Myanmar (Burma) Things to Do Tips by Mique Top 5 Page for this destination
Myanmar (Burma) Things to Do: 463 reviews and 929 photos
A tea/salad place along the streets
If there is one thing the burmese do a lot is then it is sitting in teashops drinking burmese tea. And those teashops are everywhere. Along the street, tiny holes in the wall kind and big ones. Here the burmese life is at its social high. Business gets done, friends and family are met. And they can sit over a cup of tea for hours (i usually drink several cups of burmese tea while the people around me finish up their first). A teashop will always serve plain tea (referred to as chinese tea) for free along the burmese tea/snack or whatever you order. For many burmese their tea is like our coffee. If you haven't had it during the day, you feel 'off'. I've heard it a few times.. ' i haven't had my tea yet...' And i must admit, even i start to say that on occasion. Though usually after a few non-tea days....
Teashops are also the place to go for breakfast (in the off chance your hotel/guesthouse doesn't serve any or when you've missed it or just feel like having something different), lunch or snack. Cheap & good.
i notice I definitely need to post a few more pictures here. My quest for this weekend..
One of the biggest attractions in Bago is the huge burmese python who is residing in one of the monasteries. Not sure if many westerners actually get here since each time i'm here we seem to be far and wide the only ones there. But it is a sight to behold. My dad who can make fair estimates of weight and length guesses that the snake is about 4-5 meters long, a wooping 40-50 cm wide (and he saw the snake after she'd been almost 3 months in meditation during Waso when she is fasting), and weights about a 150 kilo. The man who was with the snake that time said that they need 5 people to carry her around if they need to place her somewhere else. But she takes her morning bath on her own. According to the monastery (and the old monk who loved there ever since he was very young and who unfortunately died recently at the age of 103) the snake is around a 115 -117 years old. Westerners are usually allowed to enter her sanctuary and touch the snake (though not during Waso (july to september). It is a strange feeling i can tell you. And i am glad i've done it but didn't have the need to do it again on the occasions i've been back there. It is one huge snake...
Saw the snake, alive and relatively well (it is quite overfed and lacks exercise) this past Saturday (19-11-2011).
There are other nice attractions to visit in Bago. A huge paya (Shwemawdaw paya ), a nice, reclining buddha (Shwethalyaung Buddha ), Kyaik Pun Paya (the 4 seated buddhas) and many smaller attractions doted about the place.
A small word of warning. There is an entrance fee of $10 for the main pagoda. It gives acess to some other sites as well. Personally , I don't think it is worth it since there are many pagodas and sites of interested that are free. Even in Bago.
And if sightseeing gets too tiring, go and enjoy some palm toddy juice. Slightly alcoholic but refreshing.
A big advantage of Bago is that it is easily done as a day trip from Yangon. Or included on trips to Mandalay, Inle Lake or Kyaithiyo (golden rock)
Directions on how to best park under the water
Well, that is a very wet occasion i can tell you that. During the water festival (the days before new year) i was drenched every single moment except for the time i had just changed into a set of dry clothes. And that dry state did only last as long as i stayed indoors. Being an obvious foreigner people came even running after me just so that they could pour/throw/squeeze/.... water over me. If i was lucky it was a little water and warm. But most of the time the water came by buckets. Though many people asked if it was ok that they did it. Or explained to me that it was part of the new year tradition. It was great being able to walk around again without being assaulted all the time the day the festival had ended. I had an absolute fantastic time though and so thoroughly enjoyed myself. Of course i also got into the spirit and soon had my own water bottle filled to the brim so i could throw/splash water over people as well. One of the days we managed to hitch a ride in a pick-up and so we also stood in line just to be sprayed with water at one of the numerous stands where this could be done. The last day we went to Bago by standard pick-up. We were sitting in front and at every village and at many places in between the driver and i (i was sitting in the middle) happened to find ourselves sitting in a swimming pool-like seat. We couldn't speak but this experience created quite a bond between us (Yangon water festival 2006)
In 2006 we we in Yangon and it was quite a festival (my first). In 2007 we celebrated in Mandalay. Amongst Burmese the Mandalay water festival is considered even better then the Yangon one. But unfortunately this year it was a little less good (the government stimulated celebrating in the new capital). 2008 i didn't celebrate it since Xenne was just too young (3 months) so hubby went with some friends. I did celebrate in 2009 and 2010 of course but gave this year a miss again being 5 months pregnant....
A small part of the beach
Ngwe Saung is a bit more upmarket and less lively than Chaung Tha. Most locals go to Chaung Tha and it is more crowded there. The beach at Chaung Tha is also less pristine and beautiful than Ngwe Saung but still Chaung Tha has definitely got its charms (not to mention the lowest hotel prices of the 3 beaches).
Ngwe Saung is basically a hotel strip along the beach. The beach is beautiful there is no question about that. What i also like about Ngwe Saung (or Silver Beach as it is sometimes called) is that it is easy to get to. By car it'll take around 4 hours. By local bus it is a mere 6 hours.
Hotel prices are more upmarket here and you'll be hard pressed to find anything below $20 a night. That said, i think Shwe Hinn Tha has good rooms and service. Both in Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung. It is a bit far from the village in both cases but the restaurants are decent and not too expensive
Hpa-an is a place where very few tourists make it to. When we were there, we did meet a few other people but they had all just come for the boat trip and had no time for Hpa-an itself. We also had little time (a day) but that had more to do with a baby and his upcoming birthday (for which we had to be back in Yangon). But we did see a bit of the town (very nice), a cave outside of Hpa-an (so nice that i forgot to look where i was going and sprained my ankle) and the trip to the cave which was a long line of oh's and ah's and a 'look at that house' since it was lined with beautiful, traditional wooden houses.
