Myanmar Travel Itinerary | Stories by Soumya

Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It

Last Updated on July 6, 2019 by Soumya

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ― Anonymous

A few years ago I read a book by Sudha Shah called “The King in Exile”. It was the story of King Thibaw and Queen Supalayat of Burma. They had been deposed and exiled to Ratnagiri in India by the British. A very interesting and absorbing read. You can find a brief review of the book on Newmandala. For days afterward I imagined what the royal family had gone through while living in a country that was not their own. I was fascinated by how the family had adopted the rituals of a new land while still holding on to the sweet memory of their resplendent past. I wanted to get under their skin and feel what it was like to live in the confusing or not-so-confusing mix of Indian and Burmese cultures. So one fine day we decided to go and absorb Myanmar for ourselves. Traveling in Myanmar was going to be fun!

Our Itinerary of Myanmar

While planning our trip, we decided to include big cities, historical sites, a beach, and multiple day trips. This is how our trip turned out to be.

Major Cities – Yangon & Mandalay

Our first stop was Yangon, Burma’s important gateway for international tourists. Our first reaction when we landed in Yangon: “Oh gosh, this seems like a perfect mix of Kolkata and Hyderabad (two metropolitan cities in India). Similar houses, similar roads”. But that changed once we got out of our hotel the next day. The sounds, the smells, the flavors were all so different. For the next two weeks, we rode, drove, and flew through a country that was teeming with food, people and, most importantly, smiles.

Yangon was a lovely mixture of modern apartments, shopping malls, an old circle train, and reverent pagodas while Mandalay was the old royal capital on the banks of Irrawaddy, replete with history and intrigue. Yangon is a great place to visit if you are traveling solo, with a partner, or with kids. The city will never disappoint you. Watching the sunset at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon was a remarkable experience and so was driving through the streets of Mandalay to get a taste of authentic Burmese food. Also unmissable were the pagodas of Sagaing and the ruins of Inwa, all within an hour’s drive from Mandalay.

Shwedagon - Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

Beach Destination – Ngapali

Burma also has a pristine white beach on its west coast, Ngapali. I had jumped with joy when the husband had discovered this beach while planning our itinerary. I had to build sandcastles for my 5-year old since we were going on vacation and we did not want to spend any extra money on Thai visas to get to a decent beach. Ngapali worked great for us. The water was clear, the sand was white, and the food was out of the world. Here we tasted some amazing seafood which is difficult to find anywhere else in the country.


Ngapali beach: Traveling in Burma and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
At the Ngapali beach
Ngapali - Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
The sun sets over the Ngapali beach

Historical Sites – Bagan & Mrauk U

No trip of mine is ever complete without a peek into the country’s history. In Myanmar, there was no better way to do it than to gaze, for hours, at the country’s archaeological ruins. Burma has an interesting set to offer in this area. On one hand, there is the ancient and more popular city of Bagan filled with more than 2000 temples in various states of disrepair. Hundreds of tourists throng to Bagan every year and it is easy to locate restaurants that serve burgers, pizza, and ice cream here.


Bagan - Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
A Temple in Bagan
Temples of Bagan: Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Temples of Bagan or mushrooms maybe

On the other hand, there is Mrauk U (pronounced mrau-oo), another royal capital from the bygone era with stupas still camouflaged by thick forest. Not more than 5000 tourists visit Mrauk U every year. Teeter, here, on some existent and non-existent staircases to gape at beautiful pagodas and broken down temples. And get there fast, before the whole world knows about it, for what is serenity but finding an entire temple to yourself to get lost in. 

Mrauk U - Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
One of the many temples of Mrauk U

If you are looking for a detailed but free itinerary of Myanmar remember to check out “Best of Myanmar” on

It was easy to fall in love with Burma. I loved the people and their warm smiles. I loved the food and its closeness to East Indian cuisine. And I loved unadulterated views of some of my favorite ruins. Burma, certainly, did not disappoint me. Before I sign off here is a small cheat sheet for a few must-dos in Burma apart from visiting Bagan and Mrauk U, of course.

Must Eat Burmese Food

When you are in Myanmar, you have to try the Burmese traditional food. There are just so many varieties. I have mentioned some of my favorites here.


Burmese salads are awesome. I would recommend two in particular.

  1. Samosa Thoke, a savory salad made out of samosas, onions, cabbages, and mint. It is something like the Indian chaat and is a must-try. We found this only on the streets of Yangon, so make sure you have it when you get there.
  2. Laphet Thoke or tea leaf salad is another unique dish made from tea leaves, beans, and the usual salad fare. We found this wherever we went. So try it at your convenience.
Samosa Thoke - Traveling in Burma and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Samosa Thoke on the streets of Yangon


Fish forms an essential part of Burmese cuisine especially because of its proximity to both river and sea water. We loved these two fish dishes while traveling in Myanmar.

  1. When in Ngapalli, try the grilled fish and prawns at the shacks on the public beach.
  2. When in Rakhine, try the Rakhine style prawn curry at an authentic Rakhine restaurant (usually one that does not have an English menu). Lip-smacking good.

Must Ride

Ride the circular train in Yangon and absorb the myriad smells and sounds of Myanmar. Or ride on a pickup truck with the local people anywhere in Burma and get adequately smiled at.

Fruit vendor - Traveling in Burma and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
A fruit vendor waits to get on the Yangon Circular train

Nice-to-use Words

Mingalaba, meaning hello or more accurately “Be Blessed”, is a common greeting used by locals. It puts a smile on their faces if you use it back.

Burmese kids respond to Ta Ta better than bye bye, probably a hangover from the English colonial times.

So, it was Ta Ta Burma for me for the time. Maybe someday I will go back there to have some more Laphet Thoke atop a hilltop and soak in some more of my favorite ruins.

Kids Thandwe: Traveling in Burma and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Kids in Thandwe

Read more on my travels in Myanmar here!

Pin It For Later!

Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It | Stories by Soumya
Wondering what to see and do in #Myanmar? Read about what we did  in two weeks. Historical sites, #beaches, big cities, and great food - #Burma is full of everything. #myanmartravelguide #myanmartrip #myanmarphotography #asiatravel
Wondering what to see and do in #Myanmar? Read about what we did  in two weeks. Historical sites, #beaches, big cities, and great food - #Burma is full of everything. #myanmartravelguide #myanmartrip #myanmarphotography #asiatravel

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

23 thoughts on “Traveling in Myanmar and Absorbing It

  1. This is a wonderful guide to Myanmar and I like the way you have brought out so many different places here. The pictures are great and this would be a perfect guide for us when we get here. Mingalaba is such a lovely word. Thanks for mentioning about it in the post. Would definitely remember to use it in Myanmar 🙂

  2. I can not WAIT to go to Myanmar. Temples poking up out of the trees and seemingly nowhere (laughed at the mushroom comment!) are beyond incredible to look at, and their history is even more intriguing. Appreciate the book suggestion as some Myanmar travel inspiration as well! Very interesting!

  3. You have explored Burma really well. I loved all your posts on Burma as they are very informative and also covers up hidden secret gems from this beautiful land. Thanks for sharing

  4. I loved the way you started this travelogue and i will definitely check out the book ” The King in Exile” sounds like a great book with lot of enriching history.Loved the pictures and explanation as well. Will for sure visit Myanmar someday. Keep writing!

    1. Thank you Aswathi for your kind words. Myanmar is filled with history and intrigue. I am sure you will love it.

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