Hsipaw, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo & Hpa-An, Myanmar Itinerary (11 days)

This itinerary will cover the Hsipaw, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo, Hpa-An & back to Yangon over 11 days, and is the second and final part of my Myanmar backpacking trip. To see the previous itinerary, check out my 8 day itinerary for Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay

Trip Summary

  • Trip length and when did I go? 11 days in January 2016
  • Places visited: Hsipaw, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo, Hpa-An, Yangon (on return trip)
  • How much did it cost me? MYR 805

At A Glance

  • Day 1 - Mandalay to Hsipaw. Depart Mandalay by train to Hsipaw, stopping at Pyin Oo Lwin and crossing the famous Gokteik viaduct bridge on the way. Upon arrival in Hsipaw, I stayed at Red Dragon Hotel. In the afternoon, I rented a bicycle and cycled to Sunset Hill to watch the sunset. Overnight in Hsipaw.
  • Day 2 - Hsipaw. Full day trek around the Hsipaw countryside, visiting Naloy village and some Shan villages nearby and Nam Hu Nwe waterfall. Overnight in Hsipaw
  • Day 3 - Hsipaw to Inle Lake. Cycling tour around Hsipaw town, visiting Hsipaw Central Market, Shan Palace, Little Bagan & Bamboo Buddha monastery. Check out from the hotel and took the overnight bus from Hsipaw to Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake)
  • Day 4 - Inle Lake. Upon arrival, I checked in to Song of Travel Hostel in Nyaung Shwe. Went on the day trip by boat around Inle lake, visiting the various villages around the lake such as Ywama, Hpaung Daw U, Nampan, Inn Paw Khone and Thaung Tho. Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
  • Day 5 Inle Lake. Cycling tour around Inle lake. Cycled to Khaung Daing, then took a boat across the lake to Maing Thauk. Stopped at Red Mountain Estate Vineyard for sunset on the way back. Overnight in Nyaung Shwe.
  • Day 6 - Inle Lake to Bago. Cycling tour around Nyaung Shwe, visiting Mingalar market and Yadana Man Aung Paya, among few others. Check-out from the hostel in the afternoon, and took an overnight bus from Nyaung Shwe to Bago.
  • Day 7 - Bago to Kyaiktiyo to Hpa-An. Upon arrival in Bago, I took a minibus to Kyaiktiyo. From Kyaiktiyo, I went on to Kinpun, then onwards to Golden Rock to spend half a day. Back in Kyaiktiyo, I took another bus to Hpa-An, where I stayed the night in Hintha Guesthouse. Overnight in Hpa-An.
  • Day 8 - Hpa-An. Day trip around Hpa-An by thoun bein, visiting Yathaypyan & Kawgun caves, Kyauk Kalap monastery and Lumbini Garden. In the afternoon, I visited Saddan cave before ending the day with a visit to Kawt Ka Taung cave. Overnight in Hpa-An.
  • Day 9 - Hpa-An to Yangon. Half-day trip to Hpan Pu mountain. Check out from the guesthouse around noon and took a bus back to Yangon. Upon arrival there, I stayed at Myanmar Backpackers Hostel. Overnight in Yangon.
  • Day 10 - Yangon. Half-day city tour by circular train, with a stop in Insein. Spent my afternoon in Kandawgyi lake and then onward to Shwedagon pagoda for sunset. Had dinner at 19th Street before returning to the hostel. Overnight in Yangon.
  • Day 11 - Yangon. Last minute shopping in Bogyoke Market, before heading to the airport for my flight home.

Itinerary Map (click to view POIs and routes)

Travel Montage

Mandalay to Hsipaw by train
  • 4.00 am - Depart Mandalay for Hsipaw by train
  • 8.00 am - Stopover at Pyin Oo Lwin. Got off the train to buy some breakfast from the peddlers in the station - Shan noodles (500 kyat) & coffee (300 kyat)
  • 10.45 am - Another stopover at Naung Hkio, just before Gokteik
  • 11.30 am - Crossed the Gokteik viaduct, the highest bridge in Myanmar and the world's largest railway trestle. The crossing took about 10 minutes from end to end, so there's plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the sights
  • 1.45 pm - Yet another stopover, this time in Kyaukme. A few locals from Hsipaw boarded the train to pass around brochures and will ask if you want to stay at their guesthouses. I took up an offer from Red Dragon Hotel, who also provided free transport from the Hsipaw train station to their hotel

Sunrise on the train journey
Getting up and going to the loo is proving to be quite a challenge
Stopping in Pyin Oo Lwin
Pyin Oo Lwin makes for a nice stopover between Mandalay and Hsipaw, provided you have plenty of days to spare
If there's one thing you can't die from on this train journey, it's hunger. There's just so much food at the stations on the way to Hsipaw
Crossing the Gokteik viaduct after hours of killing anticipation
Spectacular views of the ridge we're crossing over
Lining up this perfect shot when suddenly, le wild head appears
The vast and beautiful countryside seen on the way
More countryside closer to Hsipaw

Arrival in Hsipaw
  • 3.20 pm - Arrival in Hsipaw (hopped off at Hsipaw train station). Rode the free transport (provided by hotel) from the train station to Red Dragon Hotel (under 5 minutes)
  • Checked in to Red Dragon Hotel - $6.50 per night. Staying for 2 nights (total cost - $13). This was one of the cheapest places I've stayed in Myanmar and is great value for money. Got a really nice room and free breakfast. A downside to this hotel was that it had no lift despite being a few storeys high. Had to climb lots of stairs just to get to the breakfast room which was on the top floor
  • Did my laundry at the hotel - 2,500 kyat

Arriving in Hsipaw
Took the free ride to town, courtesy of Red Dragon Hotel
My room in Red Dragon Hotel

