My travels were only possible because of other travel bloggers sharing their travel experience, otherwise, I wouldn’t have any idea what to do when I first left alone to Asia. So, I like to share travel testimonies of others, real experiences that you can connect with, and feel inspired to risk it.
This time I’m sharing another Myanmar travel experience lived in the first person by Our Travel Getaway as Diana and Alexandre entitle themselves on Instagram.
I know that still many people have many doubts about visiting Myanmar, Is it safe? Is it worthy? Well, I think other travel experiences can clarify to you a little bit about that. Myanmar is my favorite country so I always tell people to go, but here is another travel testimony about how great it is to travel in Myanmar. Here is the interview with Our Travel Getaway so you can take your own conclusions.
What’s your favorite place in Myanmar?
To be completely honest, we find it very hard to chose only one place, since we loved all those we were fortunate enough to visit! However, even though how unfair it seems, we would say Mrauk U! And what’s funny about this choice is that Mrauk U was completely off our radar right up until two days before actually going there. We were a bit afraid to travel to that area because of the Rohingya conflict and some governments’ travel advice. In the end, we decided to go and take a chance! It was definitely the best decision we made. When you go there, you feel like you travel through time, and for us, that was the best sensation ever. The temples are literally in the middle of the village so you get to see how people go about their daily lives, how they produce and take care of their own food, how they feed their animals, and so on. It’s such a raw place that you can’t help to feel humble about experiencing that. It is still a rather unknown place and when we were there we only saw a handful of tourists, so locals are very happy to interact with you, even if they don’t speak that much English. They want to know where you come from, how did you get there, and if you are enjoying yourself, which makes the experience all the more emotional.
Just to give you a sense of our itinerary – we began our three-week stay in Yangon, then headed north to Mandalay, followed by Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali Beach, Mrauk U and finally Hpa-an.
What did you like the most?
Above all, we really loved the people, their authenticity, their kindness, their willingness to help out while kindly smiling at you. The country is still not as touristy as some of its neighbors, like Thailand for instance, which can also explain a little bit the warm welcome you feel just about everywhere.
On our first day in Yangon, so our first day in Myanmar, we had the first glimpse of these characteristics. We decided to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda (a must-see in Yangon), and as we got there, they informed us that the entry fee could only be paid in local currency (we were only carrying dollars at that time). One of the ladies that was working at the entry of the pagoda told us to follow her, that she would guide us to where we could exchange the money. There are at least 3 money exchange places inside. The first one we got to, was closed! To get to the second one, we had to pass through an entry that was reserved only for locals, so despite the lady’s best efforts, as you can imagine, we had to circle around to get there… once again closed!! On to the next option. Finally, after a good 45 minute high paced walk around the pagoda, trying to keep up behind the lady, we arrived at the 3rd spot. Surprise surprise! They couldn’t exchange our dollars since they were not as new as they should be for their standards… perfect standards as anyone that has traveled to Myanmar has already found out (keep this in mind, because dollars must be in perfect condition). There are one or two ATMs inside the pagoda, but they were out of cash… After almost one hour, the poor lady was exhausted (as were we) and heartbroken for failing to help us out, and as we arrived at the starting point, she sadly told us we had to cross the street and see if we were lucky to find an open ATM. Eventually, we did 🙂 When we returned to buy the ticket, even though we had already kind of “visited” the amazingly beautiful pagoda while following her, she was super happy, and even offered us some more water. With that first experience, we immediately felt more at ease and knew this would turn out to be a great trip.
What do you think that makes Myanmar so unique?
We always say, there is a life before and another one after Myanmar. We love Asia, especially Southeast Asia, but in Myanmar, we felt as if our hearts had found a home. As we said earlier, what makes Myanmar so unique is its people and the feeling of authenticity you experience from the moment you arrive, but it´s so much more.
The cultural side makes the country really one of a kind, for instance:
– they are truly the most religious country we have been to, and take pride in it, going as often as they can, to pray in temples and pagodas;
– men wear longyis (long skirts);
– everyone wears Thanaka on their faces (it serves as sunscreen, but they say it´s good for acne and has anti-aging properties as well);
– lots of people chew betel quid, despite being very bad for the health and it totally ruins their teeth;
– locals love to take pictures with foreigners and we found it really awkward at first but then we were totally up to it 🙂 On the first day, while in the Shwedagon Pagoda, I, Diana, found myself with a baby on my arms, because his parents wanted a photo of the baby with me for good fortune, someone told us afterward.
But besides the cultural side, the country is so mesmerizing that, no matter where you are going, you will find yourself surrounded with breathtaking landscapes and views (check out Hpa-an to get an idea), old temples and pagodas (check out Bagan and Mrauk U). Then you have the beautiful Ngapali Beach, where you can relax after a few days waking up at 5 o’clock to experience the magical sunrises in Bagan, the incredible views you get after climbing mountains in Hpa-an, but above all, we had this feeling of pure happiness. It’s a country where you can easily spend one month, as there is so much to do, so much to see, so much to feel that you will probably end up finding that 3 weeks just isn’t enough, as if we could easily stay one more month. Well, we guess that is a common feeling for everyone traveling and having a good time:).
One thing that surprised you positively and negatively.
Myanmar had been on our travel list for a few years, but since we like to travel with enough time, as we like to take it slow, feel the vibe of the place, and discover things calmly, we had already postponed the trip a couple of times. So the anticipation was huge, and all we can say is that despite the preparation, the research we had done, all the photos we had seen, we were still surprised by everything, and the reality was so much better than what we had on our minds. We love Asia, but in Myanmar, we felt as if our hearts had found a home. We fell in love with the country, and we can’t wait to go back and explore some more.
One place that really surprised us was Mandalay. We found it a cosmopolitan city, but maybe we were influenced by the hotel we stayed in. It had a rooftop, so every night it was packed with young locals, dressed as if they were in Europe, hanging out with their friends, and having a drink, which was very interesting to see. Mandalay is also a good place to stay for a couple of days because of not only the city itself as many things to do and see but nearby you have the ancient cities of Innwa, Amarapura, Mingun, and Sagaing and we totally recommend a visit, as they are just amazing. Oh and we can’t forget the incredible sunset in U Bein Bridge.
On the negative side, we have to mention the pollution, especially by the roadside, that was to be found around the trip. We are well aware it´s common in many places in Asia but, for example, in Yangon, we passed by one small river, and saw literally no water, only garbage, mainly plastic.
The happiest moment you lived.
We had so many happy moments, from the interactions with locals to the sunrise we saw while sitting on a temple in Bagan (one of the few where people are still authorized to climb on), to the sunset we experienced in Mrauk-U. Nevertheless, we experienced our happiest moment in Hpa-an, when we arrived at the top of Mount Zwegabin. The climb was rather difficult, it was hot, we are not the fittest people on earth, so it took us about 2 hours to get to the top (some people make it under 1h30). So, once we got there and looked around, from over 700 meters above sea level, it was one of the greatest feelings ever, having just accomplished one of the things we really wanted to do, being just 2 days away from leaving Myanmar, taking it all in, and being overwhelmed with joy.