Myanmar is unlike any other country we have visited in Asia. Once we arrived in Yangon, we realized directly that we were about to experience something special. Recently opened for tourism, Myanmar still keeps its traditions. It’s fascinating to see all women faces covered with thanaka (traditional makeup), men wearing longyi (sarong-style long skirts) and mouths full of red blood juice, results of the Kwun-ya they chew.

Yangon was the first stop of our ten days mini trip through Myanmar. Our arrival at the (brand new) airport was smooth. We had requested our visa online and it was granted within 24 hours. Leaving the airport to the city is also “scam free”, as the taxi price is clearly divided by area.

We arrived at our hotel in the afternoon and directly arranged a night bus* for the following day to Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake). If you are “counting your days” in Myanmar you can easily see the Yangon highlights in one and half day.

We spent our first afternoon visiting the Bogyoke Aung San Market. The first stalls at the market sell souvenirs and handcrafts for premium prices, so walk further to the end for a better deal and don’t hesitate to bargain. After visiting the market, we walked towards the 2.200 years old Sule Paya – go up to the sky bridge at the middle of the avenue for the perfect picture. We continued our tour visiting the colonial buildings of downtown Yangon as the City Hall, the High Court (with a bell tower clock), the Mahabandoola Garden, the Yangon Region Court among others. The decayed buildings in this area have its charm. We finished our day dining samosa salad, duck pastries and Mohinga – a local dish at Lucky Seven Restaurant (a small restaurant chain that offers fantastic cheap food on 49th street) and later with a drink at the Sky Bistro restaurant.

On our second day, we went early to Shwedagon Paya (4 am – 10 pm / $8 – K8000), considered to be one of the most important Buddhism sites in the world. The pagoda is stunning and next to the tons of gold, you can witness true spiritually here – monks singing, peregrines bringing flowers or pouring water on Buddha’s statue at the corner that corresponds with the day of the week of their birthday. It’s magical! You can continue in the neighbourhood visiting Chaukhtatgyi Paya (6 am – 8 pm), famous for its 65m-long reclining Buddha.

After visiting those two sights, it was time for lunch and head back to our hotel to pack. The long-distance bus station is one hour by car from Yangon downtown, so have that in mind when you take a bus to your next destination. We left a bit earlier and asked our taxi driver to stop at the beautiful Mahar Kyain Thitsa Shin.

Our one and half day in Yangon were intense, hot and humid but very nice, it was a great introduction to Myanmar and we loved it! After Yangon, it was time for some relaxation at Inle Lake! Check out our experience there here.

Useful hints:
– Bring a hand sanitizer and repellent
– Women must have shoulders and knees covered to enter temples. Men must have knees covered. In case you are not prepared for it, there are many sellers offering long skirts or trousers at the main sights
– Prices differ a bit between the local currency and dollars. Ask both prices to compare and make your currency choice.
– Prices vary drastically from “tourist focus” restaurant to local restaurants
– Some restaurants don’t display prices in their menu carts. Ask for the prices before to avoid bad surprises

Further reading about Myanmar: Inle Lake and Bagan

*We travelled through Myanmar with JJ buses and we highly recommend them. The JJ buses are new, punctual, safe and clean. The seats are pretty spacious and most of them offer a personal entertainment system. They sometimes offer a meal (depending on the route) and a free pick up from your hotel (except in Yangon). JJ offers night buses, which is great to save time and a hotel night. You can easily book your ticket at your hotel or at any travel agency on the street. At every JJ station, you can buy tickets for all routes through Myanmar.

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