Excuse Me, Where’s the Nearest Pagoda?: Exploring Myanmar – Yangon and Bagan

a stack of money on a table


Getting from Myanmar from Bangkok is a breeze.  We booked a cheap ticket on AirAsia for less than $100 each.  Other options included Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Malaysian Airline, and Vietnam Airlines, all of which were slightly more expensive.

I had been keeping up with the visa situation in Myanmar, and while the government had recently rolled out a Visa On Arrival (VOA) option, some people had recently reported having difficulty with this option due to incomplete paperwork.  I ended up mailing in my visa applications to the embassy in Washington DC which was an easy and seamless process.  However, I would make sure to budget at least a 3-4 week turnaround time if you decide to use this option.  For those that are laying over in Bangkok, there is a same-day option there as well.

We had also booked a tour service for the entirety of our stay which I highly recommend.  They provided a driver along with guides in both Yangon and Bagan.  Having been to Myanmar now, I think that the more adventurous people out there could certainly visit without a guide, but I think that there is a lot of value in having someone explain the history behind everything.

For anyone that is considering visiting Myanmar, or for those that may not even have it on your radar, all I can say is don’t think about it any longer and GO! I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but as soon as I arrived I realized how special of a place it is. There is a ton of development going on right now, and its only a matter of time until some of the old-world charm that we experienced is no longer there.

We only spent a day and a half in Yangon, which I think is plenty.  Other than Schweddegon and the market, there isn’t that much else to see.

a stack of money on a table
two stacks of 1,000 kyat bills = only $100 USD
a bowl of noodles with meat and vegetables
burmese noodles
a bowl of noodles with meat and vegetables
more burmese noodles
a large gold building with a pointed top with Shwedagon Pagoda in the background
Scheddegon after sunset

The fastest way to get from Yangon to Bagan is via plane.  It’s only about an hour flight, but once you see the airplane you’ll be flying you will probably think to yourself that it’s going to be one of the longest hours of your life.  I wish I had a picture, because the plane honestly looks like it was built before World War II. Interestingly enough, after arriving home I actually read that just a couple days before we took our flight, the airline we flew had had a plane crash. If I could do it all over again knowing what I know now, I would probably still take the 1 hour flight instead of the 12+ hour overnight bus ride, but it’s scary to think about.  I guess ignorance is bliss…

We planned to spend two days in Bagan, which I would say is plenty.  Once you’re there, you’ll quickly realize that it is all-you-can-see pagodas.  After returning from Bagan to Yangon, the guide even joked that the last thing we’d probably want to see is a pagoda.  After a while, in all honesty the pagodas all started to look the same to me, but it was a great experience and we definitely got to see a lot of impressive things.

Because we had so much time, the guide planned a day trip to Mt. Poppa for us.  It’s a 2-hour car ride and another hour-long trek to the top.  Overall, we weren’t that impressed by it and probably wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, I think that you could spend about a day or day and a half in Bagan, and try to squeeze in another city, such as Mandalay or Inle.

a woman selling vegetables at a market
Bagan street market
a group of ancient buildingsa man looking at a large building
a sunset over a citya group of people walking up a steeple
a fish on a plate
fried fish straight from the river
a bucket of food with vegetables
burmese sizzling plate
a statue of a person sitting in a lotus position
my favorite buddha of all that we say – the one that ate another buddha
a woman standing next to a horse carriage
touring Bagan by horse cart
a man sitting on a rock looking at a building
a building on top of a mountain
on the last day, climbed to the top of mt. poppa
a monkey sitting on a staircase
monkeys that will steal your food if you’re not careful
a sign on a wall
nice reminder of home – time to come back!

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