We debated about our Myanmar travel for some time before we decided to go. But the government’s wrongs don’t necessarily define the people so we decided to go and see the place for ourselves.
Our Myanmar adventure started in Mandalay, a few days before the start of Thingyan, their New Year’s Water Festival. We flew in here specifically for the festival and it was certainly the highlight of the trip. We have never been to a festival filled with that much positive energy and pure celebration. Thingyan lasted four days (sometimes it’s five) and the town is mostly shut down. It doesn’t matter. If you’re in Mandalay during Thingyan, you have one duty – to get splashed with water and have a good time.
Myanmar travel can be challenging at times. The minibus ride between Mandalay and Bagan still stands as one of the worst five bus rides in our travel experiences. Still, Mandalay is also the place that I had a taxi driver reduced the fare when he realized that our hotel wasn’t as far as he thought it was. The people here are good, honest people. That’s the thing, Myanmar was a country of some extremes.
Bagan is known for its thousands of temples. They were both amazing and a bit repetitive. It was off-season for the famed hot air balloon ride over the temples, but that would have been too much for our pocketbook anyway. The downside to these temples is that you have to take off your shoes to enter the grounds and while some of the pathways had mats, they weren’t covered. April is the hottest month of the year and it regularly hit 100F. If you’re slow moving, make sure you go early, before it gets too hot. Actually, that’s good advice for anyone.
Yangon is a bit of a typical big city, but with the really big Shwedegon Pagoda at the center. And they have a truly impressive reclining Buddha at the Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda. Don’t miss Yangon’s circle train that goes around the city, out into the countryside and back again. It’s an interesting look into local life.
Myanmar is definitely worth a visit. Don’t leave it off of your Southeast Asia tour – and if you can go during Thingyan, do it. You’ll have no regrets.