How to visit Myanmar in a week!

Places to visit in Myanmar by location

Myanmar in a week
Destinations of Myanmar in a week.

As a matter of fact, Burma (Myanmar) is a fantastic country that should be on every traveler’s list. The main sites of Myanmar in a week are easily found later in the article. (A website that was extremely useful for planning this trip is the hyperlink in Myanmar.) However, Myanmar is a somewhat controversial country to visit because it currently has the world’s longest running internal war still going on. It’s called the Karen conflict. The Karen movement is fighting for independence within Burma. As recently as 2018, the government still hasn’t intervened to protect ethnic groups in the north who are being targeted and harassed.

With this in mind, the locations in Myanmar that are open to tourists are relatively safe with little crime. This makes it easy to visit Myanmar in a week. Do take extra precautions when visiting Myanmar in your week like making sure you lock up valuables, stay within the designated tourist areas, and stay abreast of the current political situation.

Because of the current situation, some people may decide that they want to boycott Myanmar. I have thought about it and decided that ultimately boycotting Myanmar won’t be better for the greater good because it’s important that the people in Myanmar are exposed to new ideas and are given and see different opportunities for themselves other than war. Traveling is a two-way street and just as travelers learn from the locals the locals learn from travelers. Traveling to these countries spreads compassion, understanding, and helps to make a less fearful world.

Getting there

Although it’s easy to visit Myanmar in a week; it’s a tricky country to visit because foreign visitors can only enter the country along certain points of Myanmar. There are also only two airports that you can enter as a tourist. The most popular airport to fly into is Yangon followed by Mandalay.  Yangon is the cheapest option.

To give you an idea of prices. I will fly from Chiang Mai to Myanmar. Notably, it turns out ticket prices aren’t too bad. It’s cheapest to go from Chiang Mai to Yangon it’s only 120$. To fly from Chiang Mai to Mandalay is slightly more expensive at 190$. (as of February 2018, looking at April flights.) Then to fly out of the country it’s cheap to fly from Yangon to either Bangkok, Phuket, or Surat Thani. Thailand hack-Surat Thani is a great airport to know when visiting Thailand because it allows for easy access to many different islands like Koh Samui or is great to use to get to Krabi province or Kho Sok.

Overland Entry Options

The three overland border crossings are spread out along the Thailand- Myanmar border.

Option 1

Mae Sot/Myawaddy is near Tak Thailand is to the Northwest of Thailand. It is very cheap to cross the border here. It costs 10$ in USD. The border is open daily from 6am-8pm 7 days a week. It can be difficult to find lodging in Myawaddy. Also, if you are looking for onward travel, the main road to Yangon alternates odd days headed down to Yangon.

Option 2

Mae Sai/Tachileik is another border crossing option. To enter from Thailand you enter up north past Chiang Rai but can only travel to a Kyaing Tong in Myanmar. This would really limit your travel to elsewhere in Myanmar in a week of travel. The main currency here is Thai Baht. To travel further than Kyaing Tong you need a permit.

myanmar in a week
Myanmar Overland Options

 

Option 3

Ranong  Thailand part of Ranong Province is near Chumponon. From this entry point, you can travel up north to MyeikDawei, and north to Yangon, plus there are cruises to the Myeik Archipelago.

If you are only going to Myanmar to see the Myeik Archipelago. You might not need to get a visa only a border permit. If you are on a visa run from Thailand, you don’t need a Myanmar visa, but make sure to bring your passport, a copy of the photo page, and 10$ USD. Make sure to bring exact change only!

In Summary

Overall, it’s definitely easier to enter Myanmar by air, especially if you are visiting Myanmar in a week. As far as in-country travel goes it’s probably easier and safer to travel by bus or train, as domestic air travel in Myanmar doesn’t have the best safety ratings.

Yangon

Gay Asia

For those of you looking to experience gay Asia #gayasia check out the bar O’thentic a French restaurant with delicious crepes and wine. What French restaurant wouldn’t be complete without wine? Tuesday is the most popular day there amongst the LGBTQ community. You can also find more local events on their FAB Facebook page.

Kandawgyi Lake

 

visit Myanmar in a week
Karaweik Royal Palace performance.

When city life becomes too much you’ll want to visit Kandawgyi Lake. This is a huge lake in the middle of the city. It’s great for relaxation, picnics, and long runs. This lake is actually artificial and was created to provide a water supply to the city. It’s located a 30-minute walk from the Schwedagon Pagoda. The lake also surrounds the majestic Yangon Zoological garden and the Kandwagyi Palace.

 

It’s expensive for the area but you have to visit Karaweik Palace! I love the show we saw here. It was about 30$ for the night but it was worth every cent. The Karaweik Palace is grand and majestic it makes you feel like royalty. For the cost of one show, you see fourteen different performances and a limitless all you can eat buffet. The buffet is great because it has many different styles of food. It allows you to try different Burmese and Thai foods. Additionally, for the less adventurous they have some yummy Western food. This is totally worth it and you also get to see a really cool marionette show. It’s an excellent value when you are visiting Myanmar in a week.

week to visit Myanmar
Karaweik Royal Palace is the best place to see Myanmar culture if you only have a week to visit Myanmar

Night market at Maha Bandula road

All big cities have great night markets and this one is no different plan your night ogling and awing over exotic wares, clothes, and vendors. Bring lots of cash because vendors don’t usually take cards. If you are saving money markets are an excellent way to eat a cheap, local- style meal out.

