10 AMAZING Things to LOVE about Myanmar (Burma)
Myanmar, the Land of Golden Pagodas!
Myanmar is most well-known for the Bagan Archaeological area, which is full of incredible pagodas, also known as temples. Myanmar, which used to go by Burma when it was taken over by the British, changed their name back to Myanmar when they gained independence.
It’s still not an extremely popular tourist destination, so it hasn’t been taken over by the “touristy” overcrowded vibe that so many amazing places in the world have. It was refreshing and we loved the small town vibe. There is just so much to be said about the city of Bagan and the surrounding areas.
But sometimes photos describe better than words. There are many things to love, here’s 10 (plus 1!) in no particular order:
1) THE FRIENDLY PEOPLE
Everywhere you go in Bagan, there is a friendly face. The first day we were there a man saw us walking at an intersection and stopped just to help us with directions wanting nothing in return. Surely not super unusual, but it is when you’re used to it when traveling.
The women paint their faces with white cosmetic, called Thanakha, which means “beauty and cleansing”. It protects their skin from the sunlight and keeps it cool in hot weather. It also is considered very beautiful. It is made from the roots of the Thanakha tree, ground down into a paste with water in a mortar. There are also older women from the Kayan people who still wear the neck rings that stretch out their necks. Thankfully, although fascinating, it’s being phased out now as it’s a cruel practice towards women.
86% of the people of Myanmar are Buddhist. The Buddhist monks are everywhere. I admit, I have a fascination with them, probably because we don’t see many in the states. In Myanmar, every man becomes a monk at least once in their lives, sometimes for 9 days or 6 weeks, or for life. We were shocked to see some monks smoking cigarettes and monks of all ages as young as seven.
There was also a kid that followed us around for 2 days, practicing his English with us. Okay, he did want us to buy one of his paintings but he really didn’t pressure us much. We ended up booking a tour with him and his uncle to bring us to Mount Popa. See more about that below!.
P.s. Monkeys are people too!
2) THE THOUSANDS OF PAGODAS
Just. wow. It’s mindblowing that there are just soooo many pagodas (Buddhist temples)! We’ve been to Angkor Wat, and other countries with amazing temples, but not SO MANY in such a small area.
Some are big, some are small (like teeny tiny!) and some medium sized that you can go inside, explore, walk around and even see the views from the top. You see tiny buddhas hidden in little nooks and crannies and carved into the sides.
You see different types of colors, different designs. It’s a good idea to carry a flashlight, and remember you have to go barefoot inside, so wearing flip-flops makes it easier to slip on and off!
There’s hardly anyone around so it’s like you can discover a pagoda and just pretend it’s yours for the day!
3) THE MOON- Be Kind to Animals (VEG RESTAURANT)
YUM! This place is really great. It’s easy to be vegan in Bagan. It’s exciting to find that the number one restaurant in Bagan is vegetarian which a ton of vegan options! Check them out HERE. And number two is Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant – right across the street!
It was funny because they seem to have some major competition going on. They both have the saying “Be Kind to Animals” so people get confused and the reviews online get mixed up and some people think they are at The Moon Restaurant when they are really at Yar Pyi!
When we pulled up to the street they are on, the people at the Yar Pyi run up and were yelling for us to go there, so we tried them out first. We had curries there and they weren’t super impressive, but okay. The next day, we tried out The “official” Moon Restaurant and we thought it was way better.
So many delicious vegan options and drinks like coconut shakes and fresh juices!
4) THE PANTS
Haha yes! Leave it to me to be amazed with pants. Yes, you can get these other places, but they are EVERYWHERE in Bagan. And they are the most comfortable pants you will ever wear. Shhhhh I lived in this pair for several days 😉 Local people make and sell them for around $5 a pair. Make sure to buy a larger size, cause they shrunk in the wash 🙁
There was also some major competition going on to sell us pants outside the bigger, main pagodas. They promise super low prices and then compete with each other.
