The visa for Burma is valid for 28 days and if you have the time or the sufficient holidays I would advise you to stay all the 28 days available so that you can also have enough time to stop for a while by the sea .
But if you cannot stay for such a long time, as unfortunately was what happened to me, even two weeks ( 3 would be ideal ) are enough to discover the best of Myanmar
I was in Myanmar in 2011 and at that time I used to not recommend to travel by planes and trains ( although more convenient and fast ) but instead to take buses thus promoting the local economy rather than that of the government .
But things are changing in the last few months since the elections, and I have discovered that new private and non-government air companies are springing up , however it is still better to inquire first seeing that the political situation is unstable and changes occur rapidly.
Travelling by bus in Burma means long trips on unasphalted roads and arriving in the early hours of the morning , not quite comfortable seats often but it's not exactly so terrible to do and no one will remain traumatized for life , not as I have read in various blogs or forums in respect, at the most these moments will become travel stories to tell, those stories funny and interesting at the same time.
The only thing that perhaps should be taken into consideration is that after having traveled all night generally one tends to rest a day or half a day to recover and get some sleep , so it will not kill but annihilates one , at least for a day.
You have two weeks and want to see the best of Myanmar . The journey begins and ends in Yangon. Perfect!
The standards in Myanmar have very little to do with those of the Thai or Cambodian . The costs are significantly higher and the quality lower . My recommendations on this regard are trying to find a good compromise between price and quality . A trip to Burma requires having very adaptable spirit, but things are getting better and I'm sure in a few years time it will be much more simpler and the quality will gradually improve . In the hotels , roads and transportation .
Considering that most likely you will arrive in Yangon (destination in any case cheaper than Mandalay ) do not go away quickly, you can spend two days here.
In this way you have the time to go to the black market where to change your money , even though I have noticed at the airport that now , the official rate is at par or rather the exchange in the banks was even better, visit the Shwedagon Pagoda , head to the park " of umbrellas", so called because it is here where the couples in order to hide while kissing, cover themselves with an umbrella , and if you have time to take part in an English lesson where you will be the teachers.
Where to stay in Yangon
Humble Footspints Hostel - Beds in dormitory from € 12 and double rooms from € 35
Hundred Moons - Double room with breakfast from € 48
Getting around Yangon
Although the city is provided with buses, the most convenient and fastest , except for any broken engines in the middle of the road , is by taxi . Prices are negotiable . A trip to the city center costs about k1000 / 15000 . A taxi for the whole day costs between $20 and $ 30.
For long-distance travel remember to buy your ticket in advance . All guesthouses and hotels offer this service without you having to go to the station especially for it.
After two days take a night bus to Bagan ( cost 7000k ) .
The bus station in Yangon is about 45 minutes from the city , the taxi costs about 5000k if possible then divide the cost with other travelers .
The bus will arrive in Bagan at 3-4 in the morning , from there you will need to take a taxi to accompany you to the guest house
The morning at this point is now lost for a tour round the temples and pagodas of Bagan ( more than 3000 ) so we opted for an excursion to Mount Popa. Here, there is a monastery perched on the mountain , from the top of the monastery a beautiful view and some peace can be enjoyed , if left undisturbed by the hundreds of monkeys .
The next morning wake up call at 5 am to watch one of the most beautiful and exciting sunrises in your life .
Go up a stupa , pay a local to accompany you , remember that you are helping him , he knows which is the best stupa to see and how to get there when it's dark.
After having breakfast at the guesthouse (usually the guesthouses have breakfast included in the price ), rent a bike ( 1500k ) to go around the old Bagan . Ideally, starting no later than 9 because the hours run by and the historic site is huge .
Transportation in Bagan
Bagan is tiny and the best way to get around is by bike . The guesthouses and hotels rent them out for the whole day .
The bus station can be reached by taxi .
The bus ticket Bagan – Mandalay costs about $ 15.
The next day departure by daytime bus to Mandalay ( 7500K cost for 8 hours trip) .
