On my last trip I had the pleasure of visiting Myanmar and I wanted to know the top things to do in Myanmar. Whilst there I visited two cities in Myanmar – Yangon and Ngapali Beach. The first being the former capital of Myanmar and the largest city with a population of 7 million. The latter graced with white sands and crystal clear waters and known as Myanmar’s premier beach destination.
Before we left we both struggled to research the best things to do there. However once we arrived there were so many different possibilities to explore that we ran out of time to experience it all. I wanted to write this post to give you an idea of what you can experience if you go.
One important thing to note is the currency (Kyats) is not easy to sell back – so we took $USD and converted it as we needed, so we didn’t have an excess of Kyats on our return home.
The overall impression I got from Myanmar is one of spiritual awareness and untouched beauty. There is so much to see and experience and I hope you enjoy my journey below.
Here is my list of the top things to do in Myanmar:
1. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda
Yangon was such a busy city, always allow extra time when travelling around the city, you can never estimate how long a taxi ride will take! One of my favourite places to see was the Shwedagon Pagoda. Predicted to have been built between the 6th and 10th centuries CE, it is the oldest pagoda in the world. It is 99 metres in height, made of plated gold and tipped with a 76 carat diamond. The entry fee for foreigners is 8,000 Kyats ($6USD).
In my opinion there was no better time to visit than when the sun was setting. Walking through the pagoda as it began to light up and glimmer in all its golden beauty was truly unforgettable. It is beautiful during the daytime too, but night seems to deliver a different and almost magical experience. My advise if you have the time is to visit twice, morning and night.
We were lucky enough to have one of our friends, a local of Myanmar guide us around the pagoda. He was able to help us gain an understanding of the buddhism religion, particularly the prayers and blessings.
It is important before you go to the Pagoda to know which day of the week you were born, as it determines your planetary post. There are eight planetary posts stationed around the Pagoda for each day of the week (Wednesday is split and has an AM and PM). An animal marks the shrines at each of the days. I was born on a Thursday (mouse) so the tradition is to go to the “Thursday corner/planetary post” and bless the shrine with the same number of cups as your age, say a prayer and make a wish. Afterwards you are able to leave a voluntary offering (donation) in one of the donation boxes.
2. Dine at any of Myanmar’s top restaurants
We arrived the morning of Valentine’s Day, so of course being in a new country I wanted to make the most of the experience. We booked in to Le Planteur – rated the top french restaurant in Yangon on TripAdvisor and recommended by one of our close friends.
With a set menu and french cuisine to impress, a beautiful jazz band, candlelit tables which were overlooking a lake with ducks and bunnies hopping around you, there was absolutely no regrets in choosing this place to spend our Valentine’s Day.
The staff were attentive and were able to cater to my gluten-free requests – and it was some of the best food I had ever tasted. Such a great start to a trip, I highly recommend going here.
In saying this we were spoilt for choice with restaurants in both Myanmar and Ngapali Beach. One of the delights of Ngapali Beach is the abundance of fresh seafood. I really enjoyed the king prawns and snapper but lobster, barracuda and squid also grace the menu and if you like curries and spices – you’ve come to the right place.
3. View the Kandawgyi Lake
The Kangawygi Lake, translated as the great royal lake, is one of two major lakes in Yangon and was originally created to provide a clean water supply. There is a hotel on the lake known as Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, which is where we were filming during the day. It is one of the great places to view the lake in all its glory and also see Karaweik Palace. If you want to stay in a traditional hotel that reflects the feel of the tropical country, I definitely recommend staying at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel.
4. Experience the culture and history
One thing I really wanted to do which we ran out of time was going for dinner and a cultural show at the Karaweik Palace Restaurant. It is a landmark of Myanmar. It features a cultural show with an international buffet and I would have loved to have seen the historical decorations and costumes from the princesses of the past! Definitely on the top of my list for the next time I visit.
5. Shop at Junction Square
It is always so interesting to go to the shopping malls and see the fashion inspired by a country but also visit the supermarket and see what types of food are in demand. We picked Junction Square, which had absolutely everything including a cinema, eateries, jewellery and fashion stores. It also has a supermarket downstairs, so it’s a great place to stock up on any of the essentials – like chocolate!
6. Visit the local markets
If you have bargaining skills then Bogyoke Aung San Market is the place to use them. It is a well-known tourist spot as a bustling market filled with jewellery, textiles and handicrafts. I think I saw more stones and jewels here than I have ever seen in my life. The place is absolutely huge, so if you do plan to go here make sure you allow yourself a few hours to explore it all.
7. Hit one of the top clubs
Kandawgyi Palace Hotel is also home to one of the top clubs in Yangon – the Clubhouse Nightclub. Situated within the five star hotel, it is marketed as being more upmarket and westernised with EDM and Top 40 music playing. I think it’s always fun to get a feel for a place by experiencing the nightlife. Although nightlife is fun in Yangon, if you are looking for a place that is nightlife-based then you may want to read my post from Ibiza, complete with a guide of what to wear whilst you are there.
8. Take some downtime in luxurious exclusive villas at Ngapali Beach
Next on my list of the top things to do in Myanmar, and my favourite experience was heading to Ngapali Beach and staying at Ngapali Bay Villa’s & Spa. We were greeted upon arrival at the resort by a lovely french manager, Gilles, who made sure during every moment of our stay we were looked after.
The villa was absolutely gorgeous, and the whole retreat had that relaxed honeymoon feel. The only difference between it and other luxury beach resorts was it’s privacy and exclusivity. Very few people have discovered this place, and that’s what made it such a gem and a memorable stay.
9. Go snorkelling around the islands in Ngapali Bay
A trip to me isn’t complete without a little bit of paradise and relaxation and a touch of adventure! Through the Ngapali Bay Villas & Spa we were able to organise our own private boat ride out to the islands for half a day to go snorkelling. Included in this was a visit to Pearl Island for lunch and a cocktail. It was definitely a memorable day and truly needed at the end of our busy trip.
I couldn’t believe the temperature of the water in the ocean. Even on the cooler mornings stepping into the ocean was like stepping into a warm bath. It was pure bliss, I’d never swam in anything like it. Even in Australia the water isn’t that warm!
10. Bathe with the elephants and enjoy the sunsets
No trip is complete without being able to connect with nature and wildlife. Our last day in Ngapali was spent bathing elephants in a river followed by a sunset boat cruise back to our villas. It was the perfect way to finish the trip and perfect finish to my blog post of the top things to do in Myanmar.
I hope you enjoyed my list of the top things to do in Myanmar! I really enjoyed this trip and would highly recommend it to all my friends. If you have any questions or comments please add them below and please ubscribe to my blog to learn more tips for planning your upcoming travel destination!
Also here’s a video from Ngapali Bay Villa’s & Spa!
Until next time,
Elise Natalie xoxo