Botahtaung Pagoda

This temple is believed to have been built about 2,500 years ago around the same time as the Shwedagon Pagoda was built. It’s built over the ocean so if you visit before the crowds show up you might be able to feel or hear the ocean waves rumbling beneath your feet. Botahtaung Pagado is famous because it is supposed to house a sacred hair from Buddha. The temple was completely destroyed during WWII and is in the process of being rebuilt. It cost 6,000 Kyatt (chit) to visit and includes a free water.

Shwedagon Pagoda

This is the biggest pagoda in Yangon and is the main sight to see in the city. At 99m high, it dominates the skyline of Yangon. It’s the center of Burmese culture in Yangon and is the most visited tourist attraction. In addition to its size, this temple is awe-inspiring because of its tall golden spires and rows of smaller stupas which radiate out from the center of the pagoda. The temple is the most sacred in the whole country and is supposed to have ancient relics of four of the previous Buddhas of the present Kalpa. (A kalpa is a cool Sanskrit word which means eon.)

myanmar in a week
Shwedagon Pagoda a must see when you are visiting Myanmar in a week.

Shwedagon Pagoda is open every day from 4 am to 10 pm. It costs 10,000 Kyat (as of 2018) per person to enter. Make sure to wear conservative clothing. For ladies no shoulders, cleavage, and pants past the knee. Men need to wear a shirt and long shorts. Pro visitor tip- Visiting this temple at night is very beautiful and worth it.

Myanamar in a week
Being a tree at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Kheng Hock Keong Temple

If you have extra time in Yangon check out this small free Chinese temple. It mixes up the overload of Buddhist stupas and pagodas. This temple is in dedication to the sea goddess Mazu. It’s the largest and most ancient temple built in dedication to her.

Kyitehtiyo aka Golden Rock Pagoda

Kyitehtiyo is a mind-boggling sight. When you see it, it’s hard to believe it’s real because it’s a ginormous boulder perched atop the side of a cliff. It looks like it should be falling off the ledge. Legend has it that the rock is perched on one of Buddha’s hairs this divine power is what keeps it from tumbling down the cliff. It’s the third most important pilgrimage site in Myanmar. It’s definitely worth the trip if you have the time, which you should if you are visiting Myanmar in a week.

Mandalay

Kuthodaw Pagoda

Kuthodaw Pagoda is located a little bit outside of the central city of Mandalay. This is the world’s largest book! Book nerd alert! It’s about Buddhist teachings and is inscribed on stone pieces as big as five feet tall! Even though it’s not an ancient relic as it was made in the 1800’s it’s still an incredible site to see. When it was first opened each line was inscribed with golden ink and the exterior of the building was covered in gold.

myanmar in a week
Kuthadow Pagoda (World’s Largest Book) as you can see it stretches on forever. Each stupa contains part of a book.

U Bein Bridge

myanmar in a week

U Bein Bridge is the oldest teak bridge in the world and is made from the ancient royal palace of Inwa. This palace used to sit in the capital of Burma and was decimated a few times before it was finally decided to upcycle the old palace into a bridge. The teak bridge is beautiful at sunset and sunrise and is the main attraction at these times. If you are planning a photo shoot get there early to stake out some spots.

Did anyone say Marionettes? Mandalay is also famous for its marionette shows. You can check out the next theater shows here so that you can time it with your visit! This is definitely a must especially if you are visiting Myanmar in a week.

Myanmar in a week
An intricate marionette doll.

Shwe In Bin Kyaung

 

Myanmar in a week

Shwe In Bin Kyaung is a beautiful teak monastery in Mandalay. It’s a little less flamboyant than the rest of Mandalay’s gold-covered buildings and architecture. But this monastery is still grand. Don’t be fooled. It has grand ceilings and plummeting steep roofs. It also has a unique twist of Chinese style added into the house as it was designed and commissioned by a Chinese couple.

 

Myanmar in a week
We really enjoyed our hike up the hill. It took us about 40 minutes and as you can see it’s a bit steep at points.

 

Mandalay Hill and Yankin Hill

Choose your own adventure! Either of these small hill hikes affords a great view of the city. Both short hikes overlook the sprawling city of Mandalay. If you hike Mandalay hill, you’ll have to hike some parts of it barefoot as you have to pass through temples and pagodas. If you want interactions with monks, come visit Mandalay hill at sunset. It’s monk chat time as at this time monks come out to meet foreigners and practice to learn new languages. You should definitely visit Mandalay Hill if you only are in Myanmar for a week! To reach the very top it costs 6,000 Kyatt.