The road will be incredibly uncomfortable, the seats as well ... but if you 're as tired as I was, you will sleep anyway , and if it's any consolation , it seems the route is better than that of the infamous Bagan - Inle lake which seems to be the nightmare of all DIY travelers in Burma.
Mandalay is the city that the Chinese are literally swallowing up , I was not particularly impressed and I thought that it appears for what it is , the commercial capital of the country.
But it's worth going to see the sunset from Mandalay Hill , a monastery on the mountain at 230 meters where, of course you have to walk to get to the top, a long and tiring climb softened by the company of a young and friendly, as only the Burmese are , Buddhist monk.
Sweaty and thirsty I did it and I must say that the view up there repaid me for the titanic task done.
Instead of staying in Mandalay the next day I headed to the villages of Amarapura and Sagaing.
Since I was alone and paying 15,000K was too much for me, I decided to go with the pickup ( the crowded and uncomfortable vans that had made my trip to this country EPICAL !)
The Lonely Planet is not recommended because crowded and chaotic , but as I had no one to share the costs I opted for this local solution and ... .. what an experience !
I instead strongly recommend it , you will be alone surrounded by a crowd of locals , all curious to see you , they will study you , speak to you, look at you , they will give you the best places and take care of you making sure that the journey will not be a nightmare .
Travel costs for the two villages: 200k from Mandalay to Amarapure, 400k from Amarapura to Sagaing and 500k for the return. Total cost of operation 1100K.
Amarapura is famous for the U Bein bridge which is the longest wooden bridge in the world but other than this, also for the opportunity to attend daily at 10.30 am the suggestive breakfast of the monks at the Ganayon Kyaung monastery.
Here is where more than 400 monks live and where every day at 10.30, in a row and in silence, they prepare for breakfast.
After the monk breakfast, crossing through the Amarapura market again, you can take another pickup to go to Sagaing.
Here there are more than 500 stupas and the only way to get around is paying a motorcycle taxi (3000k) to take you to the summit of the mountain, in this way there is no need to pay the government entrance fee because you get in from the back and the same money will have to be given to the driver instead, and to the areas where guitars famous throughout the country are manufactured.
From these tours one can safely be in Mandalay at 3 pm, in time if you want to take the bus to Inle Lake.
Where to stay in Mandalay
Getting around Mandalay
The bus from Mandalay to Inle Lake costs 13000K and includes the cost of the taxi from the hotel to the station ( taxi would cost about 3000 4000k anyway ) . The taxi arrives at the hotel at 16:30 and the bus leaves at 18.00 instead . The ticket can be bought at the hotel . I advice to buy it in advance otherwise the seats will be sold out .
Beautiful Inle lake, is a lake where entire communities literally live in the water, the only means of transport is the wooden boat and everything takes place on floating cities, the houses are on stilts, the children do not have scooters, they go by boat. The market is a colorful river of boats filled with women selling merchandise.
The first day I took a bicycle and I rode for about four hours up the mountain arriving up to the mouth of the lake, the second day I did a whole day tour (15000k to divide up to 5 people per boat) and which I strongly advice.
This is the only way you can see and discover these aquatic communities.
The third day I relaxed on the shore of the river in this quiet town waiting for the evening to fall, drinking tea in the company of my American friends, and, getting closer to the time of day that starts to get dark, the temperatures drop, and we begin to cover ourselves and to go to sleep early as usual, because here like it or not you go to bed shortly after dark and you get up in the early hours of the day.
Where to stay in Inle Lake
Golden Dream Hotel - Central and just off the main street , double rooms from € 40 per night
Mingalar Inn - Central with swimming pool double rooms from € 33 including breakfast
Golden Empress Hotel - Rooms decorated in traditional Burmese style from € 41 including breakfast
Getting around Inle Lake
The inconvenience of traveling in Myanmar is that the buses arrive at very unlikely hours, in this case expected arrival at 4am .
