Burma is not an obvious holiday destination with children, to say the least. Also, having spent almost 2 weeks here, I now find it quite unethical to come to Burma with just a hedonistic mindset, like those tourists in Ngapali beach who will not have seen anything from the country other than (beautiful) Sandoway Resort.
It’s a country you visit to learn about the culture, the many hill tribes and their fascinating traditions, to visit the beautiful golden pagodas (thousands and thousands!), to marvel at the landscapes, to eat delicious food (not too spicy to my delight) and to meet the most incredibly kind people we have ever met. Don’t get me wrong, we were happy to find the beach after so many 5:30am wake up calls to catch our domestic flights.
Coming here is also a way to show support to the Burmese people who live, for the great majority, in conditions we cannot imagine when we’re not right here (poverty, lack of freedom, oppression from the military junta…). We have really learnt a lot during our trip.
Marcelo and Amalya did not capture all of this, of course, but they still had a great time.
Here is their Best Of:
– Riding on a horse carriage to visit the many temples in Bagan (Loved Mimi!). You can hire one for very cheap pretty much anywhere.
– Observing the many different faces of the buddhas in the pagodas. Particularly, there is one statue where he smiles from far, and looks angry from close. Buddha never liked having people come too close to him…Me neither.
– Visiting the many workshops and learning about puppet making, lotus weaving, lacquered making, silversmiths etc..There’s a lot of beautiful handcrafts to bring back from Burma, for very good prices.
– Receiving gifts everywhere they went: an embroidered elephant at the puppet-making workshop, a golden owl from the temple worker, a small torch from the driver… This is another expression of the kindness of the people. They would have hundred times less than us and yet insist on making gifts.
– Playing in the pool of Hotel Thiripitsaya in Bagan, a wonderful place facing the river. Highly recommended.
– Taking a boat on the river Irrawaddy from Mandalay to Mingun. And also watching the sunset on the lake in Bagan.
– Riding on an ox carriage taxi to visit the biggest bell in the world, in Mingun (1 hour boat ride from Mandalay). Really worth it. To be arranged through the guide..
– Chatting with the monks while watching the sunset on top of Mandalay hill
– Watching the jumping cats in the old Nga Hpe Chaung monastery on Lake Inle. This was also one of my favourite monastery to visit, made of teak wood, dusty and so charming.
– Having their photos taken five times a day. One of Amalya’s favourite sentence is now “un beau sourire” ie. “a nice smile”.
– Feeding the seagulls on Inle lake
– Sharing a snack with the nuns who invited us in their monastery near Inle lake
Here is my Best Of in terms of hotels, restaurants and shops, although i am missing many which did not have cards. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right guide who will take you to the right places.
Our itinerary was roughly like this:
Arrive Yangoon (Rangon). Fly to Bagan, 2 nights. Fly to Mandalay, 2 nights. Fly to Inle Lake, 2 nights. Fly to Ngapali beach, 3 nights. Finish in Yangoon (which, as a city, I found ugly, dirty & smelly but still worth seeing!).
– In the city of Mandalay, the Hotel by the Red Canal was outstanding. Excellent staff, spotless clean and best internet connection in the country.
– I already mentioned our really beautiful Hotel Thiripitsaya in Bagan, and Sandoway Resort for some time by the beach.
– Same for Inle lake, we could not get a room at Inle Princess Hotel but it’s the place to go. Ours was not really worth recommending.
– We ate well pretty much everywhere in the country, and none of us ever got sick (although Amalya now has one chipped tooth, but that’s another story!). Green Elephant in Mandalay was pleasant with the children, in the garden. Monsoon in Yangoon had a great menu and good atmosphere, so did Padonmar with its garden. The Indian food at the Red Canal hotel in Mandalay was better than some of the places I ate at in Rajasthan. And the Italian food at Sandoway resort was better than at most Italian restaurants in london, according to Ceki!
– Some great shops: Maung Aung Myin for traditional lacquer in the village of Myin Ka Par near Bagan. Not too far also, Ever stand for more contemporary designs of lacquer. Ko Than Hlaing for silk and lotus weaving on Inle lake. And the gallery of Patrick Robert in Yangoon. It’s actually not so much his designs that are interesting, but the house / gallery where he lives and works, which is incredibly beautiful and surprising in the heart of Yangoon. The Strand Hotel and the Governor’s Residence in Yangoon have good choice of shops, but much higher prices. Oh..and I was going to forget, the French bakery around the corner from Savoy Hotel, C’ Bon, great croissants after 15 days of Burmese food!
That’s it for Burma…Off to Chiang Mai in North Thailand now xxx