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Burma (Myanmar) is an up and coming destination, since the advent of democracy in 2010 tourism has grown fast and many predict that tourism is set to boom there in the near future. This was certainly evident while we were there.
Its been a few months since we left Burma and we often discuss certain things we miss… or never want to experience again!
So here is our retrospective guide to the Best and Worst of Burma Travel.
Best and Worst City / Town
Megsy: Favourite City would have to be Yangon. Many of the guides say get in and get out as soon as possible but the street food options here were amazing and beer street was a great place to hang out and meet both foreigners and locals alike.
Worst place is NyaungShwe the small tourist town outside of Inle Lake. This place is boring and some of the “tourist” prices in restaurants was ridiculous! It felt as if they were discussing right in front of us (in burmese) how much to rip us off just because we were foreigners!
Tommo: I’d also have to agree with these choices. Even though Yangon is the best, during the hot season it is super sweaty. You can escape the heat and still get a great vibe in Pyin oo Lwin – though certainly less foreigners to hang out with.
Best and Worst Food:
Megsy: I Love the salads (even though they are covered with oil and have no health purpose at all) Ginger Salad, Tomato Salad and even some Tea Leaf salads, but the tea salad was a bit hit and miss so I could see it as a best and worst food depending on who made it!
Tommo: The best food, amazingly for me as a red blooded carnivore, is the mini BBQ potatoes. Sweet little bites of awesomeness and they are grilled so they are more healthy than the salads!
As for the worst food, another surprise: “Mohinga”. This is considered to be a national dish of Burma and it’s probably the first time I’ve hated a national dish from any country. It’s a fish noodle soup, but unless you go to a fancy restaurant its likely to taste like rotten fish – no refrigeration for most Burmese street food I’m afraid!
Best and Worst Beer:
Megsy: Myanmar Draught Rules!!! Dagon was horrible.
Tommo: Agreed. Myanmar draught is now my favourite Asian beer – and I’ve tried a lot! Its 5%, served icy cold even on a hot day, and is only 70 cents per mug. As for worst beer, I agree Dagon is at the bottom of the pile but there really isn’t anything that can compare to the Myanmar draught so they are all pretty bad other than that.
Best and Worst Attraction:
Megsy: The Ubein Bridge – Amarapura (just outside of Mandalay). This is a stunning place to go at sunset and the bridge itself has a lot of history to it.
Worst, ummm… The fact that at Inle Lake they are still advertising the Jumping Cat Monastery, when the cats no longer jump, was a big let down.
Tommo: I’d say the best attraction is Mount Popa. Its perched high on a rocky mountain, you climb the 777 steps to get there and it has a really cool, chilled out vibe – plus its residents, hundreds of monkeys, are a lot of fun! You have to take a 90 minute ride from Bagan to get there, so a lot of people skip it but it is really worth the ride in my opinion.
My least favourite place is a little controversial: The temples of Bagan. This is the biggest attraction in Burma but once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all… Maybe if you LOVE temples or are Buddhist you’d enjoy it more but for us adventure and excitement fans it just gets boring real quick. That said, sunrise/sunset photos over the plains are really nice, it’s the walking round temple after temple that gets dull.
Best and Worst Budget Hotel / Hostel / Guesthouse
Megsy: The best and the worst is the same hostel: Mahabandoola in Yangon! This place was cheap and very nasty, with not the cleanest facilities, BUT the atmosphere among the other travellers staying there was great and we met some amazing fun people! Plus, the staff were so helpful and awesome!
Tommo: The best is one we didn’t get to stay at because it was just above our budget. The Bravo Hotel in Pyin oo Lwin was $30 a night but is leagues above any of the $20 options. As for the worst, Grace hotel II, also in Pyin oo Lwin, is the poorest value we stayed at. So, not the worst, just the worst at the $20-$25 price point. They’ve been riding off their lonely planet review for years and now there are plenty of better options in the area. You can read my full review of Grace Hotel II here.
Best and Worst Experience overall:
Megsy: One of the best experiences I’ve EVER had while travelling is the Thingyan Festival, where the streets turn into a massive water fight for 3 whole days!
Worst: Getting Bitten by a Vampire Cow and needing to get 5 separate Rabies injections!
Ok here’s the story….. We were on a Motorbike tour of the Paulaung Mountain Villages and the tour guide said that if you put your hand into the baby cows mouth it will suckle on your hand, which feels weird and is kinda cute. Cute until it decides to give human flesh a try and takes a bite of your hand!
P.S. finding places on the road that have the rabies vaccination is an interesting and time consuming experience, especially when you need five over the space of about 2 months!
Tommo: I was lucky enough not to be bitten by the cow, so I thought the 3 day motorbike trek was the best experience in Myanmar. You get the adventure of traversing some of the worst roads in the world and you homestay with village people in the mountains – which is technically illeagal, though the governement turn a blind eye in this region apparently.
These are real people and the area is visited by very few tourists – we did not see another tourist for 3 days!
Worst: Overnight bus ride to and from Inle Lake. Not only is this a bad experience from Myanmar but it goes down in my top 5 worst travel experiences of all time! Broken aircon, tiny bus seat, winding roads at high speed that actually throw you from your chair. A sweaty and uncomfortable time with no sleep for 10 – 12 hours!
Megsy: I Love this picture Tommo took of a solitary monkey sitting at the top Mt Popa, so high above the world!
Tommo: Sunset at U-bein bridge is a popular photo op – for a reason! It’s peaceful and stunning.
Want to visit Myanmar but not entirely certain on travelling on your own? We recommend Intrepid Travel – they have some great itineraries to this area.
We liked Myanmar so much we even wrote a book about it!!!