredible amount of landscapes, pagodas and Buddhas to be seen, but the best part of Myanmar is the people. Along the way you will encounter locals who are gentle, engaging, humorous, passionate, inquisitive and considerate. Each of them with very different stories to offer, from the traders in the markets, the families and farmers in the small villages, the taxi drivers in the city to the monks in the monestries.

Through my travel journal of Myanmar I will share my experiences, explain my learnings and offer general advice and recommendations/reviews of places I stayed, ate at and visited.

Make sure before you arrive in Myanmar that you have clean crisp USD notes as they are quite strict on what is accepted. The notes cannot have AB or BC in the serial number so be sure to check this when purchasing your foreign currency..

What should you pack for the monsoon season? \240Pack light in the wet season. Definatly pack an umbrella but don't worry about any heavy wet wether gear. It was generally too hot to put on any wet weather clothes. A disposable poncho or 2 would be sufficient. The rain was generally warm considering the 30degree temperature. In my 3 week trip I used a poncho for just over an hour on a boat trip, and that was the one and only time I was phased enough to cover up. There was occasionally moments where I used my umbrella but not for long as it was often only a passing shower.

Travel plugs- almost all of the hotels had a wall socket that was somewhat \240universal. The most common plug types where the British and American so make it simple for yourself and get a universal multi plug that has USB slots for all your gadgets.The standard voltage is 230v.

First of all landing and clearing immigraton in Yangon was simple. From plane to taxi it was around 20 minutes ( including baggage reclaim) A taxi from airport to downtown Yangon was USD $8 or K8000.

On your first day I recommend heading to one of the many banks and changing some of your USD to Khat you will get more for your money by using the local currency (prounced Chat). At time of my travel (August 2017) $1 USD = K1350.

Next suggestion is get yourself a local SIM card. Choose a phone shop in the towns and ask them to put it and set it up. I managed to pick up a Ooredoo SIM card for about K3000 and a top up of 4.5gb of data for an additional K5000 so all up I spent $6 and I never had to bother finding wifi. I could use my travel down time on buses etc when doing the long distance transfer from state to state to do research check in with home. Another good brand is Telanor. MPT is the government brand and doesn't have the same data top up options and signal in varied locations isn't as good.

Da Nyin Gone Railway Station, Khayae Pin Rd, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Day 1 - Yangon (meaning - 'end of strife')

If your from the western world and haven't yet travelled any or much of Asia get ready for a culture shock!

If your ready- keep reading!

If you get a chance I recommend trying out one of Intrepid's many Urban Adventures. It was a gentle way of being eased into the culture. I had someone to explain and answer my every question on my first day. I even had the awesome local guide all to myself for the whole day.

Let Yangon take you for a ride - Yangon Circular Line, an almost 32 mile slow moving train trip costing K1000 (USD $1). Tickets for the train are purchased on the platform. The journey through the 38 stations on the circle line takes roughly 3hrs. The ancient carriages have no air conditioning but they do have wide open windows.

Hoping on the train is a great way to experience the commuter life, interact with the passengers and even be entertained by the vendors sellling their items. The vendors are going to sell everything from herbal medicines, fruits and veg, quail eggs boiled (which people seem to eat like candy) hot foods and sugary covered pastries. In the photo below it's like a donut (without the hole) that gets sliced in half filled with condensed cream and sugar scooped into it.. The vendors carry a plastic stool in one hand and the other hand supporting the tray of food balancing on their heads. To serve you they place the stooll down in the middle of the isle, take a seat and take the tray from their head to complete the transaction and off they race to the next person.

I found It is impressive enough they can balance a tray on their head let alone one filled with hot food and walking carriage-to-carriage along a rickety train full of commuters.

If you want to you can disembark at any station and easily take a taxi back to downtown however I would suggest the train as a loop to avoid the traffic-clogged roads.

