[Brought to you by FlyMya]
Myanmar may not be every one’s first choice for a holiday destination, but we think it should! Here are 10 reasons why.
Myanmar is a country steeped in history and culture. Archaeological evidence has shown that the Homo erectus lived in the region now known as Myanmar as early as 400, 000 years ago. By the second century BC, there were also the formation of city-states in central Myanmar. Today, Myanmar is a fast-growing nation with a tourism industry that’s rising steadily. While its tourism game may not be as polished as its Thai or Vietnamese neighbours, there’s no doubt that this newly-minted sovereign state — with its beautiful, varied landscapes and friendly locals — will definitely be attractive travellers by the droves soon. Plus, travelling around the country is now made even easier with FlyMya, the country’s first and most comprehensive fare-compare website. On this website, you can check flight schedules for every domestic airline as well as book tickets via Paypal and Myanmar Payment Union (MPU). What’s more, you can also book all-inclusive tour packages for day-trips in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and the Heho region!
So what are some must-do activities in Myanmar?
1. Catch the sunrise in Bagan
Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, and is one of the country’s main tourist draws. If you’re a history buff or archaeology geek, you’ll have a field day exploring the many Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries, with many dating back to the 9th century. There are over 2, 200 structures still around today, spread out across 104 square kilometers of arid, sandy landscapes. While there are several favoured pagodas to visit to admire the sunrise, they are usually crowded with tourists or locals trying to peddle souvenirs. To escape the crowds, try the Lawkaoushaung Temple or the North Guni Temple instead.
2. Cycle around Inle Lake
The most popular way to explore Inle Lake is by boat but if you really want to get a feel of the land, we recommend going on two wheels. There are several places where you can rent a bike for 24 hours, including Nyuang Shwe, a town a few kilometers north of Inle Lake. Hop on and explore the surrounding villages and farmlands on your own – keep a look out for the Red Mountain Winery on the north side of the lake, where you can get a spectacular view of Inle and the surrounding vineyards.
3. Dine at a local teahouse
Myanmar has a wide and varied range of dishes and while the cuisine is less spicy than what you would typically find in Southeast Asia, it’s no less delicious. One of the best ways to enjoy local food is to eat like the locals do – at a teahouse! In Myanmar, a teahouse is not just a place for dining; it’s also a place where friends and family gather to spend time together. Here, you can enjoy Myanmar tea – a hot, milky, and sweet concoction – alongside an array of local snacks. The food served usually depends on which teahouse you visit – Myanmar ones typically serve noodles, Chinese teahouses serve up a range of meaty rice dishes while Muslim teahouses are known for fresh samosas.
4. Enjoy a drink (or two!) at a beer station
Another way to do like the locals do would be to grab a beer at a local beer station. These frills-free, open-air restaurants serve alcohol, and can be found on the streets of cities, towns, and villages around Myanmar. Kick back a local lager (both Myanmar Beer and Mandalay Beer are popular options) or locally-brewed whisky while watching live European football – a national pastime!
5. Hop on the railway train
One of the recommended ways to appreciate the wonders of Myanmar is to travel by railway. Some of the routes have even been immortalised in literature, such as the journey from Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin and Hsipaw, which was made famous by Paul Theroux in “The Great Railway Bazaar”. This route takes you through the scenic hill country of Shan State as well as the awe-inspiring Gokteik Viaduct. As beautiful as the scenery is though, it’s worth noting that the railway system in Myanmar is … not the most technologically advanced. Unpredictable train schedules and seriously bumpy rides are to be expected. But hey, that’s part of the adventure, right?
6. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda
You can’t visit Myanmar and not pay a visit to the 2, 500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines strands of the Buddha’s hair as well as other sacred relics. Located west of the Royal Lake in Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda is widely considered as the most holy and impressive Buddhist site for the people in Myanmar. When it was first built, it stood at a mere 8.2 metres but it has expanded to be a towering 110 meters. Covered with hundreds of gold plates and with a stupa that is encrusted with 4, 531 diamonds, this is a monumentally stunning work of art and architecture.
7. Dive in the Myeik Archipelago
Because the area was only opened up to tourists in 1997, the beaches and waters surrounding Myanmar remain largely untouched. Located in the south, the Myeik Archipelago (occasionally called the Mergui Archipelago) in the Andaman Sea is said to be “one of the world’s last true wildernesses.” For those with the time and money to spare, the pristine chain of over 800 islands are every diver’s dream come true. Here, you can expect to see armies of barracuda, manta rays, and even whale sharks!
8. Hike around Kalaw
Kalaw is an old hill station located high up in the western Shan State region, and is well-known for its many scenic treks. Colourful flower fields and gentle, undulating slopes surround the area, and there are trails available for both the leisure and adventure trekker. You can trek on your own, but why not book a guide? Our experience with the local guides are that they’re friendly, polite, and knowledgeable – definitely a plus when you’re exploring someplace new.
9. Visit the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park
You don’t need to travel to Africa to go on a wildlife safari. Myanmar is home to many sprawling national parks, and the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park is the largest at 1, 605 square kilometers. In the park, large populations of wild elephants roam free, alongside other rare wildlife species such as the clouded leopard, civets, barking deer, and the Himalayan brown bear. Inside the park, there is also a shrine dedicated to Maha Kathapa, one of Buddha’s saintly disciples. The shrine has a reclining figure called Kathapa and it is believed that his remains are kept beneath the shrine.
10. Celebrate New Year with the locals
The Thingyan Water Festival is one of the country’s biggest and most widely-celebrated event, and it takes place for several days in mid-April before culminating with Myanmar New Year’s Day. During the festival, the locals often spend the week dancing, drinking, playing music, and throwing a lot of water. Which can be refreshing, given that the festival also coincides with the hottest time of the year in Myanmar. The best places to experience Thingyan at its most vibrant and exuberant are in the biggest cities – Yangon and Mandalay. However, but because many people are travelling back to their hometowns at this time, travel can be tricky. Be sure to plan your travel in advance with FlyMya.