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Myanmar - Where to go for first-timer?

· Myanmar

Most people don’t usually think about Myanmar when planning to travel around Southeast Asia, but Myanmar offers a lot of new sights. This underrated country full of wonders is full of exciting cultural experiences with pagodas and temples everywhere. If you are thinking about your first time visit to Myanmar, we hope this itinerary will be useful.

YANGON will be the starting and finishing point on this itinerary because most travelers arrive at Yangon International Airport, and some arrive at Mandalay International Airport.

2 days in Yangon is enough and this way, there will certainly be more time for other exotic destinations.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Here are places to visit during your first time in Yangon:

  • Sule Pagoda

  • Shwedagon Pagoda

  • Kandawgyi Park

  • Yangon Zoological Garden

  • Bogyoke Market

  • Chinatown

And things to do in Yangon:

  • Explore the downtown streets around Sule Pagoda that has a run-down colonial-era appeal. The Sule Pagoda is in close proximity to former government buildings and the city hall, essentially making it the heart of downtown Yangon.

  • Take a bus for only about 200 to 300 kyats to Shwedagon Pagoda and marvel at this iconic landmark of Yangon. The pagoda is covered in layers of gold and the tip of the stupa is coated in diamonds.

  • Just about 800 meters away is the two places to relax and chill in Yangon: the Kandawgyi Park and Yangon Zoological Garden.

  • If you want to purchase a souvenir or local clothing and handicrafts, the place you want to be at is the Bogyoke Market.

  • Spend the night and eat delicious food of all sorts at Chinatown

  • Join our Yangon Food Tours to taste all of the best local food in Yangon

For a more detailed itinerary, check here and here to read our articles on what you should do in Yangon.

BAGAN is the next place on our checklist. You must have this ancient city with a ton of pagodas on your first time in Myanmar. To be specific, it’s about about 2,200 monuments. Over 10,000 temples and pagodas were initially built in the 13th and 14th century, but over time, that number of 10,000 slowly deceases to just 2,000 due to natural disasters like earthquakes. 1 day should be fine for just seeing the temples and the sunset, but if you want to go to Mount Popa and go on a hot-air balloon ride, 2 days will be better.

Here are a few places that you should put in your bucket-list during your first time in Bagan:

  • Well-known temples in Bagan: Sein Nyet Sister Temples, Shwesandaw Pagoda, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Ananda Temple, Sulamani Temple, and Dhammayangyi Temple

  • Mount Popa

Here are a few things to do during your first-time in Bagan:

  • Visit and learn about the temples in Bagan. Whether you have already seen enough in Yangon or not, you are still going to see them in Bagan. To really understand about the history behind each temple, a day tour for these temples with a guide would be great.

  • Rent an e-bike and have fun going to all those pagodas mentioned above.

  • See the sunrise or sunset. For this activity, you could pick any temple to see the sunrise and sunset from. You could go to a temple that offers good view but because of that, there will be a lot of other tourists on site. Or you could go to a temple that doesn’t offer an amazing view, but it is silent and peaceful. Depending on what you prefer, tell your guide to get you there.

  • Seeing hot-air balloons go up as the sun sets already looks so magical, so go on a hot-air balloon ride! There are several hot-air balloon companies, but all of them will cost you around the same price. It is on the pricey side, but many have said it is worth it. Also, keep in mind that if the weather conditions are not suitable, the ride will be cancelled. Take precautions and book early so if it gets cancelled, you could rebook it at a later time.

  • If you have had enough of temples on the vast expanse of plains, you might want to go hiking at Mount Popa. Mount Popa can be referred to this pedestal hill called Taung Kalat that is southwest of Mount Popa. A buddhist monastery is at the top of Taung Kalat and it is in the midst of a lush green forest full of monkeys!

After our stay in Bagan, we will head out to MANDALAY. Mandalay used to be the royal capital. It is a city in northern Myanmar on the Irrawaddy River. Just because Mandalay seems to be a city on the rugged and undeveloped parts of the country unlike Yangon, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do. 2 days is needed to do all of the things mentioned below.

Here are a few places that you must visit during your first time in Mandalay:

  • U Bein Bridge

  • Mandalay Palace

  • Shwenandaw Kyaung or Golden Palace Monastery

  • Mandalay Hill

  • Ayeyarwady River

  • Mingun Bell/Pagoda

  • King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop

  • Aung Nan Myanmar Handicrafts

Here are a few things to do in Mandalay:

  • U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest teak bridge that is over a kilometre long across the Taungthaman Lake. It is a popular spot to watch the sunset in Mandalay. You can also get on a boat ride in the lake or just walk around on the bridge as there are vendors of all sorts along and at the ends. 
  • Learn about the rich history of Burmese kings at the Mandalay Palace and the Shwenandaw Kyaung. Some dresses of these kings, queens, princes, princesses, and ministers are on display and you can also wear them and take memorable pictures. 
  • Take a boat ride on the Ayeyarwaddy River that will give you a different sightseeing perspective on the city. There are also places that can be reached by boat on this river. You can even go to Bagan with an 11-hour long trip. But a popular trip is the one to Mingun that takes just an hour. 
  • Give the Mingun Bell a ring. Mingun Bell used to be the world’s largest bell until recently when a bigger one popped up in China. Mingun Bell was supposed to go along with the Mingun Pagoda but the pagoda was never finished due to an astrologer who claimed that if it was finished, the king will die. If the pagoda was finished, it would have been the largest in the world with a height of 490 feet. 
  • Let the friendly staff at King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop take you through the whole process of creating gold leaves that people use on pagodas and Buddha statues. You can also buy tiny golden figurines and souvenirs at lower prices compared to other places in Myanmar.
  • Pick up a few finely crafted wooden figures and many more wood carvings of all sorts from Buddha statues to giant eagles in various sizes at Aung Nan Myanmar Handicrafts.

Our last destination in our 8-day itinerary for your first time in Myanmar is Inle Lake. You must have seen this picturesque freshwater lake with its floating villages and gardens on postcards. The people of the lake called Intha have a unique way of life and it’s definitely something that you don’t want to miss out on! We recommend 2 days of stay so you enjoy the peaceful and slow paced life in Inle Lake.

Here are a few places that you must visit during your first time in Inle Lake:

  • Ywama Village
  • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
  • Nampan Village’s floating gardens
  • Red Mountain Estate vineyard
  • Inle Heritage House
  • Indein Village

This concludes our itinerary of what you should do on your first time visit to Myanmar. If you think we missed something or you want to share your experience using this itinerary, let us know in the comments below.

Hope you will have a great plan before traveling to Myanmar!

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