In & Around Hsipaw
    • Rented a bicycle from the hotel - 500 kyat (bargained down from 1,000 kyat, as I was only going to use it for a couple of hours)
    • 4.30 pm - Cycled from the hotel to Sunset Hill (under 15 minutes). Upon arriving at the base of the hill, it was another 15 minutes on foot to the top. The road leading up to the top of the hill was quite steep, so I had to get down and push the bike
    • 5.00 pm - 6.00 pm - Sunset viewing at the top of Sunset Hill before heading down again
    • 6.05 pm - Cycled back to the hotel (under 15 minutes)
    • Had dinner at La Wun Aung restaurant nearby the hotel I stayed - Pickled tea leaf rice (1,700 kyat)
    • 8.30 pm - Return to the hotel

    The not-so-busy Hsipaw township
    Crossing the bridge over the Myitnge river that courses through Hsipaw
    Watching the sunset from Sunset Hill, Hsipaw

    Full day trek to the Hsipaw countryside
    • 7.30 am - Wake up
    • Breakfast at the hotel - Shan noodles with eggs, toast & coffee (included in the room rate)
    • 9.00 am - Begin trek to the Hsipaw countryside. Didn't purchase any tours and decided to do the trek myself
    • Walked from Hsipaw to the surrounding countryside (under 15 minutes). There's a shortcut you can take from the town into the surrounding countryside, it's located at the large receiving tower, near the train tracks
    • 9.30 am - 10.00 am - Walked the trail that runs across the rice fields from Hsipaw to Naloy, a small Shan village nearby. You will know it's Naloy if you can see a couple of cemeteries and a monastery there
    • Had a light snack at a roadside stall there - Barbequed spiced tofu (400 kyat)
    • 11.00 am - 12.00 pm - Visited the hot spring nearby the village. It wasn't really much, just a dammed up spot on the side of the river, but it was quite popular with the locals

    Began my trek to the countryside at the crack of dawn
    Taking the shortcut to the Hsipaw countryside
    Going on the path less traveled... okay I admit, I got lost
    Scenery on the way from Hsipaw to Naloy, a Shan village nearby
    Just farmers going about their business in Naloy village
    Having spiced tofu at this roadside stall here in Naloy. Language was a bit of barrier, but somehow we got on pretty well 
    Taking a dip in the hotspring near Naloy village, which as you can see, is quite popular with the locals

    Full day trek to the Hsipaw countryside (continued)
    • 12.30 pm - 2.30 pm - After the hotspring, I backtracked to Naloy village and walked up the path going uphill, heading in the direction of Pankam village (didn't go all the way as it's supposedly quite far away, about 4-5 hours in either direction). Halfway up the path, there are some really nice views of the surrounding countryside. Continued on this path until I came to another Shan village in the hills before turning back again
    • 3.00 pm - Back in Naloy village yet again. Crossed the cemetery and walked to Nam Hu Nwe waterfall (under 40 minutes). It's not that hard to find, you can pretty much spot the waterfall from afar once you're past the cemetery area
    • 4.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Chilled around at Nam Hu Nwe waterfall before heading back to Hsipaw

    Continuing my trek up this road, that supposedly leads to Pankam village
    View of the Hsipaw countryside up the road, shame about the weather though
    Some Shan village houses I passed on the way
    Passing the cemetery on the way to Nam Hu Nwe waterfall
    View of the countryside beyond the hill past the cemetery. You could almost spot the waterfall from over here
    Almost 30 minutes of walking and we're almost at the waterfall. There's still a bit of a climb before you reach it though
    Spotted some small cascading falls on the way to the waterfall
    Nam Hu Nwe waterfall in its full glory
    All the water from Nam Hu Nwe trickles down into this pool

    Back in Hsipaw
    • 6.00 pm - Back in Hsipaw. Had some refreshments at Yuan Yuan Mr. Shake stall - Yogurt fruit shake (1,000 kyat). Highly reviewed on Tripadvisor and therefore, a very popular hangout spot for backpackers
    • Dinner at San Restaurant - Chicken barbeque (3,000 kyat), french fries (1,500 kyat) & milk tea (500 kyat)
    • 8.30 pm - Return to hotel. Went to reception and booked my ticket for the 4.30pm bus (Golden Shuttle) departing the next day for Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) - $13

    Sightseeing around Hsipaw
    • 7.00 am - Wake up
    • Breakfast at the hotel - Shan noodles with eggs, toast & coffee (included in the room rate)
    • Rented a bicycle from the hotel - 1,000 kyat (for half day use)
    • 9.00 am - Cycled to Hsipaw Central Market to do some sightseeing and shopping
    • 11.00 am - 2.00 pm - Cycling tour of Hsipaw. Visited the following points of interest around Hsipaw:
    • Shan Palace. Just external viewing as it was closed on that day unfortunately
    • Little Bagan. A small area with several Bagan-like stupas
    • Bamboo Buddha monastery. Located just opposite Little Bagan, housing a gilded Buddha image made out of bamboo 
    • 2.30 pm - Back at the hostel. Rested a while before packing up and check-out from the hostel. 
    • Left my backpack at reception and went for lunch at the row of shops nearby. Had some steamed dumplings (1,100 kyat) for lunch and another fruit shake (1,000 kyat) at Yuan Yuan

    Doing some shopping and sightseeing in Hsipaw Central Market
    Crossing this bridge to get to the northern part of town
    Little Bagan, Hsipaw
    Bamboo Buddha monastery, located directly opposite of Little Bagan
    The Bamboo Buddha image housed inside the monastery
    Bumped into some kids returning home after school
    Having some steamed dumplings for lunch. The lady became very fascinated when I told her where I was from. I guess she doesn't see too many Malaysians around here that often

    Hsipaw to Inle Lake
    • 4.00 pm - Walked from the hotel to RC bus station, located along the Lashio-Mandalay road (under 15 minutes)
    • 4.30 pm - Board the bus (Golden Shuttle) bound for Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake). Was given a toiletry set and drinking water. The seats were quite cramped, fortunately there were plenty of empty seats on the bus, which I eventually switched over to
    • 5.30 pm - Dinner stop at Kyaukme. Had mixed rice for dinner (2,500 kyat)

    The Lashio-Mandalay road
    RC bus station in Hsipaw, not really sure what RC stands for 
    Boarding the bus to Inle Lake

