In this post, I’ll take you through 5 things I think more people should do in Myanmar, and why. If you haven’t already, be sure to read my previous post – 5 Beautiful Things Everybody Gets To See in Myanmar.
Sometimes it seems that every tourist in Myanmar is trying to do things that no one is doing. There are some great things to see and do, but if you yearn for experiences that are a little rarer, try a few of these.
1) Sunrise from anywhere, in Mandalay
Everyone is pretty much obsessed with sunset in Myanmar. For good reason – it’s beautiful. But don’t forget about the equally beautiful sunrise.
On my first morning in my lovely guesthouse (Ma Ma’s Guesthouse) in Mandalay, I went up to the roof balcony at about 6am. By 6.30am, the sun was starting to peek over the hills, giving me my first daylight view of the city. I also managed to accidentally give a good scare to one of the guesthouse staff. She came up to sweep the floor and wasn’t expecting a foreigner behind the door taking pictures. So I took a picture of her too.
They say Mandalay Hill is an excellent place for sunrise and sunset. I didn’t make it there that early. For me, it was a fine, deserted walk up in the middle of the day. Occasionally I was stopped and asked to pose for photos. To be back in Asia is to be a mini-celebrity again!
2) A Scooter Trek from Hsipaw
OK, this one is a bit of a cop-out, but it’s still something more people should try. Having had to take a day out to recover from to-be-expected food poisoning, I was running behind on my schedule. I’d planned to take an overnight trek. One day up, one day down. Now I only had one day for both ways.
Never fear, the Myanmar people are a solution focussed bunch. Trek up and scooter back. Simples. This meant I enjoyed a solid 5-hour trek up to and around the village, followed by a crazy 2-hour scooter ride down again.
I’ve never used my thighs to grip anything so hard, as I clung on for dear life to the back of that scooter. These were sandy, dusty, rocky, single-file footpaths up and down the mountainside. Just to be clear, I wasn’t driving. I was the pillion passenger for my poor driver. The views were amazing.
3) The day bus from Inle Lake
We all think we’re being canny travellers when we take the night bus. We’re saving on a night’s accommodation costs, and getting to a new location at the same time, right?
If you’ve travelled by night bus before, you’ll know that some cultures have a real enjoyment and enthusiasm for playing karaoke-style music videos and soap operas throughout the night, usually on full volume, and often to the amusement of other passengers. Myanmar is one of those cultures.
The distances between locations in Myanmar aren’t quite long enough for a good night’s karaoke sleep either. You’ll arrive at 3 or 4am, in a dark, town. Your hotel might charge you extra for early check-in. Then you spend the whole morning in bed, catching up on the sleep you missed anyway.
Just take the day bus. The temperature’s nice, the view’s lovely, and you might even make friends with a lovely German sitting next you called Sabrina. Try making friends on a night bus. Actually, I did that once in Brazil, but that’s another story.
4) Sunset on the River in Bagan
In Bagan, the sunset is stunning. Sabrina, mentioned above, had a friend in a town called Helena, who was volunteering as an English Teacher at a local school. Not only did Helena know a fantastic spot for sunset by the river, but more fantastically it turned out that both Helena and I had the same A-Level Business Studies teacher – good old Mr Turner!
You may be wondering if I always run through the list of every teacher I’ve ever had with people I’ve just met, just in case we have one in common. The answer is yes. Every time I meet someone. Looking forward to meeting you soon and discussing this.
5) Visit social enterprises in Yangon
You knew it was coming. The ulterior motive for my journey. Exploring social enterprise in Myanmar. Most of the social enterprises that are easy to visit in Myanmar are in Yangon. If Shwedagon Paya doesn’t float your boat in this city, then why not visit a business that benefits the local community? Three top choices for now – Have lunch, snacks and coffee at Yangon Bakehouse, enjoy dinner and art at LinkAge and pick up all your souvenirs at Pomelo Yangon.
In my next post, I’ll be going into detail about their business models and impact, and introducing you to more social enterprises and support services in Yangon.
What do you think more people should do in Myanmar? Share your thoughts in the comments below.