What to do and see in Myanmar is a hard decision, there are countless things. I was lucky enough to get to know and love Myanmar during 8 weeks. In those 8 weeks I tried to learn and see as much as possible. On one hand I have visited places like Bagan and Inle Lake, which might be the two most frequented tourist spots and places where the locals saw a western person for the first time in their lives. Now that I had some time to reflect my journey I tried to make a list of my personal top 10 highlights in Myanmar. It was not easy at all, since this country has so much to offer. I would like to point out that the order has no specific meaning.
1. Dark Horse Falls near Lashio
I have seen some waterfalls in Myanmar, but the 'Dark Horse Falls' near the city Lashio were by far the most impressive ones. The Dark Horse Falls consist of various falls and platforms. You can swim in several natural pools, jump from different heights, go into small caves, chill behind the waterfalls and even get a massage in a 'natural whirlpool'. There is a lot to explore and you can easily spend a whole day here. However, it is very hard to find those falls, but Byron from Myanmar Adventure Outfitters will gladly take you to this amazing spot. On a motorbike you will drive through the breath-taking countryside and encounter the untouched beauty of this area.
More information and pictures on myanmaradventureoutfitters.com
2. Burma Road - Motorbike trip from Lashio to Ho-Li
Again I only had the chance to make this experience thanks to Byron from Myanmar Adventure Outfitters. Together with three of his friends we took a motorbike trip from Lashio to the village Ho-Li, which lies just next to the Chinese border. To reach Ho-Li we drove three hours through picturesque villages, scenic landscapes and one part of the route even belonged to the historic Burma Road. It was one of the most impressive routes I have ever driven on. When we arrived in Ho-Li we first visited the family of one of Byron's friends. We were the first Western people they had ever seen in their lives. An unforgettable moment for all involved. After exploring the village and taking a swim in the ice-cold Salween River we were even invited for lunch in the local school.
To organise such a motorbike trip contact myanmaradventureoutfitters.com
Bagan is surely the most visited spot by tourists in Myanmar - for a good reason. This place is magical. Thousands of beautiful temples spread over a wide desert-like area. The most impressive times are sunrise and sunset. Find yourself a temple you like (if you are lucky you might even find one 'for yourself'), go to the top of it and enjoy a moment you will certainly always remember. If it is not windy in the morning you will even see balloons flying over the temples, providing the scenery for a perfect picture. Or maybe you decide to be the one in the balloon?
4. Mrauk U
Another ancient town with a bunch of temples is Mrauk U. With its hundreds of temples and pagodas it is not as big as Bagan, however it is anyway a totally different experience. The countryside is greener and therefore it is cooler than in Bagan. Furthermore far less people make their way to Mrauk U. One major reason is that it is just not as easy to travel to Mrauk U as to Bagan. Mrauk U can therefore still be considered as off the beaten track. I am sure this will change soon. I met some people who clearly preferred Mrauk U instead of Bagan for its lack of tourists, the cooler weather, the hills and because the local everyday life is happening around the temples.
If you want to know more about Mrauk U, check out my blog post about it: click here
5. Myanmar food - Join a cooking class!
I LOVE FOOD! I feel like I spend most of my money on food, whether it be while travelling or when I am at home. Myanmar did not give me a chance to save some money, as the food was so tasty! Many different flavours and dishes. What many people do not know: they have great salads too! Such as the traditional pickled tea leaf salad or the traditional tomato salad. My favourite dish was definitely the traditional tomato salad and the traditional Myanmar style beef curry. I even joined a cooking class and learned how to cook it. A great decision! I never cooked that well in my life before. If you are visiting Inle Lake, make sure to do a cooking class at Bamboo Delight. Trust me, it will be a great experience and worth the 20'000 Kyats.
Check out their TripAdvisor reviews: Bamboo Delight on TripAdvisor
Further information for the Bamboo Delight cooking class:
6. Inle Lake
Speaking of Inle Lake, it found its way into my personal top 10 too. Even though it is very touristy already and even some fishermen do 'tricks' on the lake to get some money, it is still a beautiful place. If you want a less touristy experience just do not join an organised boat trip. Better try to ask a fisherman if he can show you around. If you do not mind having a bit of a touristy experience, the Song of Travel Hostel always offers interesting boat trips for a very reasonable price. The Song of Travel is by the way my favourite hostel in Myanmar, great place to stay. However Inle Lake offers a lot of things to do and see. Make sure to take a boat for sunrise and/or sunset, it is wonderful.
Get in touch with Song of Travel: www.songoftravel.com
The countryside in Myanmar is breath-taking and to do a trekking is the perfect option to fully enjoy its beauty. Furthermore you get an insight of the local communities. Most people do the trekking between Kalaw and Inle Lake. Also Hsipaw is gaining more and more attention as a trekking base, since less people go up there. If you really want to do a trekking totally off the beaten track, I again recommend you to go up to Lashio and contact Myanmar Adventure Outfitters.
Trekking from Kalaw: A1 Trekking
Trekking from Hsipaw: Yee Shin Guest House
Trekking from Lashio: Myanmar Adventure Outfitters
Hpa-An is slowly turning into some kind of 'backpacker-town'. More and more people find their way to this chilled town. This has several reasons. One key factor is surely that the border point Myawaddy/Mae Sot to Thailand is only about a two hours car ride away. So a lot of people use Hpa-An as their last stop before they leave Myanmar, or as their first when they enter. Additionally Hpa-An's surroundings offers a lot to explore. You can find several unique caves, climb the Mount Zwegabin or explore the area with its several small villages on a motorbike.
9. Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach fully deserves its name. It was by far my favourite beach in Myanmar. The great thing about this place is not just the beautiful beach itself, it is the whole experience. Getting there might not be as easy as getting to the popular 'Ngapali Beach', but entirely worth it and already an adventure. As soon as you arrive you will get a dreamlike beach, countless palm trees around you, no phone service, almost no electricity and a bonfire under the clear starlit sky at night. Go for a midnight swim and you might even encounter bioluminescence (glowing plankton). Then go to sleep either in your wooden bungalow, tent or hammock.
For more information check out my blog post about Paradise Beach here.
10. The People in Myanmar
Last but not least, the people in Myanmar. I would choose them as my number one highlight if I had to name one. Before I entered Myanmar, I already read articles by different travel bloggers who said they were especially impressed by the people. I am totally agreeing on this. Never ever in my life have I met so many warm-hearted, generous, helpful and honest people like in Myanmar. Additionally this country offers so many interesting cultures and tribes. Thanks to these amazing people I was able to learn something new every day. I can honestly say that they even managed to change my life with their endless kindness. Make sure to inform yourself about the country before you visit it and when you are there, try to adapt to and respect their cultures and beliefs. Have an open mind, be curious, learn some words in Burmese and always smile. If you do so you will have an unforgettable time with countless unique moments.
So these are my personal top ten highlights of my time in Myanmar. It was hard to choose them and as said the order of the list has no meaning. Have you been to any of these places? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments.