Is it safe to travel to Myanmar with kids or alone?
Myanmar is one of the most beautiful and amazing countries in Asia. It is a very large country with a variety of landscape features, plains, mountains, jungles, beaches, islands, rivers, villages, and cities.
Myanmar is a country with an ancient Buddhist tradition, diverse population, various tribes, and exceptionally nice and cordial people. It has special tourist attractions that only exist in Myanmar, such as famous places like Inle Lake and Bagan.
Along with all these good things, military rule is still very dominant. There are areas of conflict with the Rohingyas which were very tense until only a few years ago (the Golden Triangle near Thailand and Laos). Apart from the security situation, there are also the health risks of Malaria and the Zika virus.
So the obvious question is: how safe is travel in Myanmar with or without children?
I will answer this directly by weighing all the factors: it is safe to travel in Myanmar.
Myanmar is a very large country so the confrontation with the Rohingyas is not felt in the areas to which the tourists arrive, nor is it close to them.
Other internal conflicts, in the Golden Triangle area, have calmed down significantly in recent years, and areas which have been closed to tourists were opened up to completely free movement.
The health risk is significant but DEFINITELY not show stopper. You will have to prepare for it by means of professional medical advice at a travel clinic in your area 1-3 months before the trip.
One significant risk that exists in any advanced country but does not exist in Myanmar is a crime. Crime is almost nonexistent in Myanmar. The sense of security is absolute.
We traveled in Myanmar with three small kids for a few weeks and not even once did we experience a sense of insecurity.
So, all in all, there is a limited risk but it’s manageable and should not stop you from traveling to Myanmar with kids or alone.
For more updated details about travel warnings to Myanmar, check out the Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory of the US Department of State.
Travel to Myanmar Video
Planning a trip to Myanmar
When planning for a trip, it is easy to mess up, and sometimes the cost could go over your planned budget. Therefore, it is critical to plan, have strategic arrangements, and know what you want.
This becomes even more crucial if you are visiting the developing countries and more so when traveling with kids.
From booking transportation, paying for food, drinks, and accommodations, it is possible to forget some details, and however minute they may seem, they are a huge part of making the getaway a success.
You then have to think of where you are going, the places you wish to visit, and the activities to do to make the whole experience memorable. Think of the best places to visit with kids and the best activities that they are likely to love and enjoy first.
I was living, working, and traveling solo and with little kids in East Asia (Thailand, India, Myanmar) and Europe. I have gained extensive knowledge and experience traveling with children and learned more about the East Asia states.
My wife and I, together with our three kids, a girl and two boys aged 2 years, 8 years, and 11 years respectively, traveled to Myanmar. This article aims at showing you the steps we took to make the trip a success. This article is what anyone who plans on traveling to Myanmar alone or with kids needs.
The aim is to give you clear insight into what to expect regarding the cost, things you need to include in your traveling bags, places to visit, things to do, and how to plan when traveling to other countries in Asia such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to mention a few.
To be updated with the situation in Myanmar, you can read more from the USIP (United States institution of Peace). Click here.
You do not just wake up one morning and tell your kids to get ready because you are about to leave for Myanmar. A successful trip requires prior preparations to minimize travel stress and if you do not want to get stranded on arrival.
Imagine traveling with a 2-year-old on a plane. Chances are, s/he has never been on a plane before. The kids might feel tired and uncomfortable, and they may keep asking you when you are going to reach your destination. The goal here is to ensure that you enjoy the trip and with these travel tips, all that is possible.
What are some things to do when planning for international travel with kids?
Learn more about the destination – Myanmar happens to be among the best family holiday destinations in for those families that are looking for a different experience, a nature trip, and cultural trip.
travel to Myanmar advisory
You have probably never been there before, and chances are, you know little or nothing about the place. Maybe you heard about its beautiful sceneries from the media and decided to take a family trip and witness the goodies.
Unfortunately, with so much information on the internet, it can be hard to know exactly what to expect once you land there. Different websites will offer you different versions of stories, and you may end up confused. Some could be irrelevant while some are contradictory.
You should have an idea of the best places to visit with toddlers – the attractions in Myanmar are less exciting for children. They do not include Disneyland, swimming pools, luxury restaurants, etc …
They are mostly about landscapes, people and culture. You will have to take into account the pleasures of the children and take care not to make the trip too difficult for them while keeping it a positive experience for them since the educational value for the children is priceless.
Study the routes – The next thing to check is the route to follow and the amount of time you intend to spend at each site that you visit. You also have to think about the cost of the trip by evaluating the prices in Myanmar.
The key elements here are time and money. When choosing the means of transportation, you should consider both the cost and the time it will take.
You do not want to spend a whole day to get to Myanmar when you only have three free days to enjoy the getaway.
Speed is a key here and taking a plane is by far the most favorable means, especially in such a large country with the undeveloped road system, but you should know that air travel with kids (mainly with toddlers) is never an easy task.
You must ensure that they are comfortable with that by taking a rehearsal moment if it is their first time on the plane.
You should also learn about the different routes one can take to get there before selecting the best. Personally, I gained helpful information from reading articles from other bloggers/travelers who had already been there.
We also had the assistance of two tour guides from Myanmar who gave us different suggestions regarding the same matter, and this made our research even more interesting and accurate.
We got helpful suggestions on some of the best sites to check out as this was our central theme of the whole research process.
