Myanmar is a mysterious place. The country has been free of its military junta for five years now and tourism is just beginning to shift into a profitable and exciting new facet of the economy. Having recently opened its doors to foreigners after a long struggle in political power, there are many wonders waiting for the travelers wandering eye. But first, one must prepare.
1. Apply for your visa
This should be your first step, after planning your traveling timeframe of course. Surprisingly, the visa application process for Myanmar is rather easy. All you have to do is visit the Myanmar eVisa website. There you will find the simple form to fill out, pay your 50 USD application fee, and wait for the embassies reply! They will reply with your online, printable visa within a matter of hours.
Remember: Your tourist visa is only valid for up to 28 days in country, whereas a business visa is valid for up to 70 days. Also, once you are approved for your visa, that visa expires in 90 days from the time it is approved.
When I applied for my tourist visa I wasn’t exactly paying much attention to the dates in which the visa expired, so I had to rearrange my travel plans to go before my time was up!
2. Buy your flight tickets
It is said, by some mystical travel agent guru that the best time to buy a flight ticket is 6 weeks prior to the flight, on a Tuesday afternoon. Now, I don’t know how accurate this is, but it sure is worth a try. Depending on where you are flying from, there are many wonderful Asian airlines that offer promotions, pretty regularly. I have the best luck with AirAsia. A roundtrip flight from the Bangkok Don Mueang Airport to Yangon Airport only cost me 70 USD. Which, I gotta say- on a Thai Baht budget is quite a hefty sum, but in USD it’s really not that bad!
3. Get that Myanmar money
The country of Myanmar uses the Burmese Kyat (MMK).
|1.00 USD||=||1,219.44 MMK|
Now, it’s gonna feel like your a high roller when you exchange your dollars for Kyat and end up with thousands upon thousands of those Burmese bills. You usually get the best rates of exchange in the airport, but there are ATMs scattered across Yangon city (they accept Visa and Mastercard usually) and throughout its big tourist attractions. Just remember that although you have thousands of bills, that Kyat money won’t go as far as you may think. A short trip in a trishaw can cost one thousand Kyat alone. So, just be weary about your budget and you’ll be golden.
4. Your Stay in Yangon
As you can imagine, a rare gem attracts great numbers. Yangon and the country of Myanmar is a rare—rarely seen gem. Thus the city of Yangon, and its culture, temples, and markets in all their beauty- attract many people. Yangon is no longer the countries capital city, however it is still the largest and most busy and bustling. Depending on the length of your trip, there are some sights you really gotta see and some food you really gotta eat!
Also, known as the Great Dagon Pagoda, oh sounds ferocious. The Shwedagon Paya is located on Singuttara Hill and is a staple asset to the Yangon skyline. Rectified in the 6th century, it is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. So, it should definitely appear on your travel itinerary- if only to take bountiful selfies with the massive and important structure. According to the Payas website, there is an 8USD entrance fee and it is open from 04:00 to 22:00 hrs, except on the following days that Shwedagon Pagoda is open 24 hours:
1.Waxing Day of Tabaung – the day before full moon day of the Myanmar Lunar month Tabaung (around March)
2.Waxing Day of Wakhaung – the day before full moon day of the Myanmar Lunar month Wakhaung (around June which is the beginning of the Buddhist Lent)
Shwedagon Pagoda is open daily. The last admission is at 21:45 hr.
For more information about the most important Burmese Pagoda, please visit: http://www.shwedagonpagoda.com/index.htm
When in Southeast Asia, it is vital to visit the Buddhist temples. The most magnificent of them, in my opinion, are the reclining Buddha statues. Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a huge, covered 66 meter long reclining, crowned Buddha that is visited by many for its meditation complex attached to the giant structure. This most well-known temple is perfect for anyone who needs a break from the hustle of the city. Although, the temple itself can be full of visitors- the vibes are much more quiet and respectful. Located on Shwegondine Road, it is open daily from 06:00 to 20:00 hrs.
For more information, please visit: https://www.viator.com/Yangon-attractions/Chaukhtatgyi-Paya-Chauk-Htat-Gyi-Buddha/d5412-a12513
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Now, let’s get down to business…and by business I mean SHOPPING! Bogyoke Aung San Market is the place to go for all your souvenir, hand-made craft and textiles, snack, and even puppet needs. This massive bazaar has over 2000 shops in its covered arena and anyone can make a day of wandering through its labyrinth of aisles. Find just what you’re looking for and stumble upon just what you need. The plaza is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00- 17:00 hrs.
Tea Leaf Salad
No stay in Yangon is complete without trying the famed Burmese Tea Leaf Salad. This scrumptioulesant, popular dish is a hand tossed mixture of slightly bitter tea leaves, tomatoes, cabbage, peas, and nuts. Eaten at anytime of the day by the Burmese people, it is great as a small, healthy snack or served as a meal with rice. The tea culture is huge in Myanmar, as you may assume as you devour tea leaves like it’s lettuce. The tea production, arts, and ceremony are tradition in the Burmese culture. A visit to any Myanmar city should therefore include a Tea shop and two where you can sit and enjoy a cup of milky tea, some coconut sweetened treats, and that tea leaf salad.
Southeast Asia: Home of the curry and soup even though it is a bazillion degrees on the daily. Each country has their specialty and the Mohinga is Myanmars crème de la crème. A hearty broth with round, thick rice noodles is accompanied by the sweet aromas of garlic, and lemongrass. What makes this dish unique is its use of the banana tree stem and freshly caught catfish. Sometimes topped with crispy fried chickpea fritters or a hard-boiled egg, Mohinga is seriously to die for. The dish is mostly enjoyed as a breakfast food, but can be found around the city, in a restaurant or street vendor at any time of the day. Talk about an all day breakfast.
You are ready for your adventure in Myanmar. Pack your bag because safe and glorious travels await you, your hungry belly, and ravenous mind.