Yankin hill gives a more distant view of the city of Mandalay while also showing calm picturesque views of rice fields and farmers reaping their crop. At the top of the hill, it’s a great panorama as you are surrounded by the magical sites of rice paddies, the Shan foothills, and Mandalay city.

Mandalay Hill is guarded by these huge lions and this stylish little lady.

Bagan

Myanmar in a week

Bagan the most iconic attraction of Myanmar is in southwest Mandalay. It’s the famous scene of densely packed Buddhist stupas, pagodas, temples. These buildings are ancient dating back to the 11th and 12th century. These are a definite must see. This city used to be the center or the ancient kingdom of Pagan. This kingdom was the creator of Burmese culture. During this time, it became a major pilgrimage center for Buddhist which it still remains to this day. Entry fee for this pilgrimage site is the most expensive out of all the attractions, but it’s valid for five days. This gives you plenty of time to check out some of the 1000’s of stupas on your own time. The cost to enter is 25,000 K or 18$ USD, so still very affordable. Like any common tourist attraction be aware of pickpockets and potential scams.

Since Bagan is too large to be explored by foot there are three options for exploration a bike (the cheapest and easiest option. Many hotels rent bikes.) A horse and cart, very scenic but can be kind of slow and your travels will be controlled by the driver. Hot air ballooning is the most expensive and needs to be booked in advance. It’s 280-300$ for a ride.

Disclaimer! Bagan is extremely hot it’s a desert, so make sure to drink lots of water and drink an electrolyte packet a day. I recommend getting up really early at 6 am exploring until 10-11 am, then returning to the hostel during the middle of the day, and heading back out after 2-3pm.

Taunggyi, Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake

Inle Lake is south of Mandalay and is a popular tourist destination. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar. It’s serene beauty never leaves visitors disappointed. In addition, the lake is the hub of life for many local tribes and wildlife that live in the area. At the lake, you can meet the locals of different tribes and purchase handmade goods.

One of the most interesting aspects of lake culture that is immediately apparent is the fancy style of feet paddling that the fisherman use instead of traditional paddling. The main city on the lake is called Nyaung Shwe. If you get to Nyaung Shwe and decide it’s not the place for you but would still like to stay around the lake. Try checking out Kalaw. It’s a larger city close to the lake with access to many of Lake Inle’s attractions. For those of you with more time, there are some backpacking hikes from Kalaw to Lake Inle. They take 2-3 days to complete, so they aren’t for backpackers on a tight schedule. But if you are visting Myanmar in a week and can fit it into your schedule the hike is a must!

Myanmar in a week
Burmese lady collecting vegetables from the floating garden.

Another market not to be missed is Thaung Thut market. It’s located about 1.5 hours from the main city of the lake. This market illustrates village life and if you visit you can see pottery being made and weavers weaving cloth with lotus thread. Kayan people live around Lake Inle too.  Amongst the Kayan, a sign of beauty are long-necked women. Here and around the lake, you might be graced with the presence of the beautiful long-necked women of Kayan. This is a great place to get a feel for some of the many different cultures in Myanmar, especially if you are visiting Myanmar in a week.

Around Lake Inle

The lake is very vast and picturesque. One of the immediate attractions of Lake Inle are the stilt houses that line the edges of the lake. As you get further from the more developed part of the lake, it’s like stepping back in time. The tall marsh weeds rustling in the wind with the occasional bird cry and the hum of insects make it seem like you are a dinosaur hunter in the Jurassic period.

Myanmar in a week
Lake Inle Stilt Houses another must-see site when visiting Myanmar in a week.

Lake Inle is chock full of history and unique sites to see. Kakku is an ancient monument that is composed of 2,000 plus stupas lining the edge of Lake Inle. It’s a testament to the dedication of Myanmar’s religious history that these unique and ancient stupas are here today. If you want to see more ancient pagodas and stupas Indein is another place for you to visit. Although Kakku is more spectacular Indein’s charm lies in its quite almost forgotten air. To get here you have to pass through many small water inlets of the lake which allow a peek into the lives of rice farmers and local people.

Myanmar in a week
Beautiful Kakku stupas

 

 

 

 

 

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda (a.k.a. Pindaya Cave) is an ancient cave system that is brimming with statues of the Buddha. The Buddha’s line the walls of this cave’s many tunnels. The oldest one found dates back to 1773!! To this day pilgrims come and leave their donations and Buddha statue relics.

Conclusion:

In summary, Burma (Myanmar) may have many sights to see but fortunately, they are in a few main cities and locations, which makes it easy to see Burma (Myanmar) in a week. The beautiful pagodas and ancient stupas make this country any traveler’s dream. It’s like stepping back in time when you visit this wonderful country. Is there anything that I missed? Let me know in the comments below! Have you been to (Burma) Myanmar? Were you able to visit Myanmar in a week or did it take you longer? What did you think when you visited it? As always feel free to email me with questions at hailey@mentortravel.org. If you are visiting Thailand or Laos don’t forget to read our travel tips!

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