We also gathered some info from one of the most reliable and reputable travel site, Tripadvisor. It is an excellent site, but sometimes it gives too much or outdated information.
Watching YouTube videos from fellow travelers was also quite helpful, although most of the videos that we came across were low quality and it was somehow hard to gather the relevant points regarding international travel with kids to Myanmar.
This article combines videos from Myanmar, and soon we will upload a long video that summarizes the whole trip.
Areas to visit in Myanmar
Until recently, some beautiful and attractive tourist areas were a no-go zone due to conflicts between tribal forces and the military government. How sad is this?
Tourists were forbidden from visiting these areas due to security matters, but the opposing parties later came to an agreement which helped restore peace. Now, most of the areas are open for tours.
However, there are still a few areas that are out of bounds or require prior coordination before entering. Worry not. You will have some guidance to help you distinguish these areas, which makes the touring experience easier for newcomers.
Myanmar covers approximately 676, 578km2 which is larger than all of the European countries (Except for Russia, which spreads across two continents). This provides you with large coverage of areas to visit, and even with some forbidden parts, you won’t feel the difference. The tourists’ areas in Myanmar are divided into three, as follows:
Blackzone – This zone is completely out-of-bounds for tourists, and there is no way you can get an entrance permit
Brown Zone – You will require approval in advance before getting in. You have two options in this case: Try and get an official permit, which takes about five to seven days, or goes to the hot zone and gets a non-official permit.
The White Zone – This area is entirely open and free for tourists, and you do not require an entrance permit.
You should, however, note that these zones keep changing and the requirements may change from time to time, so it is essential to do some homework first before you get there. The tourist guides are familiar with the regime’s instructions, and there is nothing to worry about.
You can read more about the evolution of the no-go zones of Myanmar.
Best time to visit Myanmar
The primary goal when taking an international trip is to have as much fun and make as many memories as you can. Climate and weather are a major determinant of how enjoyable your trip will be.
You do not want to go on a trip only to spend the whole vacation indoors due to weather hindrances, especially if you are traveling with your kids. Toddlers are very vulnerable to extreme climate conditions, so you should take your time and understand the best season to travel.
East Asia is divided into three seasons, and Myanmar is not an exception. These are:
- The dry season (October to March)
- The hot season (April to May)
- The rainy season (June to September)
The dry season
This is the most popular and the best time of the year to visit Myanmar especially if you a hiking lover. The weather is comfortable, and you do not have to worry about getting stuck due to the rains and mud, but the season comes with its drawbacks too.
Considering that this is the season that most people want to go out, the demand makes traveling to Myanmar more expensive, and you will need to increase your budget.
Transportation, hotel booking, and tourists’ services become expensive, and that is why the season between October and March is referred to as the peak months, especially between November and February.
The temperatures range from 18 to 33°C (64 to 91°F) in the lower region and are even better and more pleasant in the higher areas. The temperatures start rising in March.
The hot season
This is the period between April and May, a time when the temperatures can rise to 40 degrees in the lowest areas. The climate can be extreme especially for the kids as they are bound to suffer from sunburns and you cannot enjoy touring during the day.
The rainy season
The rainy season is by far the best time to visit Myanmar regarding aspects such as costs and rooms. The season starts from June to September where the temperature in low areas can reach up to 30°C (86°F).
These are ideal weather conditions for toddlers since it is neither too hot nor too cold. The humidity varies, but generally, the temperatures are comfortable and the higher the areas you visit, the more pleasant it gets.
The Monsoon rain does not fall all day but mostly drops in the afternoons. The heavy rains only last for a few minutes or for a maximum of two hours but there are exceptions too, and the rain can drop during the day as well. For more data regarding the weather and temperatures in East Asia, read here.
Graphic presentation of South East Asia seasons
Most individuals are afraid of visiting Myanmar during this period due to:
- Heavy rains from time to time
- Mud which limits them from trekking to some areas
- Some of the tourist sites are closed because of the small number of tourists
- Flood risks
Besides the cons, have you thought of the benefits you can get from choosing to visit the area during this period?
- The airfare prices are lower since the demand is low.
- The hotel prices get cheaper.
- You do not have to book hotels and accommodation in advance.
- Most of the hotel rooms are free which offers you the flexibility to choose whichever hotel you wish on arrival. This is what we did, and I’m glad we chose to travel during the rainy season. We would only check two to three hotels upon arrival at each destination which just took us 15 to 30 minutes before picking one.
- Availability of travel guides – During the peak season, you may never get a travel guide due to the high number of people who need them but during this season; you can be assured that you will always find one although the best guides need upfront booking.
- There is limited congestion in the tourists’ sites. This way you get to enjoy as much as you can with your family.
It is evident that the rainy season is the best time to visit Myanmar. It saves money and reduces the stress of having to scramble for services.
Read here for more information about Myanmar weather map.
Tourist guides in Myanmar
In countries like Myanmar and India, traveling alone with kids can be a bit hectic, especially with toddlers under the age of three.
You may not enjoy the trip unless you have been there before and you know exactly what you are up to, or if you are going to one specific destination to stay. If you want to make the best out of your trip and visit as many sites as possible, you need the assistance of guides.
It gets easier for individual travelers since you do not have to worry about too much baggage or the kids’ safety. Moving from one site to the next can be done on trains or buses, or even airplanes for longer distances.
You can also hire a personal driver (per day) who will pick you up for road trips, which you can do with other travelers if you want to save money.
