Thailand is an excellent base to use as a jumping off point to visit the neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR., Myanmar and Vietnam. There are apparently 600 flights per week to these destinations from Thailand. 299 flights fly to Myanmar; 190 to Vietnam; 108 to Cambodia, and 61 to Laos. There are of course land border connections too, enabling you to go by train and bus. In order to promote these links, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) invited me on a 5-day trip in the region. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations. Our route was Bangkok > Mandalay (Myanmar) > Chiang Mai (Thailand) > Luang Prabang (Laos) > Bangkok. The following are the photos and notes that I posted on social media during the Myanmar leg of the trip. Click here for a map of places that I visited during the trip.
DAY ONE: Boarding Air Asia FD244 from Don Mueang in Bangkok to Mandalay in Myanmar Flight time is 1 hour & 55 minutes.
Boat trip up the Irrawaddy from Mandalay to Mingu. Map link for the jetty in Mandalay.
Mingun is a small town on the banks of the Irrawaddy. It’s famous for the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a large but unfinished pagoda. Click for map link.
The massive bronze Mingun Bell, which weighs 90 tons, is one of the largest in the world. It was cast in 1808 and is intact. Click for map link.
The highlight of Mingun is the white Myatheindan Pagoda modelled after the mythical Mount Meru. It was built in 1816. Click for map link.
Local transport in Mingun & some local people #Myanmar #ASEAN
When you fly into Mandalay, what stands out in the lush green landscape are the many golden pagodas #Myanmar #ASEAN
Mandalay Hill has some magnificent views of the city ana countryside. It’s also a great place to enjoy the sunset. Click for map link.
The monks on Mandalay Hill are not shy about coming up to you for a chat. And their English is often excellent #Myanmar #ASEAN
DAY TWO: Mahamuni Paya is the most sacred monastery in Mandalay. If you visit, try and go for the 4am ceremony to wash the face of the Buddha. Click for map link.
Maha Gandhayon Monastery is in Amarapura, just south of Mandalay. At 10am every day you can offer alms to over 1,000 monks. Click for map link.
One of the highlights of Amarapura is U Bein Bridge, which at 1.2 km is the longest teak bridge in the world. Click for map link.
King Galon is just one of many gold leaf workshops in Mandalay. You are free to visit them & watch them make gold leaf. Click for map link.
Much of Mandalay Palace was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. A replica was built in the 1990’s. Click for map link.
Shwenandaw Monastery in Mandalay used to be a palace building & was moved here in 1880. It has intricate wood carvings. Click for map link.
Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay is also known as the world’s largest book due to the 729 marble slabs inscribed with scriptures. Click for map link.
Flying Bangkok Airways from Mandalay in #Myanmar to Chiang Mai in #Thailand. Flight time is just over just over one hour #ASEAN
NOTES: These are some brief observations and other notes that you might find useful if you are planning a trip to Myanmar. I will be doing a fuller blog at a later date.
The easiest way these days to apply for a visa is to go online here. A 28 day visa costs you $50. I unfortunately had some problems submitting the form and decided to go to the embassy in Bangkok. I actually went to the Lao embassy first as they had a quick one hour turnaround visa service. Then I went to the Burmese embassy on Sathon Road. I submitted my visa before noon. I then paid extra to be able to pick it up at 3:30pm the same day. Otherwise it takes three working days. Same day service cost me 2,290 Baht. Don’t forget you also need to bring along two passport sized photos.
My visit to Myanmar was so brief that it wasn’t really worth exchanging money into Kyat. But you can do this at the airport in Bangkok or in Mandalay. I took along US dollars as a back up. If you need a SIM card, you can buy one at the airport. Power sockets and electricity, at my hotel at least, was the same as in Thailand.
I found the Burmese people to be warm and hospitable. They were also quite good at speaking English. Certainly the ones that we came into contact with. The English accent of our 23-year old tour guide was excellent, though there were the odd words that were completely wrong. As if he had learned how to pronounce them from a textbook. He said he learned English at a temple school and then later by speaking to tourists. Several places we visited we also saw local youth, especially monks, come up to tourists to practice their English. Something that you don’t really see that much in Thailand.