Welcome to dagsVStheworld’s Definitive Guide to Myanmar! (well some of it anyway…)
So you want to go to Burma? Be prepared for an amazing adventure in a country that has until recently been a challenge to visit freely and explore.
History of Burma
This country has seen its fair share of wars and crippling economic woes, thanks to the military junta that ran the place for over 50 years.
Rich in Teak and Jade, the generals siphoned off all the cash for themselves and left the population as poor as can be with barely any funding for schools, health care or general infrastructure. The average wage is around $2 a day and most Burmese work 12-14 hours a day to make ends meet. Now, there is an abundance of foreign investment, bringing with it new hotels, mobile phone shops, restaurants, gas stations and ATM’s are pretty easy to find.
Buddhism is the predominant religion here and there are literally thousands of pagodas to explore, a definite photographer’s dream!
The Northern city of Mandalay is the spiritual capital of Myanmar and I flew in direct from Chiang Mai (Thailand) with Bangkok Airways.
Places to Go (Mandalay and Surrounds)
Heres where to find all the cool shit!…...
Go and check out the Snake Pagoda where they have a bunch of big-ass pythons that get placed all over the Buddha relics and then bathed in rose-scented water. Neat huh.
Get here by scooter, bus, or private taxi. About a 20 minute trip south of Mandalay. Roads are pretty good. (well, sort of…)
Long-ass bridge made of Teak that has some cool photo opportunities around sunset and sunrise. 20 minutes south west of Mandalay. Very peaceful place (when devoid of tourists of course!)
Some cool stuff to see here such as the Mingun Bell, which is the biggest fucking bell I have ever seen in my life and you’re allowed to bash away on it to your hearts content. Mingun is about an hours drive from Mandalay and this area will cost you $5 US to explore. Great little ride, roads are bumpy but ok.
Mingun Temple (Mingun)
This thing is incredible. About 20 billion mother-fucking bricks were used to create this monolith of epic proportions. An earthquake wrecked the place in 1836, but this just made the place look even more awesome.
Lion Statues (Mingun) Huge statues carved from rock of two lions facing the river, Their heads fell off in the same 1836 earthquake.
White Temple (Mingun)
Kickass white temple that looks, errr… well, like a white temple actually.
Dee Doke Waterfalls
A secret little gem of a place, not in any travel guides. Imagine your own personal, crystal-clear blue rock pools to swim in, surrounded by mountains and beautiful waterfalls. There is beer and food available so get there and make a day of it. Bring good hiking shoes because the further you travel up-stream, the better the pools to swim in! Waterfalls are numbered 1-10 and you will want to go to numbers 8, 9, or 10. Once you get past all the piles of trash and crap, you will be rewarded! About a 1.5 hours drive south of Mandalay. Get here by bus, taxi, or motorbike. Roads are paved, but bumpy and dusty, but some great long sections with great scenery. Look out for cows. And people. And dogs. And more cows. Lots of cows, lol.
An amazing place that is literally overflowing with thousands of ruins and pagodas dating back to the 13th century An absolute photographers’ dream as you can wander at your leisure and take photos all day long, but the money shots are definitely around sunrise and sunset so stake your claim and wait for the magic to happen. The people here are incredibly friendly and your tourist $$ are going to a worthy cause. There are plenty of restaurants and places to stay for all budgets.
Hotels to stay
There are many guesthouses, hotels and backpackers to crash at during your travels. Prices are cheap and the staff are friendly. I use Agoda.com to search and book all my lodgings around the world. I have tried Hostelworld, but they tend to overbook and fuck your plans up at the last minute, so fuck you Hostelworld.
I stayed at Ace Star BnB Backpackers in Mandalay and this place is great. Comfy beds, friendly staff, and a great breakfast too. Its run by an ex businessman whom after his monkhood, rejected the trappings of western life and set up this hostel to help the local kids get a start in life. An absolutely humble, wonderful, human being!
Where to eat
The food is touch and go in Burma. I found it either wonderful or totally shit. Food preparation doesn’t seem to be very flash either. There’s plenty of fresh fruit stalls around though, with watermelons, apples, grapes and manderines to name a few. Here’s a map with some places to grab some nom noms. I have added plenty of western style places as well.
Here’s where to find fooooood!………..
Traffic is crazy, what with cows, dogs and people roaming all over the roads so if you are hiring a motorcycle be cautious. Rent something small so that you fit in well with the traffic. There are motorbike taxis that will charge $5-$10 bucks a day to ride you around. Busses and taxis are cheap also and will take you anywhere. They look as dangerous as hell though, just sayin’!
There is a 28day only Tourist Visa available and you need to get this before you arrive from an applicable Myanmar embassy. There is also an online application in the works also. (as at December 2015)
Internet services in Myanmar have grown at an astonishing pace. In 2010 a sim card cost around $1000 US. Now you can get all the usual trappings for 2-3 bucks. As at December 2015, 25gig data cost me 11 bucks US (about 13000 kyat) Phone providers are Telenor (slow as all shit) and Ooredoo (fast reliable internet)
Just go into any store and they will help set up the sim card for you. So helpful these Burmese!
Best time to go/weather
Best time to travel to Burma is in the cooler season which is November to Febuary (high season)
Things are relatively cheap here. Fuel is under $1 US per litre. A meal in a local restaurant should cost you under 5 bucks easily. I eat a lot of street food and fruit and probably go to a restaurant twice a week. Hotels are generally under 20 bucks. Backpacker hostels should be under $10 US. Getting into some touristy places may cost you a fee, which generally includes the surrounding temples as well.
My costs were on average under 40 US per day
Hotel $12 US (16 000 kyat)
Motorbike Rental $8 US (10 500 kyat)
Food $10 US (13 000 kyat)
Fuel $4 US (5 000 kyat)
have fun ya bastards!!!!!