    Arrival in Inle Lake
    • 3.30 am - Short stopover in Kalaw to drop some passengers off. This is where most travelers usually begin their Kalaw-Inle trek. While it was my intention to do the trek initially, I dropped the idea back in Hsipaw when I found out that the weather over the next few days wasn't going to be very favorable 
    • 5.15 am - Arrival in Shwenyaung (dropped off at the junction about 10km going into Nyaung Shwe). Started fearing the worst as I have heard accounts of travelers being stranded here and being forced to take an expensive taxi for the rest of the way. Fortunately, this wasn't the case when a few locals ushered me to another spot on the road where I rode another pickup to Nyaung Shwe (free of charge)
    • There's a ticket checkpoint halfway to Nyaung Shwe, fortunately since I could almost pass for a local and the fact that I was seated in the far back of the pickup, I wasn't asked to pay the Inle Lake zone fee ($10) :D
    • 5.45 am - Arrival in Nyaung Shwe (dropped off at Mingalar Market). Walked from the market to my accommodation in Inle Lake (under 20 minutes)
    • 6.05 am - Checked-in to Song of Travel Hostel - $11 per night. Staying for 2 nights (total cost - $22). Highly recommended, this is bar none the best hostel I've stayed in Myanmar. I found it to be very social, making it very easy to form groups for daytrips, and even if you couldn't find friends, the hostel helps arrange boat trips to Inle lake daily. This and the hostel's other offerings, including sleeping pods for added privacy, free flow coffee & tea and free bicycle rentals, more than makes up for the lack of wifi in the hostel
    • 6.30 am - 7.30 am - Since it was still early, I went up to the hostel's rooftop to watch the beautiful sunrise

    Arriving in Nyaung Shwe early in the morning
    Song of Travel Hostel in Nyaung Shwe
    Admiring the brilliant sunrise from the hostel's rooftop

    Day trip to Inle Lake by boat
    • As my room wasn't ready yet, I decided to leave my backpack at the reception, and go on a full day trip to Inle Lake by boat (arranged by the hostel) - 6,000 kyat (includes free pickup by tuk tuk to the jetty)
    • 9.00 am - 2.00 pm - Begin tour around Inle Lake, visiting the following places by boat:
    • Ywama. The first village we visited, very famous for silver and gold smithing
    • Hpaung Daw U pagoda. The largest temple in Inle Lake, that is worth a couple of minutes of your time. There's also a camera fee (1,000 kyat) and a dress code to enter but not that strictly enforced. Other than that, there's also a market here where you can shop and bargain to your heart's content 
    • Nampan. The second village we visited, where we taken around to visit various stilt houses of different shapes and sizes in the area. Also famous for boat making and cheroot cigar making
    • Inn Paw Khone. Third village we visited, very famous for lotus silk weaving
    • Lunch at a floating restaurant nearby Inn Paw Khone (not sure what the name was) - Seafood fried rice (4,000 kyat) & coffee (1,000 kyat)

    Short briefing before heading out for our Inle lake trip
    A short trip by tuk tuk to the jetty, and off we go!
    Streaks of god rays fill the landscape
    Just an Inle lake fisherman doing his thing
    Silversmiths hard at work in Ywama, the first village we visited
    Foxtails, foxtails everywhere
    The main canal we navigated to get to Hpaung Daw U
    Approaching Hpaung Daw U, the largest temple in Inle lake
    Inside Hpaung Daw U temple
    One of many stilt houses in Nampan
    A karaweik building dock in Nampan
    Cheroot cigar making in Nampan
    The lady is showing how to extract lotus silk, which is what Inn Paw Khone is famous for
    The extracted lotus silk are then woven into fine fabrics, which cost a bomb. 100 over dollars for a scarf, are you kidding me?!

    Day trip to Inle Lake by boat (continued)
    • 3.00 pm - 6.00 pm - Continue tour around Inle Lake, visiting more places on the way:
    • Thaung Tho. The final village we visited before returning to Nyaung Shwe. As it's located further down south of the lake, it took a lot longer to get here than most villages. Therefore, due to time constraints, we chose this over Indein as it was the least touristy of the two. Fortunately, there were plenty to see in Thaung Tho, I climbed up the pagoda on the hill to get a good view of the surrounding plains
    • Floating gardens. Stopped by this incredibly picturesque area surrounded by floating vegetation on the way back. Stayed around until sunset before finally heading back to Nyaung Shwe

    Beautiful views from Thaung Tho
    Heading over to the floating gardens
    The sunset gave the floating gardens a heavenly glow
    An Inle lake fisherman casts his final net as the sun sets over the horizon

    Back in Nyaung Shwe
    • 6.30 pm - Back in Nyaung Shwe. Took the free tuktuk pickup (included in the tour) going back to the hostel and hopped off midway at Mingalar market
    • Had dinner at Aung Shwe restaurant (near Mingalar market) - Shan soup noodles (1,500 kyat), banana chocolate paladar (1,500 kyat) & Myanmar beer (1,500 kyat)
    • 7.30 pm - Walked back to the hostel (under 20 minutes)

    • 6.30 am - Wake up
    • Breakfast at the hostel - Eggs, toast & coffee (included in the room rate)
    • 7.30 am - 8.30 am - Since it was still early in the day, I went to watch a small alms-giving procession in the neighborhood nearby the hostel

    Alms-giving procession in the neighborhood nearby

    Cycling tour around Inle Lake
    • Rented a bicycle from the hostel (free of charge). Went cycling with the same group as yesterday, so we waited around in the lobby until everyone was ready to move
    • 10.00 am - 2.30 pm - Begin cycling from the hostel heading to Khaung Daing, located roughly 12km southwest of Nyaung Shwe. Cycling around isn't too difficult as the terrain is fairly flat. Visited the following points of interest along the way:
    • Ywa Thit monastery. The first place we stopped at. During that time, there was an interesting ceremony going on, so we stayed on to watch the ceremony until its conclusion before continuing on again
    • Paung Pine pagoda. A small pagoda located on a hill, at the intersection of roads connecting Nyaung Shwe and Khaung Daing. You have to climb a bit of stairs to get to the top (under 10 minutes), but you'll be rewarded with amazing views of the countryside
    • Khaung Daing hotsprings. Didn't enter as it costs $10 per entry. However, there's a viewpoint nearby the hotsprings with incredible views of Inle Lake from the top. There are some stairs you can climb to get to the top, it's not a very long climb (under 10 minutes) and entrance is free
    • Lunch at Shwe Inn Thu restaurant (next to Khaung Daing hotsprings) - Sweet & sour pork with rice (3,500 kyat)

