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Brainworks, M.D. is a collaborative playground of a right-brained He and a left-brained She. A duo with two different dominant sides complementing each other to build beautiful and meaningful projects as a whole.

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Myanmar in 8 Days

Myanmar evokes images of ancient temples, mesmerizing sunrises and majestic sunsets, there’s no doubt about it. But when you have limited time and funding, how do you choose where to go? Our DIY trip with the help of our friends and numerous travel blogs gave us the chance to explore the best of Myanmar in just 8 days.

Day 1 Yangon, Myanmar

From Singapore, we arrived in Yangon International Airport via Jetsar Airways. Just 30 minutes away from the airport, we managed to check in at Hotel Lavender, a stone’s throw away from Shwedagon Pagoda, the main cultural attraction of Yangon. More than just a monument, the Shwedagon Pagoda gave us a glimpse of the beliefs of its people. We were amazed to see how their traditional ways of life are found tucked amid the increasingly modern city.

 

The 2,000 year old Shwedagon Pagoda at breaking dawn

Our first sunrise in Myanmar

East Gate Entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda

Day 2 Yangon, Myanmar

On our second day, we went to Kalaywa Monastery. We visited this place during the morning meal time as most blogs suggested this was the best time to visit. It was about 30-minute taxi ride from our hotel but so worthwhile.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks about to eat the food donated by locals

Young Buddhist monk walking around the monastery

In the afternoon, we made use of our free time randomly walking around. We’ve been told that one of the best ways to explore Yangon is on foot with no plans at all and let the city flow around you and we couldn’t agree more!

Pilgrims praying at Shwedagon Pagoda

With only 48 hours to explore Yangon, it was never enough but it was time for us to go to our next stop. To minimize our travel time and to save on hotel costs, we opted for an overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan. We took the 8:00 PM trip so we left the hotel before dusk.

ONE IMPORTANT REMINDER: there are no decent restaurants at the bus station, so make sure to buy a takeout dinner prior. Since the trip to Bagan will take 9 hours, we pre-booked our bus tickets via https://jjexpress.net as this was the most popular choice for travelers. And boy, it did not disappoint! The VIP bus has enormous leather seats, it’s very comfortable we slept the entire trip!

The bus terminal in Yangon is huge, so make sure to ask your taxi driver to drop you exactly in front of JJ Express bus terminal to avoid getting lost

First class bus of JJ Express with reclinable seats

Our first refreshment stop. We’d definitely recommend going for a toilet break as buses do not have restrooms on board

Day 3 Bagan, Myanmar

HANDS DOWN, WE LOVE BAGAN SO MUCH WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN! We arrived in Bagan at around 5 in the morning and since we can’t check in our hotel yet, we rented a private car with a tour guide to take us around Bagan. Through our friends’ (RK and Meg) reco, we were able to book Min Thu (minthu.bagan@gmail.com) for a whole day tour at $50 good for 2 pax. Watching the sunrise the morning we arrived was an absolute highlight, big thanks to Min Thu!

Bulethi Temple is perfectly positioned to capture a beautiful Bagan sunrise and it’s possible to access the higher levels of the pagoda though it’s a bit of a steep climb to the top

If a hot air balloon ride is on your bucket list, make sure to book your ticket ahead thru https://www.balloonsoverbagan.com as this is immensely popular and the tickets sell out very fast. It’s quite expensive at $340 per person though so if you don’t have the budget don’t fret as they are equally as amazing to watch (and very photogenic too!) from afar as the balloons float over the temples.

Also, take note that the ideal time to visit Bagan is between November to February as this is the only time of the year that the famous Bagan hot air balloons launch.

 

After the scenic sunrise, our guide took us to a roadside noodle stall, which was selling Shan noodles, a famous delicacy of Myanmar. For only $1 per bowl, it was a perfect dish to officially start the day in Bagan with.

The next couple of hours were spent at exploring the temples, stupas and pagodas. Sorry for the cliche, but really there are not enough words to describe the beauty of Bagan and we just can’t help but gush whenever we talk or write about our experience. The incredible views are genuinely out of this world!

Walking around the Ananda Temple

Shwezigon pagoda, a gold plated pagoda built by the founder of the Bagan empire

Shwezigon pagoda

Locals of Myanmar with their face painted with Thanaka – a traditional sun block cream made of wood dust

After a chance to freshen up and relax at the hotel, we went for an afternoon sightseeing by horse cart (still part of the $50 deal we got from Min Thu) around the temples of Bagan.

Buddhist monks collecting alms from the locals

Sulamani Temple

Burmese mythical marionette puppets for sale along the road

Shwe Leik Too Temple

The sunset was beyond belief as well, it was the perfect way to end our day one especially after hours of hopping from temple to temple.

