Myanmar only opened itself to tourism in the early 90s. Because of this Myanmar is a wonderfully untouched country that provides safety, kind people and beautiful sites. Myanmar was so spectacular that even the monsoon rains of rainy season didn’t put a damper on the experience. I knew this was the hidden gem of Southeast Asia.
US citizens need a visa to enter Myanmar. The visa processing time takes two days and costs $50 USD. You can get an e-visa here. All you need is your accommodation information and a passport photo without glasses.
WHERE TO STAY
Winner Inn ($40 USD/1 night) – A great hotel and very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda by car. Breakfast is included and has good options for western or local breakfast. The only con is that it’s on a small piece of land and off of a main road, so the only restaurant within a two-to-three minute walking distance is the hotel restaurant. You can find good restaurants if you’re willing to take a Grab five minutes up the road.
Backpacker Bed and Breakfast ($17 USD/2 nights) – Great location and the staff is very friendly. Made-to-order breakfast is included in your stay with a choice between a western or Burmese breakfast. The vegetarian options are limited, and left me with toast and lots of watermelon for breakfast. Also the place in general just needs a deep clean. It was very dusty and damp, especially because it was rainy season. The beds were comfy and the bathrooms were clean, so that was a plus.
WHAT TO SEE
Shwedagon Pagoda – 10,000 kyat
The jewel of Yangon. The astounding Shwedagon Pagoda. It is so beautiful during the day and night, so definitely visit at both times. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately and be prepared to take off your shoes. The temple grounds are massive, so it’s easy to spend an hour or two wandering around.
Sule Pagoda – 4,000 kyat
A small pagoda situated in the middle of a large intersection. Not worth the trip or the entrance fee.
Bogyoke Market aka Scott Market FREE to visit
Here you can purchase jade, pearls, clothes, textiles, scarves and other jewelry. Mynamar is known for jade, so it’s easy to find beautiful pieces for unbeatable prices. There are also delicious restaurants around the market where you can grab a bite to eat.
Botahtaung Temple (Buddha’s Hair Relic) – 7,000 kyat
A temple, which is said to hold eight strands of hair from the Siddhartha Guatama also known as modern day Buddha. This temple tells the story of how Yangon became home to the eight strands of hair. It’s pretty cool, but pricey for a visit if you’re not Buddhist or very into the history.
WHAT TO EAT
999 Shan Noodle Shop $ – a downtown spot with a wide variety of tasty noodles
Rangoon Tea House $$ – restaurant that serves traditional Burmese cuisine in an upscale and hipster fashion. I recommend the gai satay, samosas, fried fish bao bun and mohinga, a traditional Burmese soup.
Burma Bistro $$ – a true hidden gem in Yangon. I recommend the seafood stir-fry and vegetable samosas. The Burmese tea was also great, too.
Mahar Yangon $ – this is a chain spot, nobody speaks any English and the atmosphere was really terrible, but the tea was delicious. If you find yourself by one I’d say grab a cup of tea, but don’t stay for too long…
The Pansodan $$ – another upscale eatery with great beers on tap. Myanmar had some surprisingly good and cheap beer!
Sharkys $$$ – a western restaurant with good selections. It’s a bit pricey, but nice for a fancy night on the town.
HIRE A DRIVER
Hiring a driver for one day was inexpensive. Ko Shan Travel, on the left, cost 50,000 kyat ($33 USD) for an entire day of sightseeing. He did pick up and drop off, and drove to all the famous temples, museums, and restaurants in the city.
Yenandar, on the right, was a free tour guide at the Shwedagon Pagoda. He was so kind and informative. He even took all of my photos, so I ended up giving him a 20,000 kyat tip ($13 USD).