Photo: Temple outside Monywa.

Burma forum

Random thoughts about Burma

Posted by mattocmd on 8/8/2013 at 22:01

Hello everyone!

I spent about 28 days in Burma from mid-June until mid-July and I just wanted to share some random thoughts.

- Chaung Tha Beach is lovely and rooms are cheaper than you've been led to believe. It's only about 5-6 hours from Yangon by bus and I consider it to be a 'must see' Burma destination, especially for beach lovers. The seafood is amazing and so cheap.

- Book your room in advance for Yangon and when you do, choose one with free airport pickup. However, outside of Yangon I never had a problem getting a room. Most places were actually quite empty.

- The street food is fantastic! Yangon is a paradise for foodies, especially adventurous ones!

- Friendliest people of any country that I've ever been to....and I've been to many. Safest too!

- Inle Lake and Bagan are world-class destinations. They are every bit as beautiful and interesting as you are probably imagining. If you're headed to Burma, absolutely try to fit these two places on your itinerary.

- If you visit during 'Low Season,' when it's supposedly rainy and too hot, head north! Destinations in the mountainous Shan State like Kalaw and Inle Lake were cool and it hardly rained at all.

- Bring diarrhea medicine. I found kaopectate to be very useful, especially on days that I had long bus journeys. You might even want to consider avoiding meats altogether in some areas. If you have a nine hour bus ride on Tuesday, it might be wise to be a vegetarian on Monday.. haha

#1 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by exacto on 8/8/2013 at 22:07

hey matt!

great to hear from you. it sounds like you had a great trip. somtam visited burma earlier this year too and also had lots of good things to say.

on bagan, how does it compare with angkor wat or the temples near yogyakarta? also, how was the beer in burma? anything worth writing home about? do you remember about how much you spent on average each day and if that was for backpacker or flashpacker level? finally, you mentioned that you really liked the food. what were two or three of your favorite dishes?


#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by mattocmd on 8/8/2013 at 22:32

Hello Exacto!

I visited Bagan during the worst time of the year. It was extremely hot so I had to waste a lot of time indoors. But it's a great experience if you can go during a time of the year when the weather is cooler. Unlike Angkor Wat, where everything is relatively close together, Bagan is a series of thousands of individual temples spread out over a HUGE area. And compared to Angkor Wat there are very few tourists.

The national beer is Myanmar Beer and it's great. In some towns, especially ones without power, it can be hard to find em' cold but if you look hard enough you'll find them. I switched back and forth between Myanmar Beer and old reliable, Tiger Beer.

I spent about 50$ a day but could have made it on $20-$30 with some effort. The only exception was Yangon. Expect to spend at least $30-$40 in Yangon but in the smaller towns you could get by on $20 fairly easily.

Best food: The garlic encrusted fresh fish at Chaung Tha beach was my favorite. In Kalaw, a local took me to a traditional Burmese restaurant (the most famous in town, it's called Aung Nyein Chan Aung (II)). With that you get rice and an array of side dishes that includes curry, vegetable salads, items including ground up fish and a fresh vegetable platter with dip. My third favorite is Shan noodles. Mohinga, the national dish, deserves an honorable mention. I paid US 30 cents for that in Yangon. It was excellent.

I should also mention that tea shops are everywhere. Such a great place to relax and pay the equivalent of 10-20 cents for unlimited hot tea. A lot of those places offer tempura style fried veggies for a small fee as well.

#3 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by ThaiStick on 31/8/2013 at 21:01

I am planning on doing the full 28-day visa stay myself. How much would you say you spent there in Myanmar total? And was your spending level low, medium, or high end? Did you happen to see any "fashion" shows also?

#4 ThaiStick has been a member since 17/4/2013. Posts: 20

Posted by mattocmd on 2/9/2013 at 15:28


On average I spent US $50 per day. But I could've spent less if I had needed to.

Limit the amount of time that you spend in Yangon. All of the small towns were much cheaper. I spent on average about $15 per night for accommodation outside of Yangon. Also local food is extremely cheap. Another way I saved is by taking the bus everywhere rather than taking domestic flights.

I didn't see a 'fashion show' or any indication of one. I was mostly in smaller towns so maybe they don't have them there.

#5 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by Lilypad on 10/9/2013 at 13:39

Thanks for this great post! I was just wondering if you could share what you did for money in Burma? Did you take all cash or some travels cheques? I am a little concerned about taking cash for the whole trip -my girlfriend and I are panning a 28 day trip and
I am concerned about the amount of cash we might need to carry us so I'm looking for some insight from people that have already been


#6 Lilypad has been a member since 10/9/2013. Posts: 2

Posted by mattocmd on 10/9/2013 at 15:50

Hello Lilypad!

Glad your going to check out Burma!

