10 Fun Ways to Experience the Wonders of Myanmar
Myanmar is a country full of mystery and excitement. From the temple-strewn plains of Bagan to the glassy waters of Inle Lake, Myanmar’s beauty is unmatched. Adventure-seekers have the choice of floating away in a hot air balloon, hiking up mountains for panoramic views or scuba-diving to explore the underwater world. For those who wish to seek refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life, Myanmar has numerous pristine beaches for you to relax on. Party-goers who like soaking in the atmosphere of festivities, it’s good news to know that Myanmar celebrates many festivals throughout the year, ranging from pagoda festivals to spirit ceremonies that boast plenty of music, dancing and eating. Here’s a list of 10 things to do in Myanmar.
#1 – Explore temples and understand Buddhism
Over 80% of Myanmar’s population practices Buddhism, making this country one of the most devout Buddhist nations in the world. Hence, visiting temples and satisfying curiosity of Buddhism is a central part of any traveler’s visit to Myanmar. Pagodas and temples dot Myanmar’s landscapes, whether in city centres or remote islands and even mountain tops. Tourists can either join a guided tour or do some self-discoveries. The top two most-visited temples in Myanmar are Yangon’s 2,500 years old Shwedegon Pagoda and Bagan’s Thousand Temples with ancient structures. Our favourite is the impressive and sacred Shwedegon Pagoda that began at 8.2metres but stands close to 110metres today. Hundreds of glittering gold plates surround the pagoda, with 4,531 diamonds encrusted at the top, of which the largest is a 72 carat diamond!
#2 – Soar above the skies with Hot Air Balloons
Whenever someone mentions “hot air balloon”, one might immediately think of Cappadocia in Turkey where you get a view of rocky landscapes or Australia where you get to admire their blue oceans and gorgeous shorelines. It’s time to add Myanmar’s hot air balloon onto your bucket list! This is a signature activity in Myanmar and the city of Bagan is the ultimate destination to experience it. You’ll get a picturesque view of thousands of pagodas with unique and beautiful architecture, as well as, take in the lush greenery of vegetation across acres of Myanmar land. Rides typically take place at sunrise or sunset to offer you the best breathtaking views of Myanmar’s landscape washed in a golden hue. This will be an unforgettable ride over such an alluring city. Remember a champagne toast at the top!
#3 – Watersports, not for the faint-hearted
With a plethora of spectacular beaches across Myanmar, one can be adventurous and do some water rafting, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. Water rafting is perfect for thrill-seekers and the best spots lie in the Northern part of Myanmar. Malihka River has rapids with ratings of 4 and 5 on a scale of 6, which gives rafters a blood-pumping opportunity to enjoy their river experience to the fullest.
Scuba divers, listen up! With more than 800 islands in the Andaman Sea, diving in this mostly undiscovered area should be on the top of your wish list. Myanmar scuba diving operators offer packages to the most beautiful dive sites in the Southern Mergui Archipelago, as well as, to the Bay of Bengal in the west of Myanmar.
Those who just want to get a glimpse of colourful and harmless fishes and marine inhabitants, you can opt for snorkeling at Ngapali beach or Ngwe Saung beach. These two beach destinations offer kayaking as well.
#4 – Have a cocktail on Myanmar’s exotic beaches
This activity suits everyone, from families to friends, as well as, couples. Parents can unwind with a drink while their children build sandcastles or go swimming in the beaches. Friends can celebrate, with or without any reason and soak up the sun, sand and sea. Couples who are looking for a romantic end to the day can catch the sunsets while indulging in fanciful cocktails. You can also purchase snacks from locals. Myanmar has plenty of beaches to offer. Head to Ngapali Beach for an upscale beach vibe with white-sand beaches, lined up with luxury hotels and seafood restaurants. Budget traveler? Fret not as you can head to Chaung Tha Beach which offers affordable activities that won’t burn a hole in your wallets. Looking for crystal clear waters to swim in? Ngwe Saung Beach is perfect for you! If you’re interested in island-hopping, travel to Northern Myeik or Southern Myeik. Not only will you get an insider’s perspective on rural lifestyle of local fisherman, you’ll be enchanted by what the different islands offer you. Whatever kind of beach you seek, Myanmar has what you need.
#5 – Trekking and Hiking Myanmar’s Diverse Landscapes
We always believe that getting up to the peak allows us to get a vantage point so blood-pumping adventure in Myanmar comes in the form of trekking and hiking. You can see this as an excuse for exercising so that you can feast on more local delicacies later on. We recommend some of the best places for trekking – from Kalaw to the vast Inle Lake, Myanmar’s beautiful Shan state and up North by Putao. People who love to ski, hike and mountain bike can head to Putao too. Besides being rewarded by breathtaking scenery, you can hike the Northeast of Mandalay through Hsipaw and be wow-ed by their majestic waterfalls and soak in their soothing natural hot springs. Daredevils who want to step foot atop a volcano, go for Mount Popa where you’ll hike up hundreds of stairs to the ancient volcano’s summit.