Our driver (in a cross between a motorcycle and a mini pick -up truck) took us to a different place after the cave which he said was also very interesting and not very far (from the cave). he was right in it not being very far, but whether it was interesting... No idea. It was apparently an hour's climb up the mountain (stairs) and with a hurt ankle and a baby we found that that just wasn't an option. So Mount Zwegabin and the temple on the top of it is for if we ever make it back there. Which i hope we will since there is quite a bit of surrounding area that i would love to explore there. They have some fantastic mountains and limestone rocks there.
Moulemein with view of the river
Moulemein was one of those places that i really wanted to see for a long time but somehow we just never got around to it. That is, until recently. And i loved it. Somehow it has the air of a fairly small town even though it is the 3rd biggest town in Myanmar. Many people come from surrounding villages and even from the islands in the Thanlwin river to do their shopping which gives the market and the area around there a very nice, busy air. We didn't see as much as we wanted to but traveling with a one-year old has its drawbacks. On the other hand, it was a load of fun... We did 2 temples on the big hill but it took much more time than planned. even though there was an elevator for one of them but since there was no electricity, the elevator didn't work. And since we had plans to go down at the other side and visit a third pagoda we dragged the stroller all the way up. But of course, we never made it down the other side.
In the evening it is very relaxing to go for a walk along the river. Even though part of the river side is a huge construction site (with ugly , multiple story buildings), further down you can see some fantastic colonial houses.
We also made it to Shampoo island which i found a nice little trip. easy to do fro an hour or 2 since it only takes about 10 minutes by boat to get there.
When Xenne is bigger we plan to go back and visit some of the other islands there, the pagoda's we missed this time and Mottama which i found looked very promising from the train and teh Moulemein side of the river.
Along the way
I must honestly say that this trip is much more interesting and rewarding than the so much touted boat trip from Mandalay to Bagan. That trip i found incredibly boring. This trip i found absolutely fantastic. True, there were no seats anywhere on the boat, we sat on a blanket on the upper deck floor like everybody else on the boat except for an elderly German couple whose tour guide had arranged 2 chairs for them. Probably the only chairs on the whole boat... All along the way (coming from Moulemein) there was the promise of mountains since it seemed all the time that we were heading that way but they kept eluding us almost all the way. Only when we came near Hpa-an did they actually come close.
It wasn't too hard sitting on the floor for that long. The boat had enough space for us to stretch our legs(or maybe we were just lucky since there weren't that many people on the boat). Most people take the 1,5 hour bus instead of the 5,5 hours (or more) you spend on the boat. We were more than an hour late due to traveling upstream. All Myanmar disappeared of the boat along the way at the various villages where we made stops. And a few new people boarded. Only the 5 westerners and companions stayed on board for the whole trip.
Make sure you have plenty of water and nibbles since there is little to be had on board (though one woman on the lower deck was selling noodle salad and i saw someone what what looked like a cup of instant coffee) but there is no official selling point on the boat.
A prince and princes
I really like the traditional marionette performances. Luckily i have seen a few that weren't staged for foreigners but were done in a private setting which made them extra special. But i have to admit that i did enjoy the combined marionette - dancer performance at the Karaweik a lot to. In that performance a person mimics the doll in a dance. Beautiful. Now that i'm writing this tip down i realise that i can't actually tell you much about Burmese Marionette plays. I've probably spend too much time enjoying the show in order to ask the questions. I'll try and correct that next chance i have of seeing a performance.
U bein bridge at sun set (with clouds)
I love taking a trip to this bridge. Of course there is the whole interesting aspect of it being the longest teakwood bridge and all, but that is not why i like being here so much. I love walking over the bridge and watch people. I've been here on a number of occasions and i've only made it to the other end once (and just to the other end, i didn't set food on land there). I always end up talking to people along the way. Somehow the ambiance just asks for conversation. Along the bridge there are 'resting places' and you can find people even picknicking there. I've always been here in the late afternoon and it seems like everybody flocks to the bridge for downtime and some relaxation. Of course there are enough people who actually use the bridge to get from one place to the other (monks, school kids, etc) but it is probably the local equivalent of the town square.
Next time i'll budget much more time here so i can actually check out the opposite side. I know there are interesting monasteries nearby but as said before, i always seem to run out of time.
The bridge and the people on it, make for fantastic pictures. So make sure your camera has full batteries and plenty of film/space. You'll be needing it.
One of the most worthwhile places to visit in Burma is the plain of Bagan. It is full of large and small pagodas everywhere. And every time i'm here i'm amazed at the number of them. There are still so many i haven't seen (but at the moment i'm a bit templed out). I've heard people describe it as equal in importance as Ankhor Wat and Borobudur but since i haven't had the chance to see either of these famous places i can't really compare it in significance. I do know though that Bagan is relatively unknown compared to its more 'worldly' cousins.
I don't' know exactly how many pagoda's are there . I've heard the numbers 2000 and 4000 relatively often so i think (but am not sure) that there are about 2000 fairly intact pagoda's and all in all about 4000 pagoda's and ruins.
Bagan is touristy for Burmese standards. Not so strange since every traveler, tourist and tour bus makes a stop here. So at times it feels almost crowded. Then again, it is incredibly easy to get away from it all. And finding a nice little temple for your own private sunrise or sunset is just a matter of cycling around and looking for a place you like. This is easiest done if you hire a bicycle though the horse cart drivers and taxi drivers know good places too.
Keep in mind that during the burmese summer Bagan is incredibly hot. Not that it isn't possible to visit but be aware of the dangers of dehydration.
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