|Shewdagon Pagoda, the most revered Budhist temple in the world|
To those who plan to visit, below is our itinerary which covers the 'big three of Myanmar' - Yangong, Bagan, and Lake Inle. Note that we were lucky to catch the tail end of the tourist season and hence, avoid the crowds and long queues. The downside though was the start of the hot and extremely humid season. Do book accommodations, transportation (flights, car, boats, horse carts) and tour guides way in advance. Hilda was able to get a good rate from a Bangkok travel agent on Air Mandalay and had our tickets delivered to our hotel.
|Shwesandaw Paya for a 360-view of Bagan|
Traders Hotel where we were billeted is a good first stop. It is located within walking distance to everything - the restaurants, Scott's Market and the exchange shop right across is open until late night. Do bring crisp dollar bills to change to Kyat because they are quite obsessive about the quality of your notes and will not accept bills that are marked, stamped, signed, scribbled on, creased and even folded.
|a typical horse-buggy in Bagan|
We were actually psyched to tour the city in a horse buggy (right photo) and even planned to bike around. However, due to hot climes at 37-38°C, we ended up renting an air conditioned van.
The van turned out to be fortuitous. We were able to see as many temples as we could considering there were about a thousand or so temples, stupas and pagodas. Our guide took us to Amanda Temple, Shwe San Daool Pagoda, Sulamuni Temple, Dhamyangyi Temple, Anamanda Temple. We were able to go too as far as Myin Ka Par Village to visit one of the oldest family run lacquerware factory and be back in time for a sunset cruise along the Irawady River. For meals, our lunch was at "The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant Be Kind to Animals" near the main gate which serves the best grilled eggplant ever and dinner was at the "The Black Bamboo" an open garden French fusion restaurant.
|Lake Inle where fishermen use their leg to paddle|
It is not easy to get to though. We flew out of Heho (40-min flight), then drove to NyaungShwe (45-min by car) and then one hour by boat to the hotel. We stopped in between to visit the 125-year old Budhist monastery called the Shwe Yan Paye, in Heho and lunch at Green Chili on Hospital Road for the best pennywort salad in NgyaungShwe.
Our hotel, Paramount Inle Resort, was located deep inside the lake in Nga Phe Chaung Village. In the afternoon, we checked out the floating agricultural fields where tomato, gourd, cauliflower, rice, corn etc grow on floating platforms made out of lake weed. We then visited the silver factory and the lotus silk factory.
|traveling pants Hilda and Bettina|
During the day, we rented a van with tour guide and went around to check out the sights: the Martyr's Mausoleum which was built to honor Aung San and six cabinet members who were assassinated, Ang Suu Yi's home (outside the gate), the 65-meter long Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Budha Botatung Paya, and Sule Saya. Lunch was at the colonial Strands Hotel.
Well, good luck to those going to Myanmar. I don't mind going back. My next trip though will be longer during the cool months of November to February.