Where to go
The immense and impressive Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the city of Yangon! Visit it at dusk for maximum impact of its golden splendour! Shop at Bogyoke Aung San market for handicrafts and gems, sample local cuisine at a teahouse, and ride the Yangon Circular Railway for a glimpse of local life.
Ascend Mt Kyaiktiyo for panoramic views and see the precariously balanced Golden Rock; visit the reclining Buddha of Win Sein Taw Ya at Mawlamyine and the Shwesandaw Pagoda of Pyay; take a balloon ride over the plains of Bagan, with its thousands of Buddhist temples!
Marvel at the empty highways and surreal perfection of the capital at Nay Pyi Yaw. Near Mandalay, escape the heat at Pyin Oo Lwin with its colonial-era buildings or visit the cracked stupa of Mingun. Cruise the temples and floating gardens of the placid Inle Lake and experience traditional fishing life! If not, go trekking in upcountry Kalaw.
Ngapali Beach on Thandwe offers fresh seafood and is home to several beautiful resorts, Mrauk U has giant pagodas and the Chin Villages are nestled in its rural hills. In Sittwe, visit the giant Lokananda Pagoda, hike the trails of off-the-beaten path Hsipaw, and explore the Shan hills and Palaung villages.
While there are daily connections between cities, the domestic flight industry is still in its infancy. Planes have spotty safety records and routes can change without warning, so get a reputable travel agent or check for reviews.
Boats ply the Ayeryawady River and are a good way to experience river life. Trains are old and slow but offer the best chance of interacting with locals. Buy tickets at the train station before departure, though book in advance for popular routes during high season.
Roads have improved in recent years and renting a car and hiring a driver may be the best way of getting around. Long-distance buses are faster than trains but foreigners usually pay more than locals.
Taxis are about the only way to get around Yangon. They are unmetered, so agree on a price before getting on.
Do's and Don'ts
Do dress conservatively when visiting pagodas. Don't expose your shoulders and knees, or you'll be loaned a longyi to cover up.
Do carry packets of tissue paper or hand wipes, as tourist facilities are not always up to standard.
Don't offer to shake hands with a monk, or take their picture without permission. Women in particular should not touch monks.
Especially in rural areas, don't be offended if locals stare at you. Myanmar is still getting accustomed to visiting foreigners and most people are merely curious. Smile and pose for photos if they ask!
Did you know…?
Teahouses are a big part of life in Myanmar. They are great places to sample simple dishes, meet locals, and generally while away the time while sipping endless cups of green tea. Try them out especially during breakfast for mohinga and other tasty noodles.
Burmese salads are quite unlike any other salad. Combine the textures of vegetables, fried beans and nuts, with the flavours of oils, lime, and garlic, and you've got something quite unique. Try the popularlaphet, made from fermented tea leaves. Myanmar may be one of the few countries in the world where tea is both drunk and eaten.
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