Finding a tour guide is essential if you are traveling as a family, especially with kids. It is a crucial part of preparing for the trip.
The guides understand the area better, and they know the best routes to follow for easy navigation to save time and enhance safety. They know the best hotels and will show you where you can eat your meals and nap.
However, you do not just go for any guide. You need to ensure that whoever you choose is reliable. Trust is everything. This is a person that you have never met before, and you need to be sure that he is right for you since he is going to spend 3-4 weeks with your family from morning to night.
There are different ways to choose one. You can use recommendations from friends or relatives who have used them before and book in advance. If you have no suggestions, search Google and get recommendations through Trip Advisor and check other travel forums.
Reviews never lie. Check what other travelers who have had experience with the guides are saying about them by checking the reviews section on their site.
Picking a travel guide who you have doubts about or one that you have not received good recommendations for is not recommended.
Let me take you back to a decade and a half ago when my father-in-law and mother-in-law decided to travel to Myanmar for the first time.
They met a tour guide who took them from the airport to their hotel and since he was very nice to them, they decided to hire him for another two weeks.
His kindness attracted them, and even after the vacation, they kept in contact in with him for years, and when they went back to Myanmar, they contacted him for guidance services.
When we were planning on going to Myanmar, my parents-in-law recommended him to us. This made our search easier and less stressful. We learned that he had stopped working as a guide and had established a company.
We traveled with his brother instead, who works with his guide company. See how easy that was for us? We were sure that we could trust him since he was recommended by people who had trusted him before.
You may also need the guide to be a translator since very few people there speak English and you might experience a hard time communicating with the locals.
Here are our Myanmar guide tour details: Myanmar Expert Tours
Click here to reach his mail.
Feel free to contact him. We are not affiliated with him and we won’t earn anything if you book your tour with him.
What should the guide provide?
It is essential to have an agreement on the things to expect in order to avoid arguments later on. Some of the services to expect include:
A spacious car – the car should accommodate your whole family and luggage -You are likely to have at least two travel bags and probably a baby carrier too if you have a toddler.
Air conditioning – you are likely to feel tired and dizzy after a long trip from your country, and the last thing you want is to spend the last part of your journey in a stuffy vehicle. Ensure that the car has proper air conditioning
Comfortable baby chair – babies are demanding, and you should ensure that all the demands are met. Avoid the stress of bringing a baby chair from home and choose a car that is equipped with one already. Then ask for the model and picture to make sure that the chair is standard and safe. If they do not have a chair, you will have to bring one along with you. You can make all the inquiries via email to get the details you need before entering into an agreement.
Payment arrangements with the tourist guide
Who pays for what and how much should you include in your budget? Here is a list of what to expect.
- The driver’s personal expenses – These include food and accommodation fees. The tour guide should pay for these. However, you may opt to pay for some of his costs depending on what you agree on. A meal for five people ranges from around 10 to 15 dollars if you are vegetarian, while the same meal is a bit costly in fancy restaurants in Yangon and other towns where it costs approximately 40 to 60USDS.
- Entry cost – This is the amount you pay to enter a particular site. This is also based on what you opt for. You can leave the expenses for the guide to pay but when you leave the destination, the fees will be included in the total payment.
- Cost of fuel – The guide will cater to this.
- Road fees – The guide will pay for it.
If you decide to visit sites that were initially not included in the plan, you will have to pay for the entry fee.
How much is the daily guide fee? It ranges from approximately 100 dollars in the rainy season and probably more expensive in the dry season.
Packing for the trip
Packing for a vacation is one of the most tedious tasks, but it does not have to be. Try making it fun by first coming up with a list of everything you will need and check off each item you put in the travel bag. What should you pack for a toddler?
- Warm clothes (a few sets only)
- Summer clothes
- Bathing suit (few hotels have a swimming pool or in case you visit the beach in the west)
- Diaper bag but this is dependent on the age of the kid. A 2 two-year-old will need this
- Blanket (for air condition in the car)
- Changing pad
- Hand sanitizer
- Diaper cream
- Drinking bottle
- Wet wipes
- Mosquito repellent
- Travel bag
What if you are traveling with a toddler on a plane?
Air travel can be inconvenient for babies or toddlers due to limited space and pressure on the ears when landing, and it takes time before little kids get comfortable with it.
However, you can try and make the environment as comfortable as possible for them by keeping your composure, use pull-ups, and last but not least, do not forget to bring items that can keep them busy and in a good mood. The items you pick depend on the age of the toddler.
You could also be wondering how many clothes you should bring for travel with kids. The answer to this depends on the number of days you intend to spend abroad. The best approach is to be a minimalist. Do not overdo things since the more clothes you pack, the less space you will have to carry other stuff.
Some tips for packing and some basics to have in your packing list are:
General things to carry
- Clothing for warm weather (will be needed most of the time)
- Clothing for cold weather (it’s chilly in the mountains)
- Do not wear different pants every day…
Things to pack (per kid)
- 2 to 3 shorts
- 2 pairs of long pants
- One Sweatshirt
- About 10 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks
- A pair of trekking shoes
- Child seat
- A trolley if you have a toddler
- Back carrier if you plan on trekking
Additional stuff to pack
- A charger
- 2 universal plugins
- A shower bag
- Medication, if prescribed by a doctor
- Dry food if you plan on visiting remote areas or for long rides
- Laundry bag
- Raincoats if you travel during the rainy season
- Lanterns and batteries
- A backpack for trekking and hiking
- Toilet sanitizer (most toilets are not clean)
- Bed linen (for a trek, in case you want to put yours on instead those of the local. We brought ours with us and it was helpful, but not a blanket of course)
Challenges of traveling with children
Unlike adults, kids can be a bit impatient. They are not used to long queues and waiting for hours at the airport before your travel time arrives or sitting on a plane for hours before you reach your destination.