Yangon Central Station to Danyingon ( the main food markets ) is about an hour and a half journey time. Along the way you will get to see off-the-beaten-track areas of the city. A real visual of life in the 'burbs. The changing views of shanty towns, watercress fields, the golf course and markets.

Your first glance of the markets will be as your climbing off the carriage onto the tracks where the commotion of trade is taking place.

Before each train comes there is an announcement over the speaker system. The vendors stand up and the train rolls in, hardly disturbing the process of purchasing.

There is 2 parts to this market area. The outside area subject to all weather conditions sells mainly fruit and vegetable produce. The markets run daily and in all weather conditions. If you are planning a visit wear shoes you don't mind getting wet or dirty.

Prepare yourself as you venture inside the walkways are dark and uneven and in monsoon season they will be wet and muddy. A stench mixed of fish paste, raw meats and dirty water lingers in the market air. .

In the back section of the market you will find the raw meats and butchers. In the wet season locals are trudging through knee deep muddy water shopping for the perfect cuts of fly covered meats that have been slapped on the tiled surface spaces. A dramatic change to the sterilised metal displays of your local butcher shops in the western world.

Once you have finished exploring the inner markets it's time to watch the buyers and sellers bundle their produce ready for transportation back to the suburbs.

The Monsoon weather doesn't deter the locals. It wa 30degrees and the rain poured down with the sun shining through in patches.

The challenge was boarding the train back to the city. Leaving the markets crowds of people rush to load their stores onto the train, often the vendors pay a friend to help them throw and shove all the stock onto the carriage in the quick minute or two before the train leaves the station.

No visit to Yangon is complete without heading out at night to 19th street. 19th street is known for its rows of barbecue stalls and bars. It’s here where you will find cheap skewers of every assortment ready to be tossed on the bbq. The selection is no short of tofu,mutton, pork, chicken, mushrooms, quail eggs and fish.. Grab a basket, pick your selection then hand it over to the staff while you take a seat and sip on the local brew and take in the hustle of the street. Skewers cost around 150 kyat for veggies or 300 kyat for meat options. I recommend giving tea leave salad ago too. Despite every foreigners concern of getting sick from the street food, i didn’t hear of anyone getting sick from eating on the street. It’s obvious the crowds flocking to the stalls keep the food turning over fast.

Kandawgyi Lake

Day 2 - Yangon

The roads are something else in Myanmar. Traffic-clogged and chaotic. They drive on the right hand side of the road and in a right hand drive car. The rules don't really exist. The lanes are a somewhat guide and you will often find the cars driving three wide across 2 lanes. The horn is used for several things. The first is a hello, the second get out of the way and the third is a beep beep I'm overtaking.

Pedestrian crossings; well they aren't exactly a crossing at all. The cars don't stop. The lines act more as an advised spot to cross. Best advice find the gap! Remembering to look right then left out ur hand out to signal them (as if ur going to put your palm on the car bonnet) to slow and cross quickly.

The number plates are red if they are a taxi/bus, dark green for military, blue for royalty and black is privately owned vehicles.

Car quality. If you look on the back windscreen of a car there will be a circular sticker with star symbols on it. 4 stars is the best quality car - 1 star being the least.

In Yangon (the city area) motorbikes are banned, you will only see cars. This is because of the traffic and the safety. ( I laugh writing this because you will see across my trip I use the word safety very loosely) Once you get to other towns like Bagan the shift is dramatic, hardly any cars and mainly bikes; motor,electronic and bicycles.

Kandawgyi Lake (meaning : Big lake)

If you eneter on the eastern side of the lake where the cafes and playground are you will have to pay an admission fee of around K300.

YGN Bus Cafe. The interior had been changed to be the makings of a cafe. \240(The bonus was it was air conditioned)

The fried chicken beetroot burger was delicious. The bun was died with beetroot juice hence the name.

Also known as the Royal Lake, is an artificial lake built by the British as a reservoir.

Karaweik Palace, is a large concrete structure designed to look like 2 enormous golden birds a design that was based of the Royal floating barge. \240

The Karaweik Palace is used as a large restaurant, buffet, conference hall and theatre.