I too was nervous about carrying a month's worth of cash around. While there are some ATMs in the country, it's still probably best not to rely on them. I had about a 50% success rate with the them. So at this point I'd suggest bringing enough cash for the entire trip. Bring crisp US 100$ bills in perfect shape. I paid for my hotel rooms in US dollars and pretty much everything else in kyat.

To store cash I used a secret money belt. One that looped around my belt and was hidden under my pants...the only way it can be removed is if I remove my belt. Look around online for one and get one large enough that you won't need to fold the bills (the pacsafe one is too small). I can't suggest mine because one day when it poured rain it ended up causing my bills to be stained and made them useless. Luckily my ATM card worked and I was able to get cash that way.

I talked to travelers who just kept their money inside of a book for the duration of the trip. Burma is actually extremely safe and you'd probably be fine just doing that. I just like the money belt because the cash is with you at all times and it puts the mind to rest.

#7 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by MellisaTurner on 11/9/2013 at 05:51

Thanks for sharing the information in detail. It would help me a lot as I am planning to visit Burma by the end of this year.

#8 MellisaTurner has been a member since 16/3/2013. Posts: 14

Posted by Lilypad on 11/9/2013 at 07:26

Thank you so much for the reply you have put my mind at rest and thanks again for all the other information I will incorporate into my trip!!!

Cheers! :)

#9 Lilypad has been a member since 10/9/2013. Posts: 2

Posted by devinet on 16/10/2013 at 11:49

My husband and I were planning to travel to Myanmar this November and are now concerned about safety after the recent bombings throughout the country, specifically Yangon. We're considering canceling our trip which is unfortunate but we don't want to take the risk. Before we do move forward with canceling I wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts/opinions about this? I appreciate your help.

#10 devinet has been a member since 16/10/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by busylizzy on 17/10/2013 at 05:21

I proceeded with the decision to come a few days ago after hearing about the Traders hotel bomb. Having arrived this morning, and just now reading about the 3 latest bombs overnight has been a bit unnerving.

It's a difficult question, and probably more so now that I'm here. :-/ The places that I want to visit are obviously the popular tourist places that we are advised to avoid! I don't want to over-react, but I do value my life. I will continue to monitor the news reports fairly closely and be prepared to bail on Burma if I feel the need.

Having walked around central Yangon today, it appears to be business as usual. I was about a block away from Traders and although I didn't venture there, I understand that they've beefed up security around the hotel. Won't do much good now, of course.

It's a very difficult and personal thing to advise you on what you should do. I know what my family wish I had done!

#11 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by mattocmd on 17/10/2013 at 10:57

I would absolutely still go. Even with the small bombing incidents, I imagine that in Burma you're still safer than you are in most western countries.

#12 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by devinet on 17/10/2013 at 22:54

Thanks for your responses, we're going to see how things go and then make a game time decision closer to our departure date. @busylizzy - your honesty is greatly appreciated, I hope you are enjoying your trip so far and wish you safe travels :)

#13 devinet has been a member since 16/10/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by grapesaresweet on 3/11/2013 at 13:11

I'm a native to Burma and it's wonderful to see that a lot more foreigners are getting excited about Burma. I have a big family there all over Yangon, Mogok and Mandaly. However, I've never been to Chaungtha or Bangan. I'm going back this July after 7 years of not being back. I'm sure things have changed drastically. Anyone planning on visiting in the future? I'm open to discuss about my trip and local advises about my country.

#14 grapesaresweet has been a member since 3/11/2013. Posts: 2

Posted by Arsenico on 4/11/2013 at 10:47

Great insights mattocmd - I'll be visiting in a week and am looking forward to it.

Quick question : does anyone know whether the Burmese phone network works with EU mobiles?
Or whether it's possible to buy a SIM card in Rangoon/Mandalay and put it in an old Nokia?
I'd just need to message home every now and then.

Thanks for your help.

#15 Arsenico has been a member since 5/5/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by somtam2000 on 4/11/2013 at 16:41 admin

Assuming your phone is unlocked, you certainly used to be able to, but just recently they became more difficult to get (as detailed here)

I'll ask our man in Yangon to check that and update as I'm heading there in a few days myself and want a sim card!

#16 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by Arsenico on 5/11/2013 at 05:37

Much appreciated somtam.

#17 Arsenico has been a member since 5/5/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/11/2013 at 22:19 admin

@Arsenico Just heard back and the news is not good.

"Latest on the SIMs: travellers are screwed. They're talking about bringing back the temp SIMs for the SEA games, but there's no way of knowing when or if it will actually happen. There is the airport rental place which has become an extortionist since they cancelled the temp cards, so people have been either renting from the expats, or buying the cards on the street (90USD for a CDMA or 150 for a GSM)."

So I'm rethinking the need for one!

#18 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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