You have to be prepared and ready to do all you can to make the trip as comfortable as possible for them.
Our trip was about 1562 miles (~2,500 km), and most of the vehicles that we boarded were traveling at an average speed of 30 to 40 miles per hour.
Luckily for us, we have been on several long trips which have helped us gain some useful tips on how to keep the kids distracted and comfortable.
Here are some of the items to include in your packing checklist for the toddlers.
- An iPad with digital books
- A regular book and go for the one with many pages to keep them busy for long (since you won’t take many books…)
- A drawing book (mandala notebook can be great)
- Writing tools and markers
- Music playlist (that your kid loves) and make it long enough to take you through the journey
- The kids’ favorite toys
- Small board games
Keep the stuff well organized in small bags and give each one of them his/her own bag and let them deal with them.
Although this trick does not solve the issue entirely, at least it leaves the children with something to excite them for some time as they try to cope.
The locals love children, and they get attracted and curious about different looks. Be aware and cooperate as this helps you build a positive engagement with them.
Myanmar Travel Budget
While it may be impossible to determine the exact amount used for the entire vacation, it’s easy to make an estimate based on the region you decide to visit, the number of travelers, the duration of the getaway, and other basic components.
In this case, we will assume that you will be traveling as a family of four; parents and two kids both over the age of two. The main cost components of the trip are:
- Flight tickets
- The cost of paying the tourist guide
1. The cost of air tickets
Let’s take a scenario where you are traveling from the US to Myanmar. In this case, you will need to take at least two to three flights based on the route followed.
The first fight is from the US to Bangkok. Suppose that one ticket cost $800, this means that:
Plane tickets for four family members will cost $3,200
The second flight is a one-way flight from Bangkok to Mandalay or Yangon. Assume you are going to Mandalay, the cost of per ticket is $120 and this means that:
The tickets for the whole family will add up to $480
The third flight is one way from Yangon to Bangkok (on the way back, at the end of the trip). Let’s assume the cost of one plane ticket to be $80.
The total cost will be $320
From these assumptions, the total cost of plane tickets will be $4000
2. The cost of a tourist guide
In this case, we will work with 3 weeks as the duration of the time spent touring Myanmar. We paid $2000 for 21 days and still added a tip on top of that at the end of the trip.
The cost of the guide also depends on the route followed, the number of travelers, and the type and size of the vehicle you choose. If you decide to take a few days of the tour trekking, you will not need a driver which means that you will only spend on the guide.
If the estimated cost of the guide or driver per day is $ 100, this is equivalent to $2100 for 21 days.
3. The cost of hotels and accommodations
Like other costs, the cost of hotels and accommodations will depend on the number of visitors and the period you plan on staying there. It will also depend on the age of the children. We chose to stay in a large room, where the five of us could comfortably fit.
Assuming that you will stay in one large room, here are the cost estimates;
During the low or non-peak season, the price ranges from 25 to 50 dollars. This includes breakfast. Let’s take $40 to be the average.
This makes the total cost for 20 nights to be $800
During the peak season, the average of a hotel, breakfast included, is $60.
This makes a total of $1200 for 20 nights
4. The cost of food
This is primarily determined by the restaurant you choose to eat from and its location. The cost of restaurants varies from one place to the next. For example, the restaurants in Yangon are more expensive than those in the villages and small towns.
My family ate vegetarian foods. We would eat two meals in the restaurant, that is, lunch and dinner, but in some cases, we only ate breakfast and lunch from the restaurant and made an improvised dinner in our room. This helped us save some money (Although that was not the intention in the first place).
The cost of a good lunch in a local restaurant was approximately $10 to $13. Dinner at good restaurants such as the Indian restaurants can cost about $20 to $25.
Assuming that we took 40 meals in the restaurants for the three weeks, at an average cost of $15 per meal, the estimated total cost of food is $600.
For a two-day trek with a guide, including homestay at one of the villages and meals (four meals in two days), you will pay about $ 150 in the rainy season. The price will rise significantly in the dry season.
Additional expected expenses are for insurance, communication, laundry, souvenirs, etc., we estimate it up to $500 but it’s definitely up to your family to make the final decision.
The total cost of the trip in these cases will be as follows:
- Flight: $ 4,000
- Tourist guide: $2,100
- Hotels: $800 in the low season
- Food: $600
- Trek (2 days): $150
- Miscellaneous: $500
The total estimated cost will be: $8,150
Note: remember that these prices are estimates only, and refer to the Rainey season.
Wi-Fi and Communication
We always had a Wi-Fi connection in all the hotels that we stayed in except from one in Monywa. In our attempt to save money, we stayed in low-cost places where Wi-Fi quality was not so good.
It was average or low, and although you could watch online videos, we experienced some disconnections, or at times, it would take a long time to upload or for a site to load.
There are several major communication companies in Myanmar which include Telenor, Mytel, MPT, andOoredoo. We were connected to Telenor, and the connection was great apart from one night when we experienced a disconnection from the network when in the village in the mountains east of Inle Lake.