Day 4 Bagan, Myanmar

The following morning, we were up as early as 4:00. And the first order of business was to rent an e-bike just across our hotel. We hired a local guide as well to take us to another best spot for sunrise. Another day in Bagan, another jaw-dropping sunrise that we even had to pinch ourselves a few times to make sure we were really there!

Bagan King Palace Temple

Bagan King Palace

Thatbinnyu Temple

We spent the entire day seeing more temples that we hadn’t seen the day before with a rented e-bike. For us, the real adventure in Bagan came from driving on our own wheels, getting stuck in an extremely sandy dirt roads with a reward of finding yourself in a scenery of ancient temples.

Exploring Bagan by renting an e-bike for only $10 a day

After our heavy lunch in one of our fave Bagan restos- Queen restaurant, we went back to our hotel for a quick swim before heading out for another memorable sunset.

Queen Restaurant

Bagan Princess Hotel

Day 5 Bagan, Myanmar

For our last day in Bagan, we decided to go on our own with our e-bike and head to the famous Shwe Nan Yan Taw temple for sunrise. Call it a dream, or pure magic, every Bagan sunrise will really leave you spellbound and seduced.

Our guide who takes pretty good photos too. You can contact him thru minthu.bagan@gmail.com

We followed up our morning DIY trip with a hastily arranged roadtrip to Mount Popa. Being an hour away from Bagan, we actually debated whether to go or not. Glad that we did, Mount Popa was a change of scenery and we enjoyed (well, Daryl most of the time!) the stops we made along the road to take photos of the locals.

We left on a 10:00 PM VIP bus ride arriving at 6:00 AM the next day in Inle Lake. Again, we highly recommend booking with JJ Express, it’s the best bus company we traveled with.

Day 6 Inle Lake, Myanmar

Spread the word- Inle Lake deserves far more visitors than it currently gets. From the sight of the unique leg-rowing style of their local fishermen to preserving its old charm, there is so much to see and experience.

We started our day by exploring the roads around the countryside via bicycle. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of their local culture and the opportunity to experience first-hand the genuine hospitality of its people.

After hours of cycling around, we’ve reached Myanmar Treasure Resort Inle and was greeted with a very picturesque view. The beautiful cabins right on the water with a very scenic sight are themselves a wonder. Relaxing, divine and serene, just the way a tropical paradise should be.

After having a sumptuous meal and wandering around the utterly charming resort, we hired a boat to ferry us and our bikes across the lake going back to our hotel.

Day 7 Inle Lake, Myanmar

At 7:00 the next morning we were down at the boat getting ready for a full day out. We hired a long tail wooden boat for our private trip at $50. A little bit expensive compared to a group tour ($10 per pax) but still it’s not as expensive as any other touristy activities in any other place in the world.

With a perfect sunny weather and calm waters, we spent a fair amount of time watching and taking pictures of Myanmar’s most iconic image: the leg-rowing fishermen. Watching them steer the boat, balance gracefully and fish with a circular cage all in one leg was such a sight to behold. It was so fascinating to witness that they added character to the already magical Inle Lake.

Visiting Inle Lake is not just about being on the water, we’ve managed to see villages on the banks of the river as well as some interesting workshops.

This particular village here specializes in the the crafting of silverware

Inle Lake is known for its flavored cheroots. These are some of the locals we spotted in one of the villages making handmade cigarettes

Lotus Weavers of Inle Lake

We bid goodbye to Inle Lake, taking again JJ Express Bus to Mandalay.

Day 8 Mandalay, Myanmar

From Inle Lake, we arrived at 4:00 AM in Mandalay for the final leg of our Myanmar trip. Having a guide who knows the place and wants to help you get the best out of your visit can really make a huge difference. We got Kyaw Kyaw’s info from the TripAdvisor forum, you can book him thru (kyawkw475@gmail.com). He picked us up at the bus station and drove us around Mandalay before sending us off to the airport.

Even though we only had a few hours to spare before we fly out at 1:00 PM to Thailand, we were very pleased with how much we managed to see some of the must-visit spots. We were able to visit Mandalay Hill for a good sunrise overlooking the old historical Mandalay.

Sunrise at Mandalay Hill

Fast forward to breakfast, we had a surprisingly good (really good!) Shan noodles in a small, local resto named Pan Cherry Noodle House.

Pan Cherry Noodle House

Burmese Coffee

Nansha Noodles

And of course, we were able to squeeze in a visit to the world’s longest teak footbridge and the most favorite place for photography in the city- the U Bein Bridge.

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

Wooden foundation of U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

 

 

After traveling to so many Asian countries together, now we can truly say that though we enjoyed exploring different places and experiencing different cultures nothing stole our hearts like Myanmar. This trip was just so special it even gave birth to this blog. And yes, making the DIY itinerary took a lot of time and research, definitely the most challenging. So to lighten your burden, we will be sharing our sample 8-day itinerary to guide you in the next article. You may make changes to suit your needs. Whatever your choice, you are pretty unlikely to be disappointed as Myanmar has so much to offer.

 

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