Do you ever get tired of all the up-to-the-minute technology around you? Feel like escaping the mechanical world? We hear you! While a real-time machine may not quite exist, you can still transport yourself back in time. Book a flight to Myanmar – a nation quite set in another era, waiting to be explored by tourists!
A visit to Myanmar promises to move the most indifferent of souls. After all, to see a country spend years under military rule, now marching towards peace and preparing to show the world its soft, welcoming side is truly inspirational.
On your itinerary, make sure side aside time to explore the mesmerising sunrise of Bagan in a hot-air balloon, take a heritage walking tour of Yangon and stroll on the iconic U Bein Bridge. We also recommend taking time to explore the local markets around Inle Lake, getting to know the unique life of the people.
From tourist must-sees to offbeat experiences, don’t miss these things on your trip to Myanmar
1. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda
Not so unique this may be, but no Myanmar visit can begin without a visit here. Myanmar’s very own Statue of Liberty – Shwedagon Pagoda is the country’s pride, culture window and one of the most important religious sites. You could get blinded by all the gold if you stare at the pagoda’s 325ft zedi (stupa) during the day!
Inside the pagoda, you will see many locals performing series of rituals and tourists being led by guides, all enamoured by the mesmerising architecture. The best part about the Shwedagon Pagoda is that despite the crowds, you get enveloped in serenity and calmness, urging you to sit down and take it all in.
Entry price for foreigners: S$8 (K8,000); hours: 4am-10pm
2. Sample a local blend at one of the many tea houses
If you thought that the Brits loved their tea more than anyone else, you were mistaken. Burmese locals not only love their tea but make it a point to visit the numerous new and old tea shops across Myanmar to sample them.
It is the perfect place to ditch those swanky coffee shops and noisy watering holes for quaint tea houses. These tea houses not only have a selection of traditional and newly blended Burmese teas on the menu but also some delicious food options such as mutton pastries, pennyworts salads and steamed buns, all served with a huge smile. Notable tea houses such as Rangoon Tea House and Lucky Seven Tea House are the perfect places to get a glimpse of the Burmese culture and the bygone days.
Average price of tea: S$0.40 (K400)
3. Buy jade
Even though this might sound like the most obvious thing to do when in Myanmar, it won’t be the easiest. While visiting the Jade Market in Mandalay is an unmatchable experience, thanks to all the chaos and ‘rawness’, if you want to buy real jade, it is important to know a few things before you do.
- When it comes to jade purity, there are generally three types – A, B and C. Type A refer to stones that are completely untreated, Type B is generally chemically treated and Type C has gone through colour enhancement. Always aim to buy a Type A jadeite. If you are buying jade from a shop, you can ask for a lab proof of the stone being type A, as it is difficult to differentiate between the various options.
- Study the important factors determining the quality of jade – colour, transparency, clarity and texture – before you plan to buy one.
- Understand that ‘flaws’ are more-often-than-not a proof that the piece of jade you are considering is genuine. If the piece you are looking at has a unique characteristic such as an uneven colour patch or a stand-out texture, it does not mean it is fake.
4. Explore a well-preserved piece of history
If you are looking for an activity that is both adventurous and historical, your hunt ends with the Po Win Daung Caves. These multi-centuries-old, man-made caves are nothing like you have ever seen. Imagine being barefoot, weeding your way through over 900 decorated caves and viewing stunning carvings of Buddha at every turn!
Most of the statues and paintings here date back to the 14th Century. This archaeological wonder is located around 25kms away from Monywa but might take awhile to reach, thanks to the rugged rural road conditions.
It is advisable to hire a guide to understand the historical importance of the place. It can get tiring to walk through it all, but it is well worth it. Carry loads of water and beware of the fierce monkeys in the area.
Entry fee: S$2.5 approximately
5. Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Ngapali Beach
If you thought Thailand and Philippines grab all the awards when it comes to housing the most stunning beaches in Southeast Asia, you were wrong. Myanmar’s Ngapali Beach (pronounced as Napally), with its sugary white sand laced with palm trees, will make beach bums fall in love with it in an instant.
Choose to snorkel, swim, fish or kayak in the azure waters. If you want to get a taste of the local life, head to the adjoining fishing village of Jate Taw. Another must-do thing here is to sample the deliciously fresh seafood at one of the local beachside restaurants.
6. Go hiking
Hikers love Myanmar and there is little doubt why. The country offers numerous options for adventure trekking and various scenic walking trails. Whether it is exploring floating villages while walking from Inle Lake to Kalaw or viewing one of the best sunsets of your life while trekking on the Hsipaw hills, trekking in Myanmar deserves all the attention it gets from locals and tourists.
US dollars are widely accepted in Myanmar, and you’ll be able to pay for most things in USD. Have some Myanmar Kyats with you as some of the less popular places may prefer the local currency. Money changers in Myanmar generally accept Singapore dollars, but it’s safest if you have US dollars instead.
With the exception of hotels and restaurants, your credit card will have limited use. When booking your flight and hotels, make use of travel credit cards like the DBS Altitude Card, Citi PremierMiles Card or UOB PRVI Miles Card. To get the best deals, always look for discounts or bonus miles that these cards offer when you book with partners like Expedia or Agoda.
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