There are two types of packages; the cheap and expensive package.
The cheap package – In this case, you are required to purchase a local SIM. Currently, the paid package is Ooredoo’s SIM, but you should know that the prices and deals change frequently and it is recommended that you check at the airport first. There are different ways of finding the price and here are two examples:
Option 1: get a SIM card which includes 5 gigabytes Internet Surfing, 40 minutes talk costs and about 10000 MMK (~$6.2) depending on your bargaining skills.
Option 2: get an OoredooSim at 1,500MMK (~$9.3), which comes with 2GB of surfing the web.
The expensive package – In this case, you will be required to buy a package of calls and surfing from a communication company in your local country. These packages mostly range from 1 to 20 GB, and the cost differs accordingly.
Note that you may not always get Wi-Fi in all the hotels that you stay in, and when you get it, the quality might not be what you wish for, and you may never have access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms.
In addition, if you are the kind of person who consumes a lot of data on social media networks, you will need to get a bigger data package.
Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Myanmar
Your trip planning will always be affected by two main aspects; cost and time. The goal is to maneuver wisely both on money and time.
You also want to make memories and see as much as the place has to offer. It can be inconvenient to spend every night at a different place due to packing and unpacking every time you want to shift to a different hotel. You need to make enough time for you and the kids to relax after long days of traveling.
This is how we worked it out.
Day 1 – Mandalay
This was the day after our arrival, and we were yet to get a driver.
We wanted the kids to spend the day relaxing and recovering from the flights, and we, therefore, did not plan to visit many places.
We slept in late, but if you are not traveling with kids, you can do more than us on the first day. Some of the areas that we visited were:
Setkyathiya pagoda – You will love every bit of visiting this place. If you are traveling alone, you can go there on your way from the airport.
This pagoda is beautiful and contains a display of jewels such as jade and ruby. The structure is definitely worth the time.
Zegyo market – this is the Mandalay local market. It is a busy yet beautiful shopping area, and once you get there, you will surely come out with something memorable to take home with you.
Day 2 – Mandalay
We were back to our energetic selves after a great resting day, and we were ready to visit many places.
Mandalay palace – This king’s palace is referred to as the Mandalay palace because it is no longer a kingdom. It was destroyed during WWII but it was rebuilt later. It is located in the center of Mandalay, and it includes buildings used as housing for military members and their families.
Ayeyarwady River Boating – An hour’s sail on the Mandalay River to the Mignon area on the other side of the river. A very enjoyable cruise, we were alone on a small ferry. At the beginning of the cruise, you will see by the river local inhabitants who live in tin shacks and under difficult conditions right on the riverbank.
White Kuthodaw pagoda – This pagoda includes hundreds of shrines and pavilions. It is also known as the world’s largest book due to its 729 marble slabs contained in it with Buddhist teachings.
The structure of an uncompleted stupa was started by King Bodawapa in the 1790s. It was left incomplete due to a psychic who claimed that upon completion, the king was going to die.
The stupa is the largest in the world but has visible cracks from the earthquake of 1893.
Mingun – HsinbyumePagoda – this is an all-white structure located on the banks of Irrawaddy River. It is also known as the MyaThe Indian. It was built in 1816 by Prince Bagyidaw and was completed three years later. Its architectural style is different from other pagoda styles, and this makes it one of the best places to visit.
Mandalay hill – The hill is surrounded by other satellite hills referred to as ShweTaung, NgweTuung, PaddamyaTaung, MyinThilaTaung, Hse-danTaung, Dokhta Hill, Ye-hle and Kye-ni Hill.
The scenery is breathtaking. You can get there either by foot or car. You can take about half an hour for an adult only hike and an hour with children. Many people, tourists and locals, come to watch the sunset from Mandalay Hill.
Day 3 – Mandalay Area
Gold factory – You can visit Mahamuni Pagoda during the day, where you will see a Buddha statue covered with layers of gold leaves. The leaves are made using a unique local technique.
The gold factory has been commercialized to be a tourist attraction. Visit the place and enjoy watching the gold leaf production process and the bamboo paper used to envelop them.
Get some gold leaf which allows men to get to the statue itself by sticking the leaf on the Buddha statue. It is the best trick for photo lovers.
Mahamuni Pagoda – This is a significant pilgrimage site, and if you love wandering around watching people carry out their religious actions or if you are a lover of gold, then this is the place for you.
Amarapura – Monastery area, a complex with streets, temples, halls, a large kitchen, houses, and a massive dining room. It is the home to thousands of monks. Get around the permitted areas, interact with the monks, and learn about their interesting and exciting lifestyle, especially if you find some who understands your language.
Ava – Also known as Inwa, AVA is an ancient city located in Mandalay. To get there, you can cross the river on a boat. You will get to see the Bagaya Monastery, a college for the royals made entirely out of teak. Also, visit:
Maha Aung pagoda – We are glad we did not pass up this. The best part about it is that it is easy to move about and you cannot miss its wooden panels around the central area. It’s very fun for kids to run around and inside the Pagoda.
Bagayakyung – This monastery, situated in Inwa is a Buddist monastery on the southwest of Inwa Place. You will enjoy walking around this place and learning more about its exciting history.
Yedanasini Temple – This is a temple situated on the west side of Inwa. It was probably built in the 1820s or 1830s, and you will find it quite similar to Me Nu Ok Kyangu. It was hit by the 1839 earthquake, and the result is a brick assembly hall with spacious windows, bays and internal rounded columns.