The bus to Inle lake does not really leave from Nyaungshwe ( where you will surely book ) but rather 13 kilometers north of the country . So on arrival you will have to pay a pick up to reach the village , we paid 6000k to be divided into 4 ,
It's not over. Entrance costs into Inle Lake $ 10 , these must be paid before entering the village.
Here I recommend to book your accommodation in advance otherwise you will end up like me : going around for 2 hours at night with a flashlight looking for a place to stay , here the guesthouses are often full , asking all those few people met on the road and cursing myself for not having booked the day before
It was hard to leave Inle Lake but after three days it is time to leave and to head to Bago , the kingdom of Buddha where the biggest reclining Buddha in the world is, bigger than that of Bangkok , but it is right here in this city of enormous reclining Buddhas that you will well see 3 .
The cost of the bus ticket is 15000k from Inle Lake to Bago , the trip takes about 14 hours, departure at 13 and arrival the next morning after 4.30 to 5 , as usual.
One day is enough for Bago , to visit the main temples , including the one where there is the enormous sacred anaconda that, when it is not immersed in the water of the pool with the caretaker, wanders freely around the site , just for a change, the best thing to do is to pay for a motorcycle taxi . The tour does not last more than a few hours .
The next day it's time to take the hardest ride in pickup of your trip to Burma .
Direction to Kinpun from where you can climb the mountain to reach the Golden Rock or stone in gold hovering over the mountain and sacred destination for the Burmese.
By itself as an attraction might be disappointing but getting up there has its own fascinating charm.
From Kinpun you embark on a truck ( 1500k one way) , I do really mean a truck equipped to resemble a coach with wooden benches where everyone is squashed together like sardines , that leaves you 45 minutes from the sacred rock . Getting up to the top is tough especially under the blazing sun and I , covered from head to toe.
An incredible task but that is worth doing together with other pilgrims .
In truth there are two other ways to get to the summit and less tiring . Follow an alternative route that takes six or seven hours though or to get on two other trucks that at the price of 3000k one way will take you up to the top.
However, if you want to try an all Burmese experience, you can have 4 men carrying you on their shoulders . Yes, you lying like a pasha on a litter while four men do that same way that I had found lacerating without having a single gram on my shoulder .
Hence as much characteristic as it may be, I personally, however much the 4 bold young seemed to insist, could not do it ( 8000k cost one way if I were to be interested but I find it inhuman ) .
Tourists have to pay $ 6 to be able to enter the pagoda, I tried to mingle in the group of pilgrims , but it did not work and I got reprimanded , but if you try and succeed, know that you can at least avoid giving this money to the government .
Kinpun is quite expensive compared to the average of the other villages ( food costs at least 1500k per dish ) but worth staying one night there.
If you think you can do Bago in a day ( as I thought to do so) consider various unexpected circumstances that may instead force you to stay the night anyway , obviously as what happened to me .
Leaving at 6 in the morning and hopeful to arrive at 9/10 I was, instead left by the pick-up in the midst of a country of which name I have not as yet understood well, for 3 hours waiting ... I have never understood for what .
Result : I had to pay for a room in Bago and in Kinpun . I tried humanly impossible ways to get there in time to catch the last pick up to return to Bago . To try is no harm and I have learned my lesson .
We have now come to the end of the 2 weeks and now it’s time to return to Yangon to catch the plane .
From Kinpu take a direct bus to Yangon (3 hours , 2500k ) or a pick up for 1000k . My choice fell again on pick up a bit for the price, a little bit because my last day in Myanmar was to be typical at a 100 % and 2 hours on this truck where people are massed together but always have a kind eye on you, was what I wanted .
It's been two weeks already and you do not want to leave this place , right?
This is the Myanmar effect .
If you are already in Thailand and have time, for more than a year now, you can cross the border by land.
If you fly from Europe to the return ticket costs around € 700 per person .
To compare prices and to look for the best options consult Skyscanner and search the best solutions . Airport destination Rangoon ( Yangon ) or Mandalay.