Myanmar, outside the golden square of tourism

Myanmar, outside the golden square of tourism

A wonderful country of monks, golden stupa’s and most of all: friendly warm people from all different ethnicities. It’s said that it’s best to visit Myanmar (Burma) now, before it gets too crowded. A saying that is true, however, some places are quite touristy already. Especially when you walk the paths of the golden square between Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. So, what if you want to dodge the crowds, but still have some travel comfort? Check out these places, just waiting to inspire you!

Written by Grietje Evenwel.

Based on experiences during travels in Myanmar in february 2013 and 2014. This post is part of the ‘This pretty place…‘ serie.

1) Hpa-an

Though it is the capital of Kayin state, Hpa-an feels just like a sweet rural village. Arrive here by boat from Moulmein and enjoy the beautiful lonely sand beach not far from town.
And of course you can’t miss the caves! In an environment of green fields and small farms, especially Saddar Cave is wonderful and even a little spooky. If you’re up for some muscle training and when you’re not afraid to sweat: just climb up Mt. Zwegabin and enjoy one of the most beautiful views in Myanmar on top!

Hpa-an and her beautiful green surroundings. Around Saddar cave. Photo by Grietje.
Hpa-an and her beautiful green surroundings. Around Saddar cave. Photo by Grietje.

2) Moulmein

Enjoy the old colonial buildings of this town, squeezed in between the river and the hills with stupa’s and monasteries. Do as the locals and rent a motorcycle to go around. And don’t forget to visit the island of Bilu Kyun! Just a ferry hop away from the city it has green fields and people with the biggest smiles. If you go with Mr Anthony, the wonderful guide from the Breeze hotel, you’ll know why this island is also called Ogre Island. Here, an adventure hides behind every corner.

Moulmein, Ogre island. Where your driver might dive into the lake just to get you a beautiful flower. Photo by Grietje.
Moulmein, Ogre island. Where your driver might dive into the lake just to get you a beautiful flower. Photo by Grietje.
Moulmein, a tour around Ogre Island brings you to this small lake with monastry. Photo by Grietje.
Moulmein, a tour around Ogre Island brings you to this small lake with monastry. Photo by Grietje.

3) Hsipaw

If you’re up for some trekking, this is one of the places to be in Myanmar! Meet the Paulang people in the mountains, learn more about the Shan army and stay overnight in a local home.
Back in the village you can gain some energy and vitamins at Mr. Shake, where Mr. and Mrs. Shake welcome you with a big smile and of course some great fruit shakes. When you’re hungry for some variation on your Birmese bites, just go for the delicious BBQ restaurant next to Mr. food at the main street. And with Yee Shin as a comfortable guesthouse option for only 7 dollar (agoda) per night for a single room, you’ll have a hard time finding it cheaper anywhere in Myanmar!

4) Monywa

This small town where life after sunset concentrates around the pagoda provides a good starting point for some exploring of the surroundings. 
Check out the world’s biggest standing buddha at Bodhi Tataung, go for the hundreds of mini stupa’s on the roof of – and the thousands of mini buddha’s in Thanboddhay Paya and see where Petra meets Disneyland at the complex of Hpo Win Daung.

Monywa, the mini stupa's on the roof of Thanboddhay Paya. Photo by Grietje.
Monywa, the mini stupa’s on the roof of Thanboddhay Paya. Photo by Grietje.

Back in town you can get yourself a good shot of caffeine with some delicious cake at Erica bakery. And when you’re done being on the road for a moment, just occupy one of the swinging chairs at Pleasant Island for an afternoon. Treat yourself on a nice fruit shake in this restaurant and enjoy the view over the water. Cause yes, this restaurant is actually on an island. Or better said: it is the island!

Monywa, where Petra meets Disneyworld at Hpo Win Daung. Photo by Grietje.
Monywa, where Petra meets Disneyworld at Hpo Win Daung. Photo by Grietje.

And if you’re ready for some diehard off the beaten track experience, try out:

5) Indawgyi Lake

Forget about all the tourists surrounding Inle Lake, forget about internet and just take a smile along the way. It takes some time and effort to get it all up north to this lake, but you’ll be rewarded! Sleep at the only guesthouse in the surroundings, take a deep breath of fresh air and enjoy the water.

