I decided to head to Myanmar for a bit of an Easter getaway earlier in the year.
I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since I started planning the trip. My thought process went something like:
Readers will think it’s really incredible useful when they stumble upon this blog and totally be all “wow, this guy just gets me. It’s like he’s a young Anthony Bourdain, but not quite as cool”
None of that happened.
Instead, it’s now 6 months later and I’m thinking of a trip to Hong Kong. I’m starting to imagine all the amazing blog posts I’ll no doubt be writing and publishing well in advance of my trip.
You see, I get excited – very easily – about the possibility of doing things. So much so that I’ve decided to invest in a brand new beast of a laptop (for all the videos I’ll be making of said trip to Hong Kong, of course).
I am also stifled by procrastination and the never ending desire to not actually do any work.
So here I am at midnight using my beast of a laptop and I’m actually writing something. It doesn’t matter that I could totally have written this on my 3 year old Surface Pro (which is also right here beside me).
The point is that I need to write something, anything, about the Myanmar trip to feel as though I have a chance of actually doing anything in my Hong Kong list of things that will be posted. So here it is, Myanmar in the hot season!
You’re still reading? Wow.
If you’re thinking about heading over to Myanmar then you might find it useful to know that Myanmar has 3 seasons. There’s the hot season (March through to April), there’s the rainy season (May to October) and then there’s the cool season (November through February).
Chances are that you’ll have seen those amazing photos of hot-air balloons above the temples of Bagan and so you’re definitely going to do that when you get to Myanmar right? Not if you go in the hot season! The balloons can’t deal with the heat (Bagan gets stupid hot) so the balloons only operate in the cool season. You’ll also want to book in advance because it’s popular. Oh and it’s also not cheap, so expect to spend about $400USD per person.
But if balloons aren’t your thing and you like the idea of cruising around Bagan in 43º (c) as you go between the temples then Myanmar in the hot season is for you.
I’m going to break this post down into a few sections. There’ll be the bits you should know about before you board your flight and then there’ll be little bits on the various cities I spent time in (that’s Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay)
Before you leave home
Get vaccinated. But find a doctor who knows which vaccines are worth your while. I went to a local doctor who was clueless and basically suggested I get things that your average traveller probably doesn’t need. You can check out what experts such as those from the CDC suggest but basically you just need to make sure you’re up to date with your routine vaccines and pick up the Hep A and Typhoid vaccines also.
If you check out that link you’ll see there’s a bunch of other potential vaccines that you might want depending on what you’ll be up to, where you’ll be and how long you’ll stick around.
You should probably be aware that rabies is super prevalent in Myanmar and there’s lots of dogs that generally roam around.
The other thing you’ll need to do before heading off is getting your eVisa. You can do that online and the airline will check to make sure you’ve got yourself sorted before they let you on-board. If you google for Myanmar eVisa you’ll find lots of companies willing to organise one for you. I wasn’t so sure about whether or not I trusted random companies with my passport details so I just went through the official Myanmar Ministry of Immigration website. It was super easy and quick and cost $50USD.
I landed in Yangon. It’s the former capital and easily Myanmar’s largest city with over 7 million people.
I don’t know what I was expecting but what I do know is that what I found Yangon to be wasn’t it.
The city is sprawling and in the hot season it’s, somewhat unsurprisingly, hot. The temperature regularly hits the high 30s so remember to keep bottled water with you at all times.
When you first arrive you’ll probably want to get your mobile phone sorted. There’s a sim card stall near the baggage area of the arrivals hall at the airport. You should totally pick one up here because the staff are helpful and will do all of the setup for you. When you see exactly what they have to do to get you that 4G goodness you’ll appreciate it because there’s almost no way you’ll manage it on your own.
You’ll immediately notice just how friendly the locals are. They’re not just friendly to try and get you to buy things or give them tips or because it’s part of their job. They’re just genuinely friendly and welcoming. It easily tops my list of the place with the most friendly people.
Before heading to Myanmar I was speaking with a few friends who had been previously and I got very mixed reviews on the food. My experience was that the food is consistently great so I’m not sure what my friends were talking about. Ever since returning, I’ve been on a continuous quest to find Shan Noodles in Sydney.
Speaking of Shan Noodles – do yourself a favour and venture out to Yangon’s Chinatown and try the noodles at 999 Shan Noodle House. They’re incredible.
You’ll notice there’s quite a few dishes that are pretty common in Myanmar restaurants. You’ll also notice there’s a number of popular Thai dishes available too. When asking the locals what they prefer, you’ll almost always hear that their gotos are the local Myanmar ones and you should try them all, especially their salads and vegetarian choices.
Some of the dishes you’ll find almost everywhere include:
- Tea Leaf Salad
- Tomato Salad
- Green Tomato Salad
- Ginger Salad
- Papaya Salad
- Potato Curry
- Burmese Tofu (so good)
Check out this article on their salads. They’re really great.
I was only in Yangon for a couple of days but it easily felt as though it was a city that was definitely liveable. There’s some great cafes, good food and it’s generally an easy city to get around in. They’re a bit weird about cash though.
The local currency is Kyat. You probably can’t get it anywhere outside of Myanmar so you’ll want to take some US dollar bills with you. The local banks have also started to exchange Euros and Singapore Dollars but that’s it. Don’t rock up with anything else because it’s pretty much worthless there.
Also, with regards to those US bills you’re rocking; they have to be in pristine condition. If there’s a blemish, a tear, a fold or any imperfection they’ll reject it. I don’t know why. No one knows why.
There are ATMs and you can generally find them near / in hotels.
If you’re feeling like a decent coffee then check out Coffee Circles. It’s a very modern café with western food and great coffee (including iced espresso). The café environment is great and you’ll find a mix of a foreigners and locals. It seems a popular place with the business crowd for coffee catch ups too.
It would totally be remiss of me to write about Yangon and not mention Shwedagon Pagoda. Wikipedia tells it better than I do but one thing I’ll mention is that it’s a religious place and you need to dress appropriately.
If you’re thoughtless like me then you’ll rock up in shorts (because it’s hot season) and you’ll get the fabulous opportunity to hire a Longyi (dude skirt) in order to head up to the pagoda. The rental Longyi will set you back 3000 kyat. That’s not very much but you’ll love it and so you’ll want to buy your own. They happen to have new ones for sale which only cost 5000kyat so you might as well skip the rental and just grab yourself a Longyi. Trust me, you’ll be convinced that you’ll take it home and wear it at least semi-regularly because you’re cool like that.
You won’t wear it ever again but it doesn’t really matter – buy it anyway. Be like me and buy multiple ones so that you can show the world your personality.
So that’s it for part 1 of this Myanmar in the hot season. Part 2 will explore how to get from Yangon to Bagan. Why you’re stupid if you explore the temples between 11am and 4pm in the hot season, how much fun it is to use electric scooters and why Myanmar buses will drive you insane.
Part 2 has now been published (whoa, in only 2 days). Check it out here.