I first visited Myanmar in late 2017 and immediately fell in love with it! So when my gal pal Jasmine told be she wanted to go on a little getaway somewhere in South-East Asia together, I jumped at the chance to return to Myanmar.
There are a million and one things to see and do in Myanmar, but here are twelve of my favourites. If you are planning a trip to Myanmar in the future, make sure that you don’t miss these!
Explore the many (many, many, many) buddhas of Bagan
There are thousands and thousands (and probably thousands more) buddhas located inside the temples and pagodas of Bagan. These structures are often grandiose and wonderfully imposing – make sure not to get so caught up the fun of biking around the temples that you forget to stop and appreciate them.
Stay in luxury for the same price as a hostel dorm in Old Bagan
As much as I do love solo travelling, I will admit that travelling as a duo definitely does have a few perks, and better value for money with accommodation is absolutely one of them.
When researching where we wanted to stay in Bagan, we could either spend $25 each a night in a dorm or $30 each for a night in a 4* hotel – kind of a no brainer.
You really do get great value for money in luxury accommodations in Myanmar, so you might as well make the most of it!
Climb a secret pagoda
On my first visit to Myanmar in 2017, you could just about climb on any pagoda you liked! They only limitations were on your own physical capabilities.
However, these days the vast majority of the pagodas have been closed off for climbing, meaning that if you want to get that stunning elevated perspective of the pagodas, you will absolutely need to do some detective work. Most people end up paying around $5 to a local guide to be shown to one of these pagodas, but we actually found ours thanks to a tip off from a German backpacker who matched with me on Tinder!
It ended up being a fairly difficult climb that resulted in some serious tree branch related gashes, but it was so bloody worth it for the views.
Visit a locals home
Our visit to a local home was totally unplanned but an absolutely lovely surprise. We met a man in Bagan who offered to take us to his home to have tea and try some thanaka (keep reading) and although we knew he was likely going to try and sell us something, we decided to go anyway, and I am so glad we did!
We ended up being served tea, fresh mangoes and much more in this lovely little hut by this gorgeous Burmese mama bear below! She also painted our faces with thanaka whilst her eldest daughter made crowns for us out of flowers.
It was a pretty lovely way to spend a morning in Bagan.
Take a dip at Dee Doke
When I saw photos of this waterfall online, I honestly thought that there was no way that it could actually look that good in real life, however, I was wrong.
Dee Doke is a small waterfall that is about one hours drive (and a 20 minute climb) from Mandalay airport. Entry is free, and though the falls aren’t particularly large or impressive, the vibrant blue colour of the water is absolutely out of this world.
Swimming in such azure water was an absolute dream, and well worth going out of our way to visit.
Try a traditional ‘no oil’ Burmese massage
I have had a lot of massages in a lot of Asian countries, but this was the first time that I had ever experienced a full body massage – sans oil. In Myanmar, the traditional Burmese style of massage involves getting changed into some comfy ass PJs and having your knots and aches massaged away, all whilst fully clothed.
I can’t say that this was my favourite style of massage, but it is one that I am certainly happy to have experienced.
Try not to get (too) injured at Mingun Pagoda
This pagoda may look all gorgeous and empty, and honestly, it is! But beware, there are some thorny devils (we call them three cornered jacks in Australia) that are ready and waiting to stab you in the feet. It isn’t the end of the world, but make sure to watch where you step.
Get off the beaten track at Umin Thonza
Whilst in Mandalay, we hired a driver for the day to take us to some of the more out of the way temples. We had told him which ones we wanted to visit, but he also took us to a few that we hadn’t heard of. One such temple was Umin Thonza. Based atop a hill, this cotton candy-esque temple felt like a technicolour dream, a feeling which was only enhanced by the seemingly endless corridor of buddhas – it is well worth a visit.
Get the ultimate ‘gram at Hsinbyume Pagoda
There aren’t many places in the world that are more Insta-worthy than Hsinbyume Pagoda. Naturally, I figured that this would mean that it would be crazily busy, but that just wasn’t the case!
We arrived to the pagoda by around 7.30am, and for the first hour we were there, we had it completely to ourselves. We ended up staying across the road drinking cold coconuts and soaking up the views until close to 11am – and we only saw a handful of other travellers (like, literally less than five other tourists) in that entire time.
This is the perfect place to get an amazing photo, but honestly, it is also just the perfect place to soak up a stunning and other-worldly view.
Escape Yangon’s busy streets at a hidden oasis
Yangon is a city that houses a lot of gems, but is also all about the hustle and bustle. Personally, I can find big and busy cities a little on the overwhelming side, so when I have a quiet nirvana to retreat to? Well that just makes things so much better for me!
The Belmond Governor’s Residence is one such oasis. This tropical 5* hotel is tucked away into the backstreets of Yangon, and despite the sights and sounds of the city only being a few streets away, it feels like you have retreated to a world completely separated from the rest of Yangon.
Staying here is a bit of a splurge, but to me, it was well worth it.
Give thanaka a go
Thanaka is a yellow cosmetic paste made from ground tree bark. In Myanmar, it is widely donned by both men and women, not only worn to enhance ones beauty, but also worn for sun protection.
You will likely get several opportunities to have thanaka applied to your face, so don’t hesitate to give it a try!
Finally, eat all the vermicelli noodles and tamarind leaf salads
It’s funny, I remember being decidedly underwhelmed by the food on my first visit to Myanmar, but on my second visit, I was travelling with Jasmine – who is vegan. This meant that we had to take extra effort to seek out vegan friendly restaurants, but I am so glad that we did – everything we ate was absolutely fricking delicious!
However, despite all the food being amazing, it was the tamarind leaf salads and vermicelli noodles that were the real standout for me.
There is a restaurant in Old Bagan called Khaing Shwe Wah that made the absolute most incredible tamarind leaf salad – so good in fact that we went back multiple times! If you find yourself in Bagan, make sure to stop by this unassuming looking restaurant – you will not regret it.