    Cycling through the town of Nyaung Shwe 
    The first few kilometers of road on the way to Khaung Daing is flanked on both sides by trees, which makes for excellent shade against the sun
    Candid shot of the western mountain range
    Ywa Thit monastery, near Nyaung Shwe
    Initially planned for a short stopover at Ywa Thit, and ended up spending almost an hour here watching the local ceremony that was going on
    Climbing the stairs to Paung Pine pagoda, which is located at the top of a small hill, just off the road at the turn-in towards Khaung Daing
    Stopped for some afternoon tea with the locals here at Paung Pine pagoda
    Jaw-dropping views of the countryside from Paung Pine pagoda
    A few more kilometers down the road from Paung Pine is another viewpoint, located directly opposite Khaung Daing hotsprings, accessible by the stairs pictured above
    Amazing views of Inle lake and the surrounding countryside from the viewpoint near Khaung Daing hotsprings

    Cycling tour around Inle Lake (continued)
    • 3.00 pm - Continued on to Khaung Daing (under 10 minutes). On the way, there will be a few locals who will wave you down, and ask if you want to charter a boat across the lake to Maing Thauk. Have been quoted anywhere from 9,000 to 10,000 kyat per boat, but fortunately you can find better bargains further down the road
    • From there, we chartered a boat to take us from Khaung Daing across the lake to Maing Thauk (under 20 minutes) for 7,000 kyat. Shared the cost with 3 other people, so each only had to pay 1,750 kyat 
    • 3.30 pm - 4.30 pm - Arrive in Maing Thauk. Spent some time walking around and photographing the place as the scenery here was amazing!
    • The return journey from Maing Thauk back to Nyaung Shwe is only about 10km, but we decided to stopover at Red Mountain Estate vineyard to watch the sunset and then head over to Bamboo Hut restaurant for dinner
    • 4.40 pm - Continue cycling from Maing Thauk to Red Mountain Estate vineyard (under 40 minutes)
    • 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm - Arrival and sunset viewing in Red Mountain Estate vineyard. There's no entrance fee, and you're free to walk around the vineyards. However, upon entering the alfresco dining area, you're expected to pay for a wine sampling set in order to be seated
    • Dinner at Bamboo Hut restaurant nearby for dinner - Water cress with chili fish (2,500 kyat) & Myanmar beer (2,500 kyat
    • 7.45 pm - Cycled back to the hostel (under 20 minutes)
    • Back at the hostel, I booked my ticket for the 5.30pm bus (Golden Shuttle) departing for Bago the next day - $11 (inclusive of pickup to the bus station)

    At Khaung Daing village, where we're waiting for the boatman to bring a boat around to ferry us across the lake to Maing Thauk
    Crossing the lake to Maing Thauk
    Passed by some beautiful floating gardens on the way to Maing Thauk
    Arriving in Maing Thauk. The scenery around was incredibly dreamlike due to the perfect weather we were having that day
    Walking along the long wooden bridge that connects parts of Maing Thauk to the mainland
    Entrance to the Red Moutain Estate vineyard
    Admiring the sunset over a glass of wine

    Sightseeing around Nyaung Shwe
    • 7.30 am - Wake up. Pack up and check-out from the hostel.
    • Breakfast at the hostel - Eggs, toast & tea (included in the room rate)
    • Left my backpack at reception, and rented a bicycle from the hostel (free of charge)
    • 9.00 am - 2.00 pm - Cycling tour around Nyaung Shwe, visiting several places enroute:
    • Mingalar market. Best visited in the morning during its busiest.
    • Yadana Man Aung Paya. Oldest and most important pagoda in Nyaung Shwe. Wasn't asked to pay an entrance fee. 
    • Kyauk Phyu Gyi. A temple housing a large Buddha image, located just on the outskirts of town
    • 3.00 pm - Lunch at Shwe Myanmar on the way back to the hostel - Fried rice with chicken & vegetables (2,500 kyat) & banana pancake (1,500 kyat)
    • 4.00 pm - Return to the hostel to retrieve my backpack from reception. Relaxed in the lobby while waiting for my pickup to the bus station

    Early morning in Mingalar market, Nyaung Shwe
    Yadana Man Aung Paya, the oldest pagoda in Nyaung Shwe
    Nyaung Shwe's jetty and main waterway to Inle lake
    Kyauk Phyu Gyi, just on the outskirts of Nyaung Shwe
    Cycling around the countryside surrounding Nyaung Shwe

    Inle Lake to Bago
    • 5.15 pm - Pickup from the hostel to the bus station (under 10 minutes)
    • 5.45 pm - Board bus (Golden Shuttle) departing for Bago
    • 7.50 pm - Dinner stop near Kalaw - Fried noodles with egg (1,500 kyat)

    Waiting for my bus to Bago

    Arrival in Bago
    • 4.15 am - Arrive in Bago (dropped off in town, near San Francisco Guesthouse and the train station). It was pouring at the time, so I waited out the rain at a coffee shop nearby
    • Breakfast at the coffee shop - Samosa & tea (500 kyat)
    • Some locals approached me in the coffee shop and asked if I wanted to buy bus tickets to Kyaiktiyo and Hpa-An. Was quoted 7,000 kyat for the bus to Kyaiktiyo/Kinpun and 10,000 kyat to Hpa-An. Have to admit I was very skeptical of the pricing, and I knew I could get slightly better prices at the Bago bus station (located about 15 minutes walk away from where I was). However, since it was raining heavily at the time, I decided to haggle the price as best as I could
    • Purchased a ticket for the 6am minibus departing from Bago to Kyaiktiyo - 5,000 kyat (the pickup will be from the coffee shop I had my breakfast at, so I didn't have to walk all the way to the bus station)

