8 Unmissable Experiences in Myanmar

Watching the sun set over Ubein Bridge, Mandalay

Just a short moto ride out of the city is the world’s longest teak footbridge, built in 1850. There’s monks and nuns and commuters all using this footbridge as if it were nothing more than a way to get home. It is so much more than that. As the sun sets over the bridge and lake, you can enjoy a beer or take a boat ride.  What you cant do, is miss it.

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Getting lost exploring the myriad of temples in Bagan 

There are over 2000 temples left standing in an approximately eight by thirteen kilometre area in the ancient region of Bagan. It rivals Angkor Wat in size and historical importance. It is quite simply a must see- nothing quite prepares you for the scale and significance of this place.

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Trekking in Kalaw

Trekking in and around Kalaw; Myanmar, can’t really be compared to trekking in its neighbour, Thailand. This ain’t a short walk to a tea plantation, then a bamboo raft on some ‘rapids’, finished with an elephant ride at an elephant sanctuary. Trekking in Myanmar is actual trekking; 60km in three days, walking through real farms and chatting to authentic locals (not hawkers conveniently situated and stocked with something to sell you).

You see traditional farming as it’s always been done, hear the echoes of monks chanting at sunset, and watch for fireflies as you eat a traditional Burmese meal by candlelight. I will always remember the medicine man we visited along the way, who looked about 100 years old and smoked a cigar. He was tired from blessing babies and doling out remedies. He was a fifth generation medicine man, who had never been to school, and inherited all his medicinal knowledge from his father.

 

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Watching clever fisherman row a boat with one leg, balance with the other, all whilst casting a net, at Inle Lake

A small disclaimer needs to be written here: some of Inle’s innocence was taken when commercial tourism boomed in the area. However, there is still so much to see and do on, in, and around this magnificent lake. Be prepared to travel everywhere by boat, and get a little wet and cold in the process. It’s all part of the fun.

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Getting up at 4am to see a market held in candlelight, Hsipaw

This experience turned out to be my absolute favourite of the whole trip. 4am? You gotta to be kidding me! As it turned out, I was absolutely astonished by the quiet and the serene way this market was conducted. It was beautiful. Perhaps it was the candles. Perhaps it was the way the locals looked at you (the foreigner) in awe and curiosity. Perhaps it was the delicious and exotic produce. This market is different from all I have been to, and I will never forget it.

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Adorning a longyi, and contemplating life and Buddhism at Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Every time I visit a country where Buddhism is a predominant religion, I question deeply whether I should drop my whole life in Australia, emigrate, and take up life as a nun in a Buddhist nunnery. There’s so much to love about Buddhism, and I don’t even know very much about it yet. Shwedagon pagoda is not just a giant golden jaw-dropping religious structure. It’s a place where you can truly get a sense of just how important spirituality-no matter the flavour-really is for us. Take your time here and savour the atmosphere.

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Meandering the antique streets amongst the pigeons, sample an array of street food and delighting in all the crumbling and overgrown British architecture in Yangon

Yangon is a city that will make you feel like you don’t have enough eyes.

You just want to look at everything simultaneously and remember it all, quirks, smells and imperfections. Pretty much everything in Yangon looks old and broken, but pretty. Lush and colourful, its been stolen in time and looks as though it might never catch up.

Clumps of cables and vines and flowers cascade over colonial facades, and cars and busses drive by, running since the fifties. I have allegiances to certain cities in Asia, but Yangon is so good that it makes my top three, maybe even two.

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Listening as the pink robed nuns sing while collecting donations for lunch, anywhere in Myanmar

Musing a local market, suddenly I hear some young girls singing and chanting. It’s rhythmical and attention grabbing. Suddenly I am surrounded in pink. These little nuns are gorgeous; all smiles and laughs, they sing at lunch with their cute parasols and silver plated bowls.

I’ve hinted at it before, but I’ll say it now. I want to become a nun in Myanmar. Maybe I just want to shave my head and escape the nine-to-five, or maybe I think I will look cute in a pink robe?

Actually, I think it’s because I want to find the time to really explore Buddhism, and my own spirituality. Don’t we all? 

Belle

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I am happy to answer any questions about the above places, feel free to comment below.

Have any of you been to the places I have mentioned?

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