What better way to end a trip then staying on the beach for a few days?! During some research before my trip I found out that one of the best beach areas in Myanmar is the area of Ngapali in the Rakhine state. The area is reached by a long bus trip or a flight to Thandwe.
At the airport I took a taxi to the only hostel in the area located in Mya Pin close to the main beach of Ngapali. This stretch of kilometres of beach was perfect for a long walk on the beach and watch the fishermen bringing their caught fishes back to the small villages and watch the local youth playing football on the beach during sunset.
In the hostel word was out about a "secret beach on the other side of the airport" that could be reached by e-bike or taxi. So I rented an e-bike and drove to this stretch of beach that is 2 kilometres long and only has 2 luxury (and almost empty) resorts next to it and 2 huts on the beach. There were only 15 persons on the whole beach, most of them were other backpackers from the hostel. At one of the beach huts we had some freshly prepared grilled fishes.
Ngapali (and especially the "secret beach") was definitely the kind of idyllic and fairly undeveloped beach I love. The other travellers in the hostel were great to hang out with and have some diner and drinks with. And I really I felt kind of sad after 5 nights In Ngapali when I had to leave this place to return to Yangon for one more day before I had my flight back home.
Before we arrived by boat in Nyaungshwe we stopped at a few places on the Inle Lake like the floating gardens and some shops runned by "Long-necked" ladies from the Kayan tribe. A spectacular view were the traditional fishermen that paddle the boat by foot.
In Nyaungshwe I stayed in a hostel for 3 nights, so I had plenty of time to wander around the village and the borders of the Inle Lake. On a free bicycle from the hostel I started to to make a trip around the lake. After an hour I was joined by an Australian girl. And together we visited a village that produces over 20 kinds of tofu (like bread, candies, crackers). From here we crossed the Inle Lake by boat where we had a beer in another small village before we biked to the Red Mountain Winery (1 of the 2 wineries in Myamar) for a glass of red wine during sunset.
Next day I walked around the village of Nyanugshwe and got some souvenirs at the local (regional) market.
The Shan State of Myanmar is known for its trekking possibilities, especially between Kalaw and the Inle Lake. I decided to do a 2 days/1 night trekking. In the morning of the first day we (3 French guys, a guide and me) we dropped by car about an hour from Kalaw. Here we started the trekking through the hills passing by a few villages. Along the way the guide told us about the agriculture and the culture in this area. After about 20 kilometres of trekking we arrived in a small village where we would stay for the night.
The night was spend at a home-stay. After diner (made by the guide and the family hosts) I joined the family at the camp-fire to keep myself warm during the cold evening. With just a few hours of sleep (the snoring French guys kept me awake) I started the second day of trekking. We walked for about five hours until we reached the south side of the Inle Lake. Here we had a lunch before we got on a small boat that took us to the town of Nuangshwe across the Inle Lake.
The six hours bus ride from Bagan to Kalaw was comfortable, although the last 50 kilometres took almost two hours because of the mountain roads. Kalaw was established in colonial times by the British seeking an escape from the heat of the plains. Nowadays it is a mountain village that is mainly used by tourists as a starting point for trekkings to the Inle Lake. However, I stayed another day in Kalaw to explore the area by foot.
Of course there were some temples and pagodas to visit. The best thing however was to walk around the village and enjoy the views and the landscapes. It got me in the mood for my 2 days/1 night trekking to the Inle Lake.
For my three day in Bagan area I based myself in Nyaung U, a few kilometres from Old Bagan. Here are around two thousand ancient Buddhist temples and pagodas scattered over a plain area of almost seventy square kilometres. Most of them exist since the 11th or 12th centuries.
On the first day I rented an e-bike (electric scooter) to explore the area of the historic walled city of Old Bagan and the central plain. This is were most of the largest and diverse are found. Unfortunately it was not possible to climb the temples for an overview on the sites due to restrictions after the earthquake in 2016. Last couple of months the last temples and pagodas that could be climbed were closed, so I had so enjoy the sunset on a man-made hill in the central plain among hundreds of Chinese tourists that came by coach to the sunset spot.
The second day in Bagan started with the highlight of my trip to Myanmar. Early morning I was picked up to have breakfast in the fields among the preparations for about 25 hot-air balloons that would go up during the sunrise. I boarded a balloon with 9 French tourists and we saw the sun come up in a landscape of thousands of temples. Truly a magical experience! We ended the ride with a glass of champagne on the other side of the central plain and I was back in my hotel before noon. The afternoon I stayed in Nyuang U.
On my last day in Bagan I rented an e-bike again to explore the areas in the Central Plain that I didn't visit on my first day. Since it was less crowded with tourists here it sometimes felt like a real exploration for hidden temples. I ended the day viewing another beautiful sunset.
As an alternative way of travelling I booked a boat trip from Mandalay to Bagan on the Ayeyarwady River. The boat left Mandalay at sunrise to arrive in Bagan at sunset.
With only 15 travellers on the boat, there was plenty of space to relax at the sun-deck and let the Birmese landscapes pass by.
Before the lunch we made a stop to have a look at the riverside village of Lekkapin. This was a good opportunity to see the rural life at the riverside. In the afternoon the employees of the boat gave demonstrations about how to wear the longhi (traditional dress) and the thanaka facial cream.
My flight from Yangon to Mandalay took a little over an hour. A taxi took me to my hotel, where I was lucky to get a free upgrade to a superior room. In the evening I enjoyed the rooftop views from the hotel.
Next morning I went by tuk-tuk to the temple sites on the foot of Mandalay hill. After strolling around at these sites I climbed the stairs up the hill to enjoy the views over Mandalay. I returned at the hotel in time for a sundowner at the rooftop.
With one more day to spend in Mandalay I found myself another tuk-tuk to take me around the former royal capitals that are located around Mandalay. First we visited Sagaing, where the hills are dotted with Buddhist spires and temples. From there we went to Inwa, were I visited some more ancient sites in a horse-drawn carriage. On the way to Mingun (where I visited some more sites and pagodas) we passed by a traditional Buddhist ceremony parade with many different and colourful outfits.
The last point of visit was the U Bein bridge, world's longest teak footbridge. Since I was surrounded by bus-loads of tourists it was obvious that being here at sunset was on the itinerary for most visitors of Mandalay.
A trip to Myanmar (Burma) had been on my bucket list since I travelled other South-East Asian countries in 2009. With a stopover in Bangkok it took me almost 20 hours of travelling before I got my Burmese visa stamp in my passport and was on the taxi to my hotel in Yangon. Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is the largest city and economical hub of Myanmar.
I had based myself in Chinatown, in Downtown Yangon. On my first day I walked to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. Impressed by the size and the devoted Burmese people I left the site and wandered around the nearby park before walking my way back to Downtown.
The next two days I explored some more of the Downtown area; the markets, the street-vendors, and the colonial buildings around the square Mahabandoola Garden. Between the buzzing streets I also found some interesting back alleys. Those back alleys were used by the people as rubbish dumps before the Doh Eain organisation decided to transform them into child-friendly garden alleys.
Since I had only saw four of the back alley gardens and I had a flight to catch to Mandalay, I visited the other four back alley on the last day of my trip before my flight home.