    Bago to Kyaiktiyo to Kinpun
    • 6.20 am - Pickup by minibus from Bago to Kyaiktiyo
    • 8.50 am - Arrival in Kyaiktiyo (dropped off at the bus stop opposite Kyaiktiyo market). Went to a shop next to the bus stop and purchased a ticket for the bus to Hpa-An later at 2pm - 3,000 kyat
    • To get to Golden Rock from Kyaiktiyo, I needed to get to Kinpun first. Spotted a few pickups parked on the roadside near Kyaiktiyo market, heading to Kinpun. They only leave when full, but fortunately there was one that was almost ready to leave
    • 9.10 am - Ride one of the pickups from Kyaiktiyo to Kinpun - 500 kyat

    Arriving in the town of Kyaiktiyo
    The 'Welcome to Kyaiktiyo' arch upon arriving in Kinpun
    You can take pickups from Kyaiktiyo to Kinpun and vice versa for only 500 kyats each way

    Arrival in Kinpun & Getting to Golden Rock
    • 9.30 am - Arrive in Kinpun (dropped off in front of Sea Sar restaurant). Walked to the truck station nearby (under 5 minutes)
    • 9.45 am - Ride a shared truck to Golden Rock, located at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo - 2,500 kyat (one way). The truck ride navigates a steep and windy road on the way to the mountaintop, and can be both an exhilarating and terrifying experience at the same time

    Kinpun village, and base camp for Mount Kyaiktiyo
    Walking to the truck stop in Kinpun where you can take a shared truck to the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo and Golden Rock
    Waiting to be assigned a seat on one of the shared trucks going up Mount Kyaiktiyo
    The ride to the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo is not for the faint of heart. Tight corners, steep slopes, and I could've sworn that the driver was just purposely trying to throw us off the truck with his driving
    That look of fear in the boy's eyes as the truck ascended Mount Kyaiktiyo says it all. The lady in the picture actually vomited in the truck a few times 

    In & Around Golden Rock
    • 10.15 am - Arrive at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo (dropped off at the last truck stop). Walked from the truck stop to Golden Rock (under 15 minutes). Paid the entrance fee - 6,000 kyat
    • 10.30 am - 12.15 pm - Sightseeing and photo ops around Golden Rock. There's quite a fair bit to see here besides the Golden Rock as there's a large plaza around it with plenty of eateries, shops and accommodation

    Once at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, it's a short walk from the truck stop to Golden Rock 
    The plaza area around Golden Rock
    Golden Rock from a distance. The weather was fine in this shot, but started to rain heavily afterwards
    Golden Rock upclose

    Kinpun to Kyaiktiyo to Hpa-An
    • 12.15 pm - Walked back to the truck stop (under 15 minutes). Ride another shared truck back down to Kinpun - 2,500 kyat (one way)
    • 1.00 pm - Back in Kinpun. Quick lunch at Sea Sar Restaurant - Chicken curry & rice (1,800 kyat)
    • 1.30 pm - Ride a pickup back to Kyaiktiyo - 500 kyat
    • 1.50 pm - Back in Kyaiktiyo (dropped off at the bus stop opposite Kyaiktiyo market). Was told by the bus company that my bus to Hpa-An will be late by an hour, so I did some sightseeing around Kyaiktiyo in the meantime 
    • 3.00 pm - Board the bus heading to Hpa-An

    Back in Kyaiktiyo, and taking the bus onwards to Hpa-An
    Do as the locals do they said, it'll be fun they said. Hope they didn't mean not getting a seat on a very packed bus

    Arrival in Hpa-An
    • 6.00 pm - Arrival in Hpa-An (dropped off near the clock tower)
    • Walked around town in search for a place to stay. Tried asking at Soe Brothers Guesthouse (seemingly the most popular option in town), but it was fully booked for the night unfortunately, and so were many of the good options in Hpa-An. Not surprising as I arrived late in the evening and I couldn't book beforehand, many of them are not listed online and it doesn't matter if you try to book by phone, they only entertain walk-in customers
    • Settled for Hintha Guesthouse nearby - 6,000 kyat per night. Stayed for 1 night just to rough it out. The guesthouse was kinda terrible, it's very rundown and there's only one bathroom and no hot shower or wifi. Fortunately for me, the room I got was kinda decent
    • Went to the nearby Soe Brothers Guesthouse to sign up for a day tour around Hpa-An the next day - 6,000 kyat (shared the cost of a thoun bein with 4 other people). Alternatively, if you know your way around and want to do the tour yourself, there's a shop nearby Soe Brothers that rents out motorcycles for 6,000 kyat per day
    • 8.00 pm - Dinner at Lucky 1 Restaurant nearby - Steamed rice with chicken (2,000 kyat)
    • 9.00 pm - 10.00 pm - Walked around town for a bit, before returning to the guesthouse. The town is pretty much 'dead' after 10pm or so

    Arriving in Hpa-An
    Hintha Guesthouse, the only guesthouse in Hpa-An that nobody wants to stay in unless they really had no choice
    The guesthouse was the worst I've stayed throughout my entire trip but fortunately, the room I got was almost decent, almost!