I was surrounded by many and picked a couple pairs I liked from one of them, and the other lady was so mad, she insisted I also buy a pair from her. I said no thanks, I’m good and we went inside a pagoda.
She yelled, “Later! Later, you will!” I said “Okay, then” so she’d stop. We thought we seen the last of her. After we walked through the large temple, and all around (probably a mile), we walked out the back and there she was! She took a bike around the temple so she could beat us out the back! We were so exhausted by then that we just wanted to get back, so we said no multiple times and got out of there.
The next day, we ended up in the same area. And oh my god, there she was again!! “Remember ME!”, she yells. We laughed and so did she. So I did bought some pants from her too.
5) THE E-BIKES
Oh YES The FUN! Neither Jerrod nor I had ever had motor bikes growing up or anything of the sort, so we were a bit nervous trying these out. But for $5 a day, and the ability to zoom to all the hundreds of temples and explore, it was well worth it! We both crashed out a few times, but mostly on soft sandy trails so no harm done, just a lot of laughing! We almost didn’t make it to the highest temple for the sunset, but thanks to the e-bikes, we were able to get there faster than we would have on a pedal bike. 😀
6) MOUNT POPA
We took a drive with Lin-Lin and his uncle to this amazing pagoda built into a rock on a mountain. The only catch is you have to walk barefoot through monkey poo up all the stairs to the top. There are guys cleaning the stairs and asking for tips. But it’s like, I’ve already walked through how much poo. >.<
On the way back, we drove through a small village that was in the middle of a Buddhist ceremony and they allowed me to peek in and take some photos. The little kids get dressed up and go through this sacred buddha ceremony. They all smiled and were curious about us. We also bought some fruit from the fruit stands- good stuff!
7) THE COCONUT SUGAR CANDY
This candy is homemade in huts out in the country. We stopped here on our way to Mount Popa. They make candy, alcohol and other things out of the palm. We seen the guys climbing the trees to get the coconuts! The palm sugar is melted in clay pots and mixed with coconut. It’s amazingly delicious! There was also delicious tamarind candy. We bought enough to bring home and oops it didn’t make it home! :O
8) THE GOLDEN PAGODA
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar, is quite a sight. Beautiful golden temple that you walk up many stairs to get to. We were only in Yangon overnight, so we stayed at a hotel near the Pagoda and walked there in the evening. It seemed pretty safe, and there were a lot of people there. It was lit up at night, but we happened to be there when it was under construction, so it was somewhat covered up.
I encountered some Buddhist monks there that gave off such light and love that I could feel it all the way across the hall. There was one monk in particular I didn’t take a photo of, he just looked up at me, smiled lovingly with a glowing face and then went back into his meditation. There was some magic there.
9) SUNSET VIEWS
Every night, we climbed to the top of a pagoda to watch the sunset. Our new friend, Lin-Lin showed us this one that wasn’t crowded at all, just us!
10) THE HOT AIR BALLOONS AT SUNRISE
(last but not least)
We didn’t purchase a $600 seat on the hot air balloon (whew) but we did get up at 5 am to climb to the top of a pagoda to watch the balloons rise with the sun over the temples. It was quite an incredible sight!!
Our hotel in Bagan- Thande Hotel was fantastic! The grounds were beautiful and the rooms were nice, ours was facing the Irrawaddy River and had a nice little sitting area to watch the sunset. Breakfast was included and had plenty of vegan options- fresh fruits and juices, and even rice, beans and veggies. There are HUGE beautiful trees on the grounds and during breakfast, the staff pointed out some owls in the trees! Really beautiful owls! Then we rented our e-bikes directly from the hotel to go explore the city and pagodas that were not too far so it was super convenient.
Tip from the monkeys… How to be super sly while pick-pocketing from ladies with big purses…
Myanmar is definitely a magical place full of wonder and fun!! But, you know, I don’t recommend everyone go there as it would become too touristy. 😉
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