With an area of over 675,000 square kilometers, one week does not do justice to a country as large as Myanmar. The country has mountains to hike, lakes to sail, ancient temples to explore, beaches to sunbathe and over a hundred ethnic tribes to speak with! I would have loved to spend at least two weeks soaking in the warmth of this country. However, with the limited travel time that I have, one week is all that I can spend in this exotic land.
It has taken me quite some effort to finalise my itinerary for Myanmar. Most information available on the internet is dated and things have changed fast in the recent post in line with change in the political situation. Thankfully, the most recent version of the Lonely Planet has been published in 2015!
I will enter the country from Mandalay and exit at Yangon… North to South. Here is what my one week in Myanmar will look like… covering Mandalay, Bagan, Lake Inle/Nyaung Shwe and Yangon.
Day 1: Mandalay
My flight lands at about noon in Mandalay. I intend to check into a hotel, rest a little and head out to see the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is home to the biggest book in the world. I am not expecting to find a massive stack of paper here… it’s text on slabs of stone!
Next, I intend to take a taxi to Amarpura to watch the sun go down behind the U Bien bridge. The oldest teak bridge in the world stands strong, albeit with some maintenance, and bears the weight of hundreds of commuters everyday. If I do reach in time, I might be able to hop onto a tiny boat, set afloat and watch the sun go down.
I haven’t heard too many great things about Mandalay (its chaotic, hot and dusty) and will keep my visit short here. Day 1 should end with a dinner at my hotel and a good night’s sleep to recharge my batteries.
Day 2: Bagan
Bagan is the destination that made me pin Myanmar on my travel map. Obviously, I want to spend the largest chunk of my holiday in this little town of great historical significance. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to 13th centuries. In those glorious days, there were over 10,000 Buddhist monasteries, temples and pagodas built across the plains. As on date, about 2,200 of them stand tall and flaunt their beauty.
Hopefully, if the bus from Mandalay runs on schedule, I will reach Bagan in the afternoon on Day 2 and will rent an e-bike to explore the pagodas and temples randomly… to familiarise myself with the plains. I don’t have any agenda for this day, except to be awed by the architecture.
The sunsets in Bagan are so famous that hundreds of people crowd to the terraces of popular pagodas to watch the sun down. I don’t want to rub elbows with other tourists to take a picture and hence, will head to the Shweguguyi Pagoda for the sunset. This pagoda is supposed to offer great views, with lesser crowds!
Day 3: Bagan
On Day 3, weather permitting, I will be watching the sunrise over thousands of pagodas from a hot air balloon. Getting up before sunrise is a challenge for me… at home or on vacation, but I am sure that my maiden ballooning experience will be worth it. I am looking forward to soaring high in the sky, with numerous balloons around me, dotting the sky and flashing their colours in the early morning Sun!
During the rest of the day, I intend to visit at least a couple of famous temples and pagodas including the Ananda Phaya, Hitlo Minlo and Dhammayazika. I will also stop at any little pagoda that I feel is calling out to me …a few minutes of meditation are always good. For sunset, I will seek solitude in a little pagoda that has no more than a handful of people, staying away from the tourist magnet structures like Pya Tha Da and Shwesandaw.
Day 4: Bagan
If I can manage another early morning, I will ride my e-bike to watch the sunrise, with the hot air balloons in the foreground. As this will be my last day in Bagan, I will ensure that visit a few more of the big structures including Thisawadi, Pya Tha Da, Sulemani and Dhammayangyi.
During the afternoon, I am hoping to have a conversation with the locals over a cup of green tea and walk through a local village. Lastly, as the woman in me wants to shop, I will make time to visit a lacquer workshop and buy some wares for home.
For the evening, I want to watch the sunset with hordes of tourists at Shwesandaw …just to understand why the spot is so popular. I will need to run to the hostel after the sunset as I will be boarding the night bus to Inle Lake. I am not sure what the overnight bus journey will be like and am a little jittery!
Day 5: Nyung Shwe/ Lake Inle
I will reach Nyuang Shwe, the town closest to Lake Inle at about 5 am on Day 5. After catching up on some sleep, I will pack a day bag and head out to see the Kekku Pagodas, a cluster of over 3000 pagodas at the base of the Shan mountains.
This is a day trip, starting at 11am, and should get me back to my hotel at about 6 pm. I may stop enroute to sample some local wine while enjoying the sunset at the Aythaya vineyards.
Day 6: Lake Inle
Day 6 will see me cruising over Lake Inle for the entire day. Sankar village in the south is still off the radar for most tourist …and that is where I will make my way. All I want from this day are sights to soothe my eyes …blue waters, floating gardens and friendly locals! Hopefully, I will be able to enjoy the sunset on the lake, with silhouettes of fishermen returning home after a long day.
Day 7: Yangon
I will board a flight from Heho, the closest airport from Lake Inle, to Yangon. I have only the day to see all that I can the largest town of Myanmar. I have budgeted 3 hours for soaking in the glimmer of Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest Buddhist site in the entire country.
I have also kept aside a couple of hours for sampling street food in downtown Yangon…apparently, there is plenty to keep the vegetarian soul contended!
If I do get an opportunity to visit the country again, I will make a plan to trek in the Shan mountains…from Kalaw to Inle. I will surely head to the pristine beaches in South Myanmar and get the perfect tan!
Disclaimer: I wrote this post before my trip but did not have any picture to add. However, it is pretty much what I did during my one week in Myanmar!