    • 7.00 am - Wake up
    • Extended stay at Hintha guesthouse (+1 night for 6,000 kyat)
    • Breakfast at a small shop nearby (opposite Parami Hotel) - Fried noodles with egg & coffee (1,800 kyat)
    • 8.00 am - Went to Soe Brothers Guesthouse to join the day tour around Hpa-An. While waiting, I purchased a ticket for the 1pm bus departing for Yangon the next day - 5,300 kyat 

    Morning in Hpa-An
    Getting ready to go on our day trip around Hpa-An, arranged by Soe Brothers

    Tour around Hpa-An
    • 8.30 am - 1.00 pm - Begin full day tour around Hpa-An. Visited the following points of interest around Hpa-An:
    • Yathaypyan cave. The first place we visited, very beautiful cave with lots of Buddha images. The cave is quite large, and you can walk all the way (under 10 minutes) to the other end of the cave, where there's a viewpoint opening out to the countryside. Entrance is free
    • Kawgun cave. Next stop after Yathaypyan Cave. It wasn't really a cave, more like a grotto with beautiful carvings on the walls and ceilings that are said to be millennia old. There's also some stairs near the entrance, where you can climb (under 15 minutes) to a viewpoint with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. There's an entrance fee of 3,000 kyat to enter
    • Kyauk Kalap monastery. A monastery perched on a tall, finger-shaped rock, and is one of the main landmarks of Hpa-An
    • Lumbini Garden. The main draw to this place are the hundreds of Buddha images laid out in the garden. Moreover, this place is also one of two starting points if you intend to climb Mount Zwegabin
    • 1.10 pm - Lunch at a restaurant nearby - Fried rice & soft drink (2,000 kyat). There's a natural spring nearby the restaurant where you can go for a swim if you wish.

    Yathaypyan cave, the first place we visited on our day trip around Hpa-An
    Daylight shines through an opening in the cave ceiling, illuminating the shrine inside Yathaypyan
    The opening on the other end of the Yathaypyan cave
    Kawgun Cave, Hpa-An
    Ornate wall and ceiling carvings over a millennia old at Kawgun Cave, Hpa-An
    Climbing to the viewpoint near Kawgun cave
    Sweeping views of the countryside from the viewpoint at Kawgun cave
    Kyauk Kalap monastery, with Mount Zwegabin in the backdrop
    An afternoon with hundreds of Buddha images in Lumbini Garden

    Tour around Hpa-An (continued)
    • 2.00 pm - 6.00 pm - After lunch, we continued the full day tour around Hpa-An. Visited more points of interest around Hpa-An:
    • Saddan cave. Our next stop after lunch, and the largest cave in Hpa-An. There's an entrance fee of 1,000 kyat to enter. Walked through the beautifully lit cave, all the way to the other end (takes about 20-30 minutes), where there's a picturesque lake surrounded by cliffs on many sides. Took a boat back to the entrance for 6,000 kyat (shared the cost with 3 other people, so each had to pay only 1,500 kyat). On the way back, we passed by a very beautiful countryside, so there's an added incentive in choosing the boat route instead of retracing your steps through the cave again
    • Kawt Ka Taung cave. The last stop of our tour, and was the least interesting cave in my opinion. There's a really nice viewpoint nearby where you can climb to the top (under 20 minutes) for some impressive views of the surrounding area

    Our thoun bein got stuck in the mud on the way to Saddan Cave
    Saddan Cave from afar
    Exploring the caverns of Saddan cave. As with the other caves in Hpa-An, you're not allowed to wear footwear inside the cave, so watch out for bat poo
    A huge, beautiful cavern at the end of Saddan cave
    The picturesque lake at the other end of Saddan cave. From here back to the entrance, you have two choices, walk back using the same way you came or take a boat ride back. Here's a tip, do the boat ride
    The boat ride navigates the narrow waterways that provides irrigation to the surrounding rice fields
    So glad I chose the boat ride, it's so beautiful out here
    This beautiful sunset on the way out of Saddan cave
    My favorite moment in Hpa-An. Stopped at this beautiful rice field near Ein Du village on the way to Kawt Ka Taung cave
    The almost homely interiors of Kawt Ka Taung cave
    Stairs to the viewpoint near Kawt Ka Taung cave
    Kawt Ka Taung was a bit of an anti-climatic end to our day trip, but fortunately it was just icing on the cake

    Back in Hpa-An
    • 6.30 pm - Back in Hpa-An (dropped off at Soe Brothers Guesthouse)
    • 8.00 pm - Dinner at San Ma Tau restaurant with the same group I went on tour today - Chicken with potato (1,500 kyat) & rice (500 kyat) & soft drink (700 kyat)
    • 10.00 pm - Hung around at the restaurant for a bit before returning to the guesthouse

    Half-day trip to Hpan Pu Mountain
    • 7.00 am - Wake up
    • 7.30 am - Walked from the guesthouse to Shwe Yin Myaw pagoda (under 15 minutes). There's a small jetty next to it, where you can take a small boat across the river to Hpan Pu village. These small boats ferry locals across frequently, but they only leave when full. Just ask around to know which one is going to Hpan Pu and get on
    • 8.15 am - Took a boat across the river to Hpan Pu village (under 5 minutes) - 500 kyat
    • Upon arrival in the village, I walked around to try and find out if there were any paths that could lead me to the top of Hpan Pu mountain. There's a staircase leading up to the top but it's not immediately accessible from this side (facing the village), so you need to walk around the other side of the mountain (under 20 minutes) to get to the staircase (the one with a small white arch, you'll know it when you see it)
    • 8.35 am - Begin ascending to the top of Hpan Pu mountain (under 25 minutes). Not too hard, and fortunately not that long of a climb either
    • 9.00 am - 9.30 am - Photo stop at the top of Hpan Pu mountain. This was the highest point I could reach, and while it's possible to climb all the way to the very top, I don't think it's very safe and shouldn't be attempted if you're alone
    • 9.30 am - Begin descending down the mountain and walked back to the village (under 30 minutes)
    • 10.00 am - Back in the village. Took another boat across the river back to Hpa-An - 500 kyat

    Shwe Yin Myaw pagoda, Hpa-An
    The small jetty near Shwe Yin Myaw pagoda, where you can take a boat across the river to Hpan Pu
    Playing hide and seek with a local girl to pass the time on the boat
    Some kids playing near the river over at Hpan Pu
    The towering Hpan Pu mountain can be seen wherever you go around here
    After locating the staircase to the top of Hpan Pu mountain, it was another easy 20-30 minutes climb to the top
    The highest point of Hpan Pu mountain that I could reach. While it's possible to climb the last hundred meters or so to the very top, the path doesn't seem very safe and I decided not to risk it
    Views of Hpa-An town and Mount Zwegabin from Hpan Pu's summit
    Views of the Thanlyin river and the surrounding countryside on the opposite end