Below is a picture showing the boardwalk that runs mainly along the southern and western sides of the lake. The locals seem unphased by the condition of the boardwalk but I’ll be honest there was times when I was concerned for where to step.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Day 3 - Yangon

City walking tour

Colonial buildings

999 Shan noodle soup

Mahabandoola Garden

Enjoy the greenery

Independence monument.

Shwedagon Paya. Shwe=gold Dagon=city of Yangon

The Shwedagon Paya is Yangon's awe inspiring monument. This impressive structure dominates Yangons skyline and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. It's the one sight on your visit you cannot miss!

The 325ft tall zedi (stupa) is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf. At the top in the section called the hti which tops the stupa with thousands of diamond and other gems. Around the base is 64 smaller Pagoda and 12 planetary posts where pilgrims worship their day of birth. This winking wonder is believed to enshrine 8 hairs of The Gautama Buddha.

Take time to enjoy this location as the grounds around the main stupa are filled with sights to see. Take a moment to Watch the locals, sit and talk with the monks and even give yourself a moment to reflect on the awe of this incredible structure.

A perfect time to visit is in the cooler hours of the afternoon where the crowds thin and you can sit and watch as the sun sets and the lights illuminate the incredible detail of the zedi.

Old Bagan

Day 4 - Yangon to Bagan

Flying into Bagan gazing out the window on decent and you could already see the wonderous vista of pagodas and stupas.

Staying in the New Wave Guest House in Nyaung U

Old Bagan

Day 5 - Bagan

Bagan - known bureaucratically as the 'Bagan Archaeological Zone'

Bike riding through the archaelogical zone followed by sunset at the top of a temple/pagoda?

Paya protocol shoes off.

Mt Popa

Day 6 - Bagan

My Poppa

By car how long was drive.

777 steps to the top

View at the top

Horse and cart ride followed by sunset boat rip with beers and nuts.


Day 7 - Bagan to Myaing (Community Lodge)

An early 4.45am start to the day. The best sunset \240viewing point ( in wet season as hot air balloons don't operate) is to climb the stairs of the five terrace Shwesandaw Pagoda to watch the sunrise across the magestic temple studded plain. Be early and find a nice space to sit as the crowds will fill. It was a perfect send of to this beautiful region.

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.

Ending a perfect day by gazing up at black night sky. Watching the fireflies playfully dancing to the backdrop of darkness.

As the village lights were switched off the stars pierced through the blackness, ?

Just when I thought the magic of today couldn't have got any better a shooting star raced across the sky.

Mandalay Hill

Day 8 - Myaing (Community Lodge) to Mandalay

Sagaing \240hill

Travel on 'the road to Mandalay'.

Village breakfast

4hr bus ride

View across the Ayeyarawaddy (Irrawaddy) \240river from temple??


Day 9 - Mandalay

On the surface a very similar city to Yangon with its traffic-clogged grid like streets. Behind the initial view of this city is hidden quarters of beauty.

Zeygo Markets

1 hr boat trip out to Mingu. Cruising along the river through the water towns

Buffet lunch (All you can eat) for 4000K

Mandalay Hill for sunset

The temple topped Mandalay Hill .....


Day 10 - Mandalay to Kalaw

Drive from Mandalay

Stop to look at some Buddha sculpting shops where the locals we're sculpting and polishing Buddhas of all styles and designs. Most of the Buddah having a finished body body and a block for the head. The reason for this is so that the buyer can decide how they would like the face to be.

Drive to amarpura - Myanmar's penultimate royal capital to stop and walk along the worlds longest Teak footbridge, U-Bein Bridge


Day 11 - Kalaw

During the British period Kalaw was founded as a hill station by British civil servants fleeing the heat of the plains.

The cool air and the leafy green surrounding hills make for the perfect trekking destination. You can choose to do a day trek, trek over night or even the 3 days al the way to Inle Lake.