U min Thonze caves – Located on Sagaing hill about 20km from the Mandalay area and Ayeyarwady river, here you will see the numerous Buddha images. The pagoda has 45 Buddha statues in a crescent-shaped colonnade, and each one comes with a different size and facial expression. Also, you will see some green scenery.
U min Thonze caves – Spend some time at the U Bein Bridge, an old bridge which makes the best place to chill as you watch the sunset at the lake.
We arrived at the bridge area before sunset, walked through the local market and we were already at the bridge within no time.
The bridge is not wide, you may find it crowded, which is normal but you will not get bored. It is risky for children to cross by themselves since it is relatively narrow, crowded, and lacks railing.
On the pier near the bridge and on a small pier in the middle of the bridge, there are boats which you can board before or after getting to the bridge. Further down the bridge, you will find some steps that allow you to descend to another boats’ dock and you can board a boat from there at a small fee of about $10.
On the way back from the bridge, we walked through the market which has lots of stalls and food areas. It will be evening time, just before dinner but a bit of street food, won’t be too bad.
Day 4 – traveling to Pyin Oo Lwin
Also referred to as Maymyo, this is a scenic hill station located in Mandalay Division, few hours driving (east) from Mandalay city, in the Shan highland.
One of the main attractions of Pyin Oo Lwin is the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens, a beautiful, well maintained, green, flowering place, full of charming corners, including a refined coffee shop where you can relax after a walk in the garden. It’s usually open at 8 AM and closes at 6 pm.
The Chinese Vegetarian Buddhist temple – this is a colorful Chinese temple filled with colorful animals’ figures. The kids are likely to love this place. It also has a vegetarian restaurant which operates only during the day.
Day 5 – Pyin Oo Lwin area
Pyin Oo Lwin is a beautiful hill station in Mandalay Division, at an altitude of 1070 meters which ensures more pleasant weather than in the lower areas. The town, its surroundings, and nearby nature provide enjoyable employment for a few days.
The Gokteik Viaduct train – this is a railway trestle in the western Shan state. The bridge is between Lashio and the summer capital of the former British colonial administrators of Burma. The train was built over a century ago, and the Burmese army only maintains it. This is something that you do not want to miss. Take a ride and make a lifetime memory with your family.
Peik Chi Myaung – This is a cave located on the Lashio road. The cave is estimated to be about 230 to 310 million years old. The name is derived from Oeikhin plants, as plenty of them used to grow there.
It is filled with Buddha statues in numerous sizes. Inside the cave are underground springs that flow from different directions.
Day 6 – On the way to Monywa
We traveled to Monywa where we had a chance to visit various sites including:
Maha Bodhi Tahtaung at Sagaing province – this complex comprises of two parts. The first one is a garden filled with thousands of statues and Buddha.
There are three huge Budha, one lying, standing, and sitting under construction.
The figure is hollow, and you can climb up to 30 floors. If you have kids, you should avoid climbing the floors since some stories like the first 6-7 floors floor have many murals which are unpleasant for children.
Thanboddhay Pagoda – this is a massive Buddhist complex which is brightly screaming out praise for Buddha. Every pillar and tower in the Pagoda is excellently covered with images of Buddha which makes its view even more appealing.
Monywa, Chindwin River – it is a river in Burma and happens to be the largest tributary of the Ayeyarwady river. Here you will get the chance to meet a lot of people who go there to chill. There are several villages along the river like Thamanthi Homalin and Khamti, which are open for foreigners.
Monya market – this place is best if you visit in the evening. It is a relatively small market which is drawn on one street. It mainly includes food and clothing. The street is open to the traffic of cars and motorcycles so beware but the market is definitely worth a visit, and you can eat delicious street food there.
Note that if you plan on spending only one night at a particular place, try to finish the day earlier and give more time to yourself and the kids to rest and relax.
Day 7 – Traveling to Bagan
We spent the first day traveling to Bagan and later had a chance to visit the following areas.
Phwewin caves – The hidden cave on the other side of Phwe Win and Shwe Taung is another thing that you do not want to miss out. The caves complex is about 900 years old and contains almost 1,000 caves of different sizes. Of course, you will not be able to visit all the caves and explore all of them but when you go around the site, the usual tourist route will take you through most of the important caves.
The caves are numbered so those who wish, can go through the list of caves appearing in Lonely Planet and try to locate them one by one. It’s a bit more complicated if you are traveling with children.
At the entrance to the caves complex and in the complex, there are monkeys. Tיhe monkeys are neither aggressive nor attacking humans but to avoid unpleasant surprises, it is not recommended to go in with food or to carry important things in your hands.
Pottery village on the way to Bagan – On our way to Bagan, we stopped at a local village, which specializes in making Pottery. The experience was very interesting both for us and our kids. We got a chance to watch the production of the pots, and we also wandered around the village itself. The residents were very friendly and welcoming.
Day 8 – traveling to Bagan
We visited the following pagodas;
Sunrise pagoda roof – you can see several pagodas from here. Your guide or driver will guide you to this ‘secret’ location where you will find people sitting on the Pagoda’s roof as they wait for the sun to rise. The best thing to do is to wake up early and get to the place half an hour before sunrise and avoid traffic in the site and elongating neck to see the sunset.
Shwezigon Pagoda – This is a Buddhist temple situated in Nyaung-U near Bagan. The unique thing about the temple is the circular gold leaf-covered stupa which is surrounded by smaller shrines and temples.