    Hpa-An to Yangon
    • 10.10 am - Back in Hpa-An. Did a bit of sightseeing around Hpa-An market and town area on the way back to the guesthouse
    • Lunch at Shwe Htone Maung cafe nearby the clock tower - Thai chicken rice & tea (1,800 kyat)
    • 12.00 pm - Return to the guesthouse to pack up and check-out
    • 12.30 pm - Walked from the guesthouse to the bus stop near the clock tower (under 5 minutes)
    • Had coffee at New Day cafe while waiting for the bus - Cafe latte & black forest cake (1,900 kyat)
    • 1.30 pm - Board the bus departing for Yangon

    Back in Hpa-An town. Golden Sky guesthouse seen here is quite a good alternative to Soe Brothers
    Wandering around Hpa-An market
    A row of thoun beins parked along the road at Hpa-An
    Taking the bus back to Yangon. Farewell Hpa-An, I've had a good time!

    Arrival in Yangon & Hostel check-in
    • 8.30 pm - Arrive in Yangon (dropped off in Aung Mingalar bus station)
    • Took a taxi from Aung Mingalar bus station to downtown Yangon for 8,000 kyat. Shared the cost with 3 other people, so each had to pay only 2,000 kyat. Alternatively, it's also possible to take the local bus to downtown Yangon as they're still running at this hour, but may not be worth the hassle when you think about it
    • 9.30 pm - Arrive in downtown Yangon (dropped off near Sule pagoda). Walked from the downtown area to my accommodation in Yangon (under 10 minutes)
    • Check-in to Backpacker Myanmar Hostel - $10 per night. Staying for 2 nights (total cost - $20). Decent enough hostel for a night or two, kinda like it for its sleeping pods and its close proximity to the train station
    • 10.30 pm - Walked down to roadside stalls along Pansodan street nearby to have supper - Mixed rice with fried chicken & egg (1,600 kyat)
    • 11.15 pm - Return to hostel

    Back in Yangon after two weeks of exploring Myanmar
    Stayed at Backpacker Myanmar Hostel for my last few days in Myanmar
    Having supper at a roadside stall in Pansodan street, nearby the hostel I stayed

    Half-day tour around Yangon by circular train
    • 8.30 am - Wake up
    • Breakfast at the hostel - Sweet roll & tea (included in the room rate)
    • Previously, before heading off to explore Myanmar for about two weeks, I did a walking tour covering the sights around Sule Pagoda and Strand Road. Wanted to do something a little different today, and decided to explore the city by circular train
    • 9.30 am - Walked from the hostel to Yangon Central Railway Station (under 10 minutes)
    • 9.45 am - Board a circular train going in the clockwise direction - 300 kyat for the newer, air-conditioned trains, and 200 kyat for non-AC trains. Keep your ticket with you as it will be checked from time to time. Curiously, I noticed that you can hop on and off at different stations and still use the same ticket, meaning you don't need to pay for an additional ticket to get on another train
    • 10.25 am - Hopped off at Insein station. From here, it's about a 10 minute walk to Insein market
    • 10.35 am - 12.00 pm - Walking tour of Insein market, with a photo stop at Insein Prison, the largest prison in Myanmar (only external viewing as tourists aren't allowed in)
    • Lunch at Kyaung Kyaik Yatha restaurant in Insein market - Chicken biryani (2,400 kyat)
    • 12.15 pm - Walked from the market back to Insein station (under 10 minutes)
    • 12.30 pm - Board another circular train (non-AC) going in the clockwise direction
    • Enroute from here, the scenery shifts dramatically from an urban landscape to the suburbs and countryside. All in all, I felt Danyingon station was the most interesting stop along the circular train route, as it passes through a bustling market and the sight of locals boarding and loading every inch of the train with goods and fresh produce is one not to be missed
    • 2.20 pm - Hopped off at Ma Hlwakone station. Walked from the station to Kandawgyi lake (under 30 minutes)

    Morning in Pansodan street, Yangon
    Walking to Yangon Central Railway Station from the hostel
    Waiting for the circular train in Yangon Central Railway Station. Before getting on the train, you need to buy a ticket at the ticketing counters here
    Inside the circular train. This one is the newer, air-conditioned train which costs slightly more than a non-AC one
    Hopped off at Insein for sightseeing
    Sights and sounds of Insein market
    Insein prison, the largest in Myanmar. You can't enter here, I've already tried
    Taking the circular train from Insein onwards, where that the scenery starts changing to a much more appreciable green countryside
    The busy local market at Danyingon, where the train ride actually gets interesting. Here, locals start piling every inch of the train with goods and produce to be transported to the next station
    Taking the circular train was one of the best local experiences I've ever had in Yangon, I highly recommend it
    My final stop at Ma Hlwakone station

    Kandawgyi Lake
    • 2.50 pm - Arrive at Kandawgyi lake (entered via Kandawgyi Nature Park at the east entrance). Paid the entrance fee for the Kandawgyi Nature Park - 300 kyat
    • 3.00 pm - 4.00 pm - Photo walk around Kandawgyi Nature Park. Wasn't that interesting to be honest, there's a few interesting sights (such as the Karaweik Palace), some restaurants and cafes in the area, but not much else.
    • 4.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Walked along the boardwalk to the west entrance of the lake. Wasn't asked to pay the entrance fee to use the boardwalk (2,000 kyat). However, I did find out out later that there's no longer an entrance fee to use the boardwalk

    The tranquil waters of Kandawgyi lake, seen from Kandawgyi Nature Park
    Walking along the boardwalk to the western entrance of Kandawgyi lake. The karaweik can clearly be seen from here
    Shwedagon Pagoda, which can be seen from Kandawgyi lake, is where I'm headed next