If your on a tight time schedule the one day trek covers around 15kms over and around the hills. Be sure to hire a local guide as you could easily get lost among the many turns.

Wayne our local guide took us through the village of Myin Ka north of Kalaw stopping along the way to discuss farming techniques and show us the types of produce being farmed. (Local guides can be easily hired for around k8000 per person for a day trek)

If ur planning a trek where good walking shoes or hiking boots and be sure to Cary enough water.Even in the rainy season we were walking in 30degree heat along open pathways between fields with sun beaming down on us. After a few hours of walking we came to the town of Pane Ne Pin where we had lunch cooked for us and got a chance to chat to the locals. It was a well needed rest. Afrer sampling a local lunch and being shown how the women in the town hand serve scarves and longyi (ofcourse there available for purchase) we walked the 2 hrs back to Kalaw which was mostly up some very steep terrain. Across the day easily clicked 20km worth of walking according to my fitness tracker.


Day 12 - Kalaw to Inle Lake

Located in the Shan state in Pindaya is the Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda. Inside this incredible limestone cavern stands/sits more than 8 thousand gold Buddha statues.

Make sure to stop and admire the view of the complex from afar.

Once at the top take in the view of the Pan Taloke Lake. Where story explains that the dragon spat out some water and so became the lake.

Cost to enter K3000 and a camera fee of K300 . Inside the cavern marvel at walls filled with Buddah, get lost in the Buddah maze and walk through the winding complex of natural caves and tunnels bursting with astonishing varieties of Buddah statues.

Inle Lake

Day 13 - Inle Lake

When visiting Myanmar be sure to include Inle Lake on your itinerary. Yes- it is under a much heavier influence of tourism than other areas of the country but still a beautiful area to see and experience.

Don't be fooled by the weather in Inle Lake as it can change quickly. The clouds looked like they had set in and the rain was heavy, however 10 minutes later beautiful blue sky appeared with the sun beaming down.

As you travaerse the lakes in motorised longboats you will see variations of fishing.

Day 14 - Inle Lake

There’s a couple of ways to get around at Inle Lake along the roads most opt for tuk tuk, bike or motorbike.

Todays plan was to head to xx , Tofu x

I opted for the TukTuk to the view point and decided I would bike ride back. ( I put my bike in the back of the Tuk Tuk. I'm glad I did as there's a pretty mean hill along the way so I skipped that and the wether cleared up within 10 minute of us leaving and the sun was shining again. \240

A quick tip: wear sunscreen even if the clouds are covering any blue sky. Even if it’s supposed to be wet season. I was ending up with new tan lines daily.

$10 USD entry to the Hot Springs. We had the whole place to our selves. The venue is in very well maintained condition. You will receive a bottle of water A towel and locker key on arrival. There is sun loungers and a pool side bar (minimal options but your standard beers, wine and soft drinks). \240The photo below is the mixed area, where men and women are allowed to bathe together. This is however the tourist designed hot spring.

If you are looking for the true authentic experience then the local hot spring along the drive/ ride is very different. . It is family run and very simple in design. Concrete pools in the open) the pool on the right is the men’s pool and on the \240left is the women’s.


Bogyoke Aung San Markets (Scott Market is its old British name). Open 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday. With more than 2000 shops it's Myanmars largest selection of handicrafts and souvenirs. It's the perfect place to pick up spend your remaining foreign currency and pick up souvenirs for family and friends before heading home. You will find everything here from beautiful lacquerware, Shan shoulder bags, puppets, art, longyis, shoes, material, jade and jewlerry.

My favourite shop is in the main hall - it’s called TUBE. This amazing little shop sells products such as key rings, laptop cases, makeup brush bags, pencil cases, shower bags and even handbags all made from recylcled bicycle inner tubes. Be sure to check out the handicrafts there a hit with the family and friends especially any cycling enthusiasts.

Remember to always travel responsibly and sustainably!