Dhammayanghi – This happens to be the biggest pagoda in Bagan. It gained its popularity from the fact that it was built during the reign of King Narathu.
Shwenanyintaw – Pagoda group – this is another place to get fantastic sunset views in Bagan. It is best if you to get there early to avoid congestion with other tourists.
Sulamani pagoda –Sulamani Pagoda is a Buddhist temple located inMinnanthu village, Burma. King Narapasitisithu built it in 1183, and it happens to be the most visited temple in Bagan.
Shweguyi Pagoda – King Alaungsithu built the pagoda, but we only managed to see it from the outside.
Thatbyinnyu Pagoda – Built in by King Alaungsithu in 1144 AD, it is the tallest Pagoda in Bagan. When we visited it was closed for renovation, and we only saw it from the outside.
Ananda – This is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Bagan. It was built during the reign of King Kyanzittha in 1105 AD, and it is worth visiting.
Nandamanya pagoda – The unique things that distinguish this pagoda from the rest are the wall paintings are from the 13th century. If you are a lover of art, this is the place for you.
Payathonzu pagoda – The name Payathonzuis is derived from three. The pagoda is made of three interconnected shrines. It was abandoned before completion and now lays there as one of the major tourists’ attractions.
You may not get time to visit all these pagodas, but you can choose the major ones as you are likely to have a similar experience in most of them.
For more information about Bagan, read here.
Day 9 – traveling to Mt. Popa
On the way from Bagan to Mt. Popa we visited two places, Palm tree factory which is on the road and requires no extra driving time. and a local village, one hour driving off the main road.
Palm tree factory – This is a production plant where peanut oil, sesame oil, and alcohol are made. The factory is just 20 minutes from Bagan. Witness the whole production process with the help of a guard who will explain every detail and manufacturing procedures to you. It’s nice for both adults and kids.
Sestetto village – This local village is only an hour drive from the main road, and you will enjoy interacting with the Kayan people. The road is also very interesting, passing through a dirt path, through agricultural land until you reach the village. We arrived at an event where the whole village gathered.
The monks ran the event. In one broad structure, the adults gathered, ate and listened to the monk who spoke. In another area, the children (all with typical hairstyles) gathered and sat down for lunch. We wandered around freely, it was intriguing and very interesting.
Mt. Popa – this volcano, which is located in central Myanmar, is 1518 meters above sea level and you can see it from the Ayeyarwady River. Mount Poppa is a very impressive place. A volcano that is no longer active and at its head there is a compound that includes a pagoda and a number of temples.
In order to get there, you have to cross a local market that runs at the bottom of the mountain and climb about 800 stairs. Keep in mind that at one point you will take off your shoes and go barefoot so your shoes won’t have much use.
Deer garden – This is just a short drive from Mt. Popa. It is a large garden where deer reside. Two individuals living in a small hut in the garden look after the deer. The deer are super fearful and cannot approach people, so you may not get bonding time with them.
Local Village nearby Popalin – This should not miss out on the list of things to do in Bagan we went there, and the locals were amazingly lovely and hospitable. Our visits to the villages were one of our best experiences.
By the time we arrived in Kalaw, it was already evening, and we had to spend the night. At 1320 meters height, Kalaw’s weather is a bit cooler than in the lower places. When trekking around Inle Lake, Kalaw is the best starting point.
Mostly it takes about two to three days, but it entirely depends on the route you decide to follow. When planning on how we would trek, we had said we’d use traveling agencies, but that changed with an encounter of the monsoon rains so we decided to drive directly to Inle Lake.
It was all about traveling to Inle Lake. The journey was quite an adventure. First, we came across the Kalaw market which was the most beautiful of all the markets we saw on the trip to Myanmar. It is large with lots of stalls and many tribal people from the area who come to trade.
The market takes place every fifth day of the week. After a quick stop, we were back on the road this time heading towards Pindaya Cave where we had to drive through Danu tribe’s area.
This area was known for its insecurities and until a few years ago, could not be passed through because of tensions and confrontations between tribes. Today, however, the road is very safe, and we get to enjoy its beauty and the agricultural areas nearby.
Paper umbrella factory – After the visit to Pindaya Cave, we drove to a paper umbrella producing factory which is only a few minutes away. This is a pure touristic site but nevertheless, still interesting to visit and to see the traditional production process.
Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) – From the paper umbrella factory, our next destination was Nyaungshwe which is a town near Inle Lake. As a visitor to the Inle Lake, you can either decide to stay in Nyaungshwe or the resorts near the lake although they are expensive and you won’t be able to go out in the evening because of the distance of the hotel. Regardless, the resorts are very comfortable and provide a beautiful lake view.
However, that did not stop us from staying at Nyaungshwe, at Golden Empress hotel. We had a great room and great staff, very friendly and helping.
We spent four nights at Inle Lake area, and this is how we spent the time:
Inle Lake boating site seeing
The good thing with Inle Lake is that on the western side there’s a small river that leads into the village of Indein. Also, the lake is quite large and the perfect cultural destination with quaint floating villages, monasteries & handicrafts.
As typical as the case is, our trip to Inle Lake begun in the morning and went throughout the day. For sailing, we used a motorboat. While on the trip there are some stops at different places. On our tour, we had a chance to visit the main sites of Inle Lake and here’s is a list of the ones we would recommend to someone planning a visit here a completely authentic local market and a human landscape.
