I don't really know what I was expecting boarding a plane from Kathmandu to Yangon. But whatever I had thought, Myanmar certainly took me by surprise. 

I've been through the Middle East, India and Nepal, Paris, London and New York, none of which could have prepared me for the wide, smooth, palm tree lined, rubbish-motorbike-and-beeping-bus-less streets of Yangon.

I found everything in Myanmar to be incredible; it's a country filled with incredible beauty and incredibly kind people, and with an incredibly interesting history. 

Every evening the sun turns the land into a golden orb of awe. 

I had been warned that for a backpacker Myanmar was quite expensive, but it's not, so I've included a break down of my costs at the bottom in case anyone is interested.

 

I spent a few days exploring the beautiful streets of Yangon before heading south to Mawlamyine, a sleepy fishing town on the shores of the Andaman Sea. 

In Mawlamyine I took a canoe to an island off the coast and cycled to a waterfall I'd heard about from other travellers. Don't stay too long on 'The Ogre Island' though; Government Officials will happily escort you off for a small but unnecessary fee.

 
 

After a few days of riding and temples and ocean sunsets, I headed to Mandalay by bus and then on to Hsipaw via the Goteik viaduct, a railway line that crosses a gorge. It was an amazing journey and one I would certainly recommend. 

Hsipaw itself is great. It's small and quiet but there are plenty of things to do if you're into hiking or biking or waterfalls and markets. There's also plenty of things not to do if you're into long coffee mornings with a book and a slow moving river view. 

From Hsipaw I headed south to an old colonial town called Pyin oo lwin. It was very pretty, but the colonial influence was a stark and somewhat uncomfortable contrast from the rest of the country. There is a huge water fall and lots of markets and shops which were great. 

A car to Mandalay and a night bus to Nyaung U landed me in a monastery in Old Bagan. I was lucky enough to spend a few days living there, serving the monks and practising meditation. We lived in a beautiful wooden house on the edge of the Ayeyarwady River.  

We practised meditation three times a day, but outside of that we explored Old Bagan at sunrise and sunset, and sat on our balcony, reading our books and sharing perceptions with the monks.

After departing the monastery, I boarded a bus bound for Inle Lake, a 116 km² lake in the middle of the country.

On the bus though I met a group of Chileans and a German and we decided to trek 30 kms through the green hills of Shan State instead. 

We slept on the floor of a house made from woven bamboo in a small village, and brushed our teeth under an arm of the Milky Way. We swapped travel stories, and French for Spanish, and in the night times we played cards and danced the merengue to Prince Royce.  

After a few days in Inle Lake it was time to head back to Yangon and onto my next stop. I ended up booking a flight for $30 to Chiang Mai, even though I had planned to cross the border. A lot of people I know did cross the border from Hpa-an to Mae Sot, it can be done but it might need a couple of days preparation (word on the street was that the border interchanges from Myanmar into Thailand one day and changes to let people from Thailand into Myanmar the next). Also I believe you need to spend a night in Mae Sot, but there are buses from there to most parts of Thailand. From Hpa-an you can reach Mawlamyine and Yangon in a day.


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