#6 – Enter the Unknown Mystical Caves
Myanmar has numerous caves for an out-of-the-world experience in Pindaya, Kalaw, Hpa-An and Monywa. The Pindaya cave is the most popular as it serves as an important pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists. We recommend taking a leisure horse-cart up to the foot of the hill as you need to reserve your energy for the 200 steps up a covered stairway leading to the entrance of the cave. Don’t be taken aback by the sculpture of a giant spider at the entrance of the cave! Shall keep you in suspense so ask the locals or your guide for the interesting legend!
Upon entering the cave, you will be greeted by the unusual sights as every nook and cranny within the cave is cramped with Buddha images up to the ceiling. Between the images stand small pagodas, stalagmites and stalactites. These images are from different eras from the early Konbaung dynasty to present day and the number of images is still growing. As of now, there are about 9,000 images that are gold-plated, made from teak wood, marble, bronze and other materials. These images vary in size as well, from being really tiny to life-size.
Here’s the fun yet challenging part – some smaller sections of the cave can only be entered by crawling through them so be careful when finding your way around the dimly-lit meandering maze as the floor can get slippery.
#7 – Travel along Myanmar’s scenic routes via their Old-School Railways
Myanmar has a convenient network of railways all around the country. Be prepared to be transported to the trains that existed in the olden days as Myanmar’s trains often don’t have air conditioning and are not always fixed with modern conveniences. Besides the only downside of having to sweat it out during your journey, Myanmar’s train travel between most major towns and cities, which make traveling and exploring the country so much more convenient. Tickets start from as low as $5 so there’s nothing to complain about. This is perhaps, a fantastic way to enjoy a scenic trip through Myanmar.
#8 – Exploring Myanmar on a Bicycle
Besides getting around on foot to touristy spots or local haunts, you can rent bicycles on your own or join a cycling tour for a fuss-free and multifaceted way to sightsee. Cycling is a popular activity in Myanmar and provides a close-up and scenic tour of the country. Whether you’re a hardcore active cyclist who’s interested in tackling mountain biking or just someone looking for city cycling at a leisurely pace, bike rentals are everywhere. Sick of the city? There are cycling tours that include countryside biking as well. The best months to cycle are December and January as the weather is not too hot and there is little rainfall during this period.
#9 – Celebrate Festivals with the Locals
Myanmar celebrates many festivals all year round so we will just recommend a few festivals that have graced the presence of huge numbers of tourists and locals alike. In January, look forward to the Ananda Pagoda Festival, offering traditional entertainment, food, games and pop-up markets selling artisan crafts. There will also be sermons given by monks and this is the most authentic way to understand the culture and lifestyle of locals in Myanmar. In February, the Salone Festival celebrates the seafaring Salone people who live in the Myeik Archipelago. You’ll be invited to observe spiritual dances, folk singing and treated to traditional Salone feasts.
In March, there’s the Kakku Pagoda Festival, a three-day yearly harvest celebration paying homage to thousands of pagodas nestled on a hill overlooking the Hopon Valley. Travelers will get a peek into Myanmar’s centuries-old traditions. In April, Myanmar holds the Thingyan Festival, which is similar to Thailand’s water festival, to mark the Burmese New Year. In July, the Waso Moon Festival takes place to signify the path of Siddhartha on his journey to become Buddha and honour present monks observing lent. Nearing the end of the year, in the month of November, the Tazaungdaing Festival, also known as the Hot Air Balloon Festival, takes place over a period of three days. This festival marks the end of the rainy season and is arguably the most mesmerizing event of the year. Imagine gazing at countless illuminating paper balloons floating up into the night sky.
#10 – Eat to your stomach’s fill
In the 21st century, you can only leave a country after you’ve tried scrumptious local delicacies which have a plus point if it’s instagram-worthy. Every country’s food has a special identity that is beloved by locals. A typical Myanmar meal consists of rice and accompanying dishes of fish or meat, cooked in onion and garlic-based gravy. Soup can be clear, creamy of tart and is sipped during the meal to cleanse the palate. Salads are a popular side dish and Mohinga, a thick fish broth with thin rice noodles, is Myanmar’s national dish, typically eaten for breakfast. Locals also favour Ohno Kaukswe, a coconut-based chicken soup with noodles. Tea is a staple drink in Myanmar, commonly served hot and with sweet condensed milk added to cut its strong natural earthiness. As for desserts, Myanmar locals love including ingredients such as coconut, tapioca, rice flour and fruits. Mont Lone Ye Baw – rice dumplings stuffed with sugar and topped with shredded coconut – is one of the top favourites among locals.
With its stunning landscapes, spectacular rock and limestone formations, as well as, the array of activities to do in Myanmar, isn’t it time to book your adventure here? To make things easier for tourism in Myanmar, Flymya has launched an online portal which allows small-scale tourism operators to upload itineraries and tour packages to Flymya’s website. Tourist agencies can then, save on costs that goes into handling their own websites, payment gateways, online banking, marketing operations and sales operations. These hassles will be handled by Flymya and connect the businesses with global travelers. Wondering what Flymya does? Well, it’s Myanmar’s largest one-stop shop for domestic air tickets, tour packages, car rentals and supplying travelers with customized itinerary plans.
This post is brought to you by Flymya.