    Shwedagon Pagoda
    • 5.00 pm - Walked from Kandawgyi lake's west entrance to Shwedagon pagoda (under 20 minutes)
    • 5.20 pm - Arrive at Shwedagon Pagoda (entered here via the south gate). Paid the admission fee to enter the pagoda - 8,000 kyat. Despite being the holiest site in Myanmar, the enforcement of dress code here is rather lenient compared to Mahamuni Temple in Mandalay
    • 5.30 pm - 7.30 pm - Did some sightseeing around Shwedagon Pagoda and stayed around until after sunset. There's plenty to see here other than the main stupa, so it's advisable to set aside a few hours to see this place in its entirety

    Shwedagon pagoda is incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, it's not uncommon to see the whole place being swamped by visitors just before sunset
    The golden stupa of Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest site in Myanmar

    19th Street (Chinatown)
    • 7.30 pm - Exit Shwedagon Pagoda (via the south gate) and walked to 19th Street in Yangon's chinatown area (under 45 minutes)
    • Spotted a few buses going down the road between Shwedagon and the downtown area but they didn't seem to stop for me when I tried to hail them. Anyhow, I quite enjoyed the walk, it wasn't too tiring as it was all downhill and I get to stop by at Nawaday street enroute, which had a vibrant cafe culture and is another blip on Yangon's nightlife radar
    • 8.15 pm - Arrive at 19th Street. Had dinner at Shwe Mingalar restaurant - Barbeque (various types) & Myanmar beer (6,600 kyat)
    • 10.00 pm - Did some sightseeing around 19th Street for a bit before walking back to the hostel (under 30 minutes)

    Chinatown, Yangon
    Nightlife, barbeque and beer, you'll find it all in 19th Street

    Bogyoke Market
    • 10.00 am - Wake up
    • Breakfast at the hostel - Sweet roll & tea (included in the room rate)
    • Pack up and check-out from the hostel. Left my backpack with the reception to do some last minute sightseeing around Yangon.
    • 11.00 am - Walked from the hostel to Bogyoke Market (under 15 minutes) to do some last minute shopping for souvenirs
    • 1.15 pm - Walked back to the hostel to collect my backpack (under 15 minutes). Rested in the lobby for a bit before heading out again

    Bogyoke market, a popular haunt for souvenir hunters in Yangon, is the building on the left in this picture
    Inside Bogyoke market

    Yangon downtown to Yangon International Airport 
    • 2.30 pm - Walked from the hostel to Maha Bandoola garden (under 20 minutes)
    • 2.55 pm - Ride bus #51 from the bus stop nearby Maha Bandoola garden (located at the intersection of Merchant road and 30th street) to Ten Mile market - 200 kyat
    • 4.15 pm - Hopped off at the turn-in to Yangon airport road, just before reaching Ten Mile market. From here, I walked to Yangon International Airport (under 15 minutes)
    • 4.30 pm - Arrive at Yangon International Airport. Changed all my remaining kyats back to dollars at the currency exchange 
    • 7.00 pm - Board flight (Air Asia) back to Kuala Lumpur

    Saying my final farewells and taking the local bus from Yangon downtown to the airport
    Back in Yangon International Airport

    How much?
    What for?
    MMK 83,500
    Accommodation in Hsipaw (2 nights)
    Accommodation in Nyaung Shwe, Inle Lake (2 nights)
    MMK 12,000
    Accommodation in Hpa-An (2 nights)
    Accommodation in Yangon (2 nights)

    MMK 89,050
    Ground Cost
    MMK 1,500
    Bicycle rental in Hsipaw (~1 day)
    Bus from Hsipaw to Nyaung Shwe, Inle Lake
    MMK 6,000
    Day trip around Inle Lake by boat
    MMK 1,750
    Boat charter from Khaung Daing to Maing Thauk
    Bus from Inle Lake to Bago
    MMK 5,000
    Minibus from Bago to Kyaiktiyo
    MMK 1,000
    Pickup from Kyaiktiyo to Kinpun (2 way)
    MMK 5,000
    Shared truck from Kinpun to Golden Rock (2 way)
    MMK 6,000
    Admission - Golden Rock
    MMK 3,000
    Bus from Kyaiktiyo to Hpa-An
    MMK 6,000
    Day trip around Hpa-An by thoun bein
    MMK 3,000
    Admission - Kawgun cave
    MMK 1,000
    Admission - Saddan cave
    MMK 1,500
    Boat charter from Saddan cave to entrance
    MMK 1,000
    Boat from Hpa-An to Hpan Pu (2 way)
    MMK 5,300
    Bus from Hpa-An to Yangon
    MMK 2,000
    Taxi from Aung Mingalar to downtown Yangon
    MMK 300
    Circular train around Yangon
    MMK 300
    Admission - Kandawgyi Nature Park
    MMK 8,000
    Admission - Shwedagon Pagoda
    MMK 200
    Local bus from downtown to Yangon airport

    MMK 64,600
    MMK 62,100
    Food & drinks
    MMK 2,500
    Miscellaneous (laundry)

    MMK 237,150

    How much did it cost me?

    • In local currency: MMK 237,150
    • Conversion rate (at the time): MYR 1 = MMK 295, $1 = MMK 1,300
    • After conversion: MYR 805 (for 11 days)


    1. This is such a fantastically detailed blog post, I'm so glad I found it. I'm hoping to see all of the places you've listed and visited, except in the reverse order. I was worried it would feel too rushed and would involve too many long journeys as I only have 16 days - did you feel like your trip was rushed at all or was it OK? Thanks again for your post!

      1. Hi Nicola,

        I'm guessing if you do it in this order (hpa an > golden rock > bago > inle lake > hsipaw > mandalay > bagan > yangon), 16 days should be sufficient

        I spent 18 days in total in Myanmar, and I wasted ~4 days in Yangon, I reckon that you can cut that down to 2 days only (Yangon can be safely skipped if you want to have more time in other places, however don't miss Shwedagon pagoda, that will only take half a day :))


    2. Hello! Thanks for sharing your journey in Myanmar. It is amazing! How is it like cycling after sunset? Is it safe and well lighted?

      1. Hi Mui Mui,

        Those times I cycled after dark in Hsipaw and Inle, the roads are actually quite dark. It's safe but I'd practice caution :)


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