ThaungThut village – the main attraction here is a pagoda complex that comes by walking through the empty stands of what looks like an abandoned market. According to what we were told a small part of it is usually opened during the high season. During regular days it’s open once a week. If you are planning to visit, then it’s in your best interest to check when it is open so that you don’t end up missing the fun.
Nam Pan Village – This destination is comprised mainly of two things, a small boat manufacturing plant and a domestic factory for producing local cigarettes just a few meters away. We got there when it was just starting to rain so we spared some time but is typically a station you can afford to skip because there’s not much to see.
MwintpwintChel – Lotus factory – It is a small fabric manufacturing plant. The quality of the products is quite high, and so are the prices. Far from that, it is quite a pleasure to see the production process.
Floating gardens – Unlike the previous stations, here there’s no descending just hovering near floating gardens. As a means of adaptation to the shortage of land residents of Inle Lake overcame the challenge by developing aquaculture on the lake itself.
NgaHpeKyaung (monastery) – this is a paradise for cat lovers. This place was built in the 1850s and is rich in history. Here, cats used to be raised and well trained to feature in entertaining performances but since the death of the monk who was the spirit behind the cat’s idea, the show is over and the only souvenir of these days are some cats that hanging around.
ShweIndein pagodas– just another beautiful pagodas site.
NyaungOhak– here you get to enjoy breathtaking architectural wonders which are a couple of centuries old. It is the ultimate walk through history experience.
Day 13 & 14- two days trek
After canceling the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake due to Monsoon Winds, we decided to take a two-day trek from the lake eastwards and make the most out of the extra time. Unlike the trip from Kalaw to Inle Lake which is mostly downhill, moving eastwards meant we’d spend the first day ascending then the second descending.
The route that we followed in the mountains passed through amazing landscapes, many agricultural areas and some distant villages here and there. We visited some homes of the residents for food and lodging. It is the perfect way to experience Myanmar and its people.
Day 15 – Traveling to Loicaw
This journey presented a lot of stops, and we had to go through some routes before finally arriving at our destination. First, was the journey from Yuangshwe to Kakku which according to the Myanmar requirements, has to be accompanied by a tour guide from the nearest city.
Usually, the guide should be returned to office, but considering we were headed to Loicaw, we asked him to return on his own. The tour we had suggested we visit Winya village which was the cleanest of all the others we’d been to. The people here were also quite hospitable.
A compound of two thousand and five hundred pagodas standing densely near the other. Very impressive place. I filmed the video clip here, using a drone.
There are a number of signs in the area that forbid flying rafts, but I managed to obtain a permit from the local administration. This site dates back to about 2000 years and is rich in history.
We arrived at Loicaw in the evening and stayed at Kan TharYar hotel, a nice, clean and friendly hotel.
Day 16 – Travel to Taungoo
For the better part of the day, we went south to Yangon. For the road trip, we passed through mountainous and wooded areas, through rice fields, endless jungle, and remote villages. This is probably the longest ride we had since we got there but was worth every single minute.
Taungkwe Pagoda located on the hill of the city center is quite impressive and offers the best view for the visitors. It is a destination worth visiting.
Day 17 – travel to Golden rock
The journey from Taungoo to Golden rock was a five-hour drive.
Golden rock pagoda in Kyaiktiyo – Here you will come across a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Burma. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair which adds to its ancient story.
Yangon – 3 nights
Day 18 – travel to Yangon
Traveling from Kin Pun to Yangon took approximately four hours.
Nan Thida Ferry terminal Yangon River – A popular place for the locals, with a great view of the river, the boats and the people who visit it, but unfortunately, you will be concentrated mainly in the huge amounts of dirt floating on the river.
Botahtaung Pagoda – Located in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, near the Yangon River, the Pagoda is quite famous and worth a visit.
Day 19 – traveling in Yangon
Inya Lake – A lake bordering one of the neighborhoods of Yangon. The lake is not a classic tourist site but a place to experience the popular sites for locals who are walking, running, sitting in one of the restaurants that are attached to the lake. Restaurants sell local food. Can match morning or sunset.
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue – The synagogue was inaugurated 120 years ago for the Jewish community of Yangon. Today there are very few Jews left in the city and the synagogue is open mainly for the many tourists who come to visit it. A beautiful, authentic place with a fascinating history and a photo exhibition that tells the story of the place. Musmea Yeshua Synagogue is open from 9:30 – 14:00 except on Sundays but check it here before you visit.
While still in Yangon we went to Bogyoke market which is open from 9:00 – 17:00, every day except on Monday. If you intend to visit Shwe Dagon pagoda, I recommend you do so in the evening. Still, in Yangon, we came across Chinatown market which is open during evening time, 17:00 – 1:00 AM.
Bogyoke Park provides Aung San monuments and memorial parks for visitors to have a good time. There is also the Bristo rooftop bar, Sakura tower which allows you to get a beautiful view of Yangon.
Day 20 – traveling in Yangon
This included a visit to the Myanmar national museum which hosts Burmese art, history, and culture of the people. The charges are 5,000 per adult, 2,500 for kids over 5, free for kids under 5.
Reclining Buddha – Is a statue that represents Buddha lying down and is a dominant iconographic and statuary pattern of Buddhism. It is very iconic and a big attraction for visitors.
Kandawgyi Park – It is a famous center for recreation in the capital of Yangon where people from different parts assemble to have fun.