About the author

Grietje Bloem kopieGrietje Evenwel is an experienced traveler and co-founder of the concept ‘Travel by Polaroid’. Travel by Polaroid is based on the concept of giving away polaroid photo’s while traveling. Giving away a polaroid photo often ends with a unique encounter and a beautiful story. Follow her also on Youtube! 

 

 

20 COMMENTS

    • Yes, he did! It’s the flower I’m holding in my ‘profile picture’ :) It was really very sweet! It was our driver. Our guide used to do it when he was young but since he’s over 70 now, he asked the driver to do it for him ;)

  1. Great list, Hpa-An and it’s surroundings are truly beautiful and it was one of our favourites. Ogre island for us was one of the most boring things about Mawlamyine, though we spent two months there so saw a lot!… Uzina Pagoda, Bandhi They Lar Pagoda, Mukyi hills, mummified monks in the Mottama hills, Kawhnat compound were all close and amazing. And if you head further south Kyaik-Ka-Mi and Set-Se are great too. There are some short site guides for some of these on our page if you’re interested, though our full Mawlamyine guide isn’t up yet =)

    http://www.quitjobtravelworld.com

  2. We would love to go to Myanmar. The place absolutly facinates me after I saw the Anthony Bourdain episode when he went there and after Ash and I went to South East Asia our self. Sadly we ran out of our time and were not able to make it there. Maybe next time. Thanks for the post.

  3. Oh wow that all looks and sounds great. I actually nearly went to Burma this weekend but the flights started looking too pricey. I hope to get there soon though!

  4. what a wonderful country…. I wondered, is it easy to get the visa (I am Dutch) or does that have to be arranged a few weeks before?
    Also, is it easy to travel in Myanmar or is it better to arrange a flight and busses and stuff beforehand? I hope you can answer my questions!

    • Hoi Kim!

      I’ll answer you in Dutch :)
      Visa gaan via Brussel. Dat is dus je paspoort opsturen of zelf even langsgaan. Vanuit Nederland een prijzige onderneming! Wat ook kan: via Bangkok vliegen en daar ‘n visum aanvragen :) Duurt een paar dagen. Heb ik zelf nog nooit gedaan overigens, ik regel het altijd al hier.

      Vanuit Nederland inderdaad wel op tijd doen, maar een noodvisum / snel visum is ook altijd een optie! Wel wat duurder.

      Bedoel je met vlucht intercontinentaal of binnen ‘t land? Binnen ‘t land is heel duur dus altijd nog wel te regelen. Bus en treintickets: gewoon lekker op de dag zelf doen of ‘n dagje van tevoren! Vooral hotels zijn sneller vol. Ga je echt hoogseizoen, zou ik zeggen: boek je eerste hotel van tevoren en bel voor de rest altijd vantevoren even op. Dan sta je in het dorpje / stadje zelf niet zonder (goedkope) kamer.

      Hoop dat dit een antwoord is op je vragen? :) Als je er meer hebt, stuur ze naar BOB – dan komen ze sowieso (ook) weer bij mij terecht!!

      Veel groetjes,
      Grietje

      • ps als je nog meer wilt weten: check voor geldzaken nog even de post over kosten in Myanmar :) Je hoeft namelijk ook geen dollarbiljetten meer mee te nemen! Euro’s kan je wisselen en dat scheelt je sowieso al ‘n keer de wisselkoers!

  5. Wow, I want to pack my bags and head off there now. Myanmar has always intrigued me and until recently has been a destination that I have been undecided about. Now with many of the travel restrictions lifted there seemed to be nothing holding me back and with more great suggestions coming through daily I think I need to head out there before it becomes overrun with tourists. Thanks for these suggestions :)

  6. Went to tree places you wrote about in Myanmar. Went from Yangon to Malamyine- Hpa-an- Bago- Bagan- Mandalay- Pyin Op Lwin- Inle lake- Ngapali Beach and back to Yangon. We did the balloon flight in Bagan. My first holiday outside Europe. For ever in my memory. it’s on dutch tv now. Gonna watch it. Again.

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