Places in Myanmar Elle’s Been To
Yangon is one because obviously, I live there. It is now a city in action. There is a lot of excitement going on in Y-town. It’s in full transition mode with new businesses coming in: being a big city, it has all the functions you’d expect, all the restaurants, schools, companies, CSOs have come in and we are an inch away from being able to say “You name it, we have it!” Too much movement, on the other hand, is a “no no” because people have become bothered by the noise and pollution in the city, which makes up a reason why they get out of this commercial city once in a while to feel the tranquil, serene nature again in other parts of the country. For me, it’s not so! I am perfectly okay with how things are in my town and I do domestic travel for the sake of exploration and just trying something new.
My first time to Bagan was just recently at the age of twenty-one. With Bagan being so central in all cultural and historical aspects of Myanmar, Myanmar people are said to be not real Myanmars until they’ve visited Bagan once. If it’s the case, I’ve just become a real Myanmar myself! The impression I got was of course major and it easily became an ancient city I will never ever forget in my life. I visited the That Bin Nyu, Dhamma Yan Gyi, Ananda, Manuha, Myazedi, Gubyauk Gyi, Shwe Zigon, Dhammayazika, Htilo Minlo and Sulamani pagodas, U Ba Nyein Lacquerware Shop and the Archaeological Museum.
You can find all the information you need about all these places on Google but I’ll share some little-known facts which I personally think you’ll find interesting. First, there’s the history of the Dhamma Yan Gyi temple. It’s another name is the haunted temple because story goes; the king who built it, Narathu was the most evil kind of king who got the throne by assassinating his father and older brother. He built the giant temple with the intention of atoning his sins and he showed no kindness whatsoever to the builders. He demanded it be perfect and what he did was inspect the walls of the temple with a needle which he poked at the brick walls to see if there was any hole or gap or weakness with the cementing the needle could go into. If he found even one, the whole group of laborers who handled that teeny-tiny flawed section of the wall was put to death. The poor, scared and angry souls of those people still haunt the temple up to this day and there have been a lot of sightings or hearings of ghosts.
The Dhammayazika temple has another ghost story of its own. A very prominent shadow of a ghost of a war general once appeared on camera and the picture went viral across the Internet. Researching history, people found that the temple had a past about a war general who was assigned as guardian there so maybe he is still carrying out his duty as guard long after his death. Creepy! More facts I’d like to highlight about my Bagan trip are the grandiosity of the Ananda Temple, the very impressive variety and range of historical artifacts at the Archaeological Museum and the precious ancient-city feel of Bagan you have to come experience for yourself!
Mandalay is the most developed city in Myanmar next to Yangon but with a totally different vibe I’d describe as more upper Myanmar, more motorcycles instead of cars, neater, separate houses instead of high-rise apartment buildings and maybe a little bit more closure among its residents than those of Yangon. In Mandalay, to my experience, you can’t miss the Royal Palace or the Werawsana jade pagoda which is entirely built from jade, the only one of its kind in the world and magnificent! It is a city I visited several times during the last few years but the feeling is just the same every time.
Kyaiktiyo in Mon State, Myanmar comes third on this list and my two visits to it are among my favorite domestic travels. I love the state of Mons more than the rest which is only fitting as I’m a Mon-Myanmar. You gotta love your origins and whatever’s associated with it, huh? To reach the pagoda impossibly hanging on the edge of the cliff, every visitor has to take the very-crowded open top trucks which can be a new experience resulting in excitement and also headache. You know, suffocating among all the people squeezed into the truck like matches in a box, riding steep uphill and all that!
I have to share about that one time I went to the small Kyaiktiyo waterfall. I had a whole gang of people with me at the time who had never gone to that waterfall and wanted to experience it for the first time. We had no idea how painful the journey would be. We hiked downhill for four hours till our legs were shaking, regretted ever trotting on the journey midway and a lot of times afterwards,
overcame the most dangerous slippery, rocky nature and finally got to the waterfall which to our disappointment, wasn’t worth the effort. We had to rest for a bit before our legs started working again and hiked all the way back uphill to the mountaintop, at the end of which every muscle in our body was sore and numb and our faces, smiless. Some of the gang had to take injections afterwards but it was a one-of-a-kind experience which we got to but never wish to experience again! It’s extremely useful if you want to push yourself to your physical limits of exercise and shed a few pounds though.
Next up is a beautiful hill town in Taunggyi district, Shan state, considered as the trekking mecca of Myanmar, Kalaw. Its medieval buildings, neat landscapes and the freshest green environment are sure to charm you. I got there only last October and
I’ll never forget the exhilarating trekking amongst its Kalaw hills. The people who reside on the hills, the unbelievable scenery and great food serving at the hilltop stalls are just some things you will want to have as experiences. Wine lovers will find paradise in Kalaw’s wine making vineyards, learn about unique, available-in-Myanmar-only wines and taste them. After the visit, I realized why Kalaw was such a big hit among the tourists and saw more foreign tourists in Kalaw than its locals. It isn’t so well-liked by so many for so reasons, y’all!
I have been to two beaches in Myanmar. I’ll talk about the Ngapali beach first! I got there on a teambuilding trip as a Telenor intern and stayed at the Amazing Ngapali Resort. With the beach so white and clean, the skies so clear crystal blue and the fabulous accommodation at the Amazing Ngapali Resort, it was love at first light for me. I swam in the blue sea to my heart’s content, before taking a boat to the Pearl Island
where I did scuba diving for the first time, got far and deep enough into the sea to find a rock with pink and green lobsters on it and unfortunately ran into some scary log-like sea creature swimming around me which just sent me swimming straight back to the shore. What a time I had there! Don’t forget to buy the one-bite sized sticky rice packets that come in coconut, bean and banana flavours while you’re in near Ngapali! They are Ngapali specials!
Kan Thar Yar Beach
My first beach was the Kan Thar Yar Beach at the tender age of five. I know that it’s in Gwa, Rakhine State but don’t remember anything much about it except the road to there being super dusty and that I almost drowned for the first time in my life there. Luckily, I didn’t die and even came back with a young love for beaches! Yayyy! (Thinking hard, I remember I didn’t like the beach bungalows and hated living in them!) Everything sure has changed and improved over the last fifteen years and Kan Thar Yar would be a much better place, no doubt!
I unexpectedly got to two river villages, just two months ago too! Yandabo village along the Irrawaddy River in the Mandalay Division is a village specializing in pottery and has some historical significance. I got there by cruise ship while working as content writer for a cruise company and found it really lovely. It was amazing to see how every single family there made a living out of pot-making and how great they were at it! I saw the pot making process there and witnessed the excellent quality of Yandabo pots
Shwe Pyi Thar Village
The other river village is the Shwe Pyi Thar village. Upon entering, you’ll see rows of towering coconut trees and a half-sand, half-grass-covered river bank leading into the village. It felt to me like a private mini-Madagascar which I liked so much. Seeing that entire tiny village in less than an hour and so many pigs and cows being bred there, interacting with the chief of the village and villagers there were unforgettable! The specialty of Shwe Pyi Thar is the yummy jaggery candy they make from palm sap.
The places I wrote about do not even make up one-thousandth of all of Myanmar. With its 153 ethnic groups, each with their different culture, 14 states all with different geography and climates, I’ll have to explore a lot more of my own country! I hope I could give you some brand-new information and not just about common things or places in Myanmar you’ve repetitively heard before! Thanks for reading!