Yangon, Bagan & Mandalay, Myanmar Itinerary (8 days)

This itinerary will cover the Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar over 8 days, and is the first part of my Myanmar backpacking trip. To fast forward to my next itinerary, please check out my 11 day itinerary for Hsipaw, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo and Hpa-An

Trip Summary

  • Trip length and when did I go? 8 days in January 2016
  • Places visited: Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay
  • How much did it cost me? MYR 1,170

At A Glance

  • Day 1 - Yangon to Bagan. Arrival in Yangon. Sightseeing tour around Yangon, visiting Sule pagoda, Maha Bandoola garden and Strand road for the whole day. Later in the evening, I took an overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan.
  • Day 2 - Bagan. Arrival in Bagan and stayed at Shwe Na Di guesthouse in Nyaung U. Went sightseeing around Nyaung U and Old Bagan for the whole day. Overnight in Bagan.
  • Day 3 - Bagan. Sightseeing around Old Bagan, Myinkaba and New Bagan for the whole day. Overnight in Bagan.
  • Day 4 Bagan to Mount Popa & back. Sightseeing around Nyaung U town area, visiting Mani-sithu market and a few small temples in the vicinity. Daytrip to Mt. Popa and Taungkalat monastery in the afternoon. Overnight in Bagan.
  • Day 5 Bagan to Mandalay. Check-out from the guesthouse and took a minibus from Bagan to Mandalay. Stayed at Acestar BnB Backpackers Hostel in Mandalay. In the afternoon, I went sightseeing around Mandalay Royal Palace and Mandalay hill. Overnight in Mandalay.
  • Day 6 - Mandalay to Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing & back. Day trip to Mahamuni temple, Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing. Overnight in Mandalay.
  • Day 7 - Mandalay to Mingun & back. Day trip to Mingun in the morning. Spent my afternoon walking around Mandalay, visiting the Thinga Yazar canal and Shwe In Bin Kyaung before heading back to the hostel. Overnight in Mandalay.
  • Day 8 - Mandalay to Hsipaw. Check-out from the hostel and took a train from Mandalay to Hsipaw.

Itinerary Map (click to view POIs and routes)

Travel Montage

Arrival & Getting to Yangon
  • 8.10 am - Arrival at Yangon international airport by flight (Air Asia) - RM341 (return)
  • Immigration clearance. To date, Myanmar is the only ASEAN country that doesn't offer visa free entry for Malaysians, therefore we are required to apply for a visa prior to arrival. You can check this website on how to apply for a Myanmar tourist visa in Malaysia. Made mine back in Malaysia prior to arriving here - RM141.80
  • Updated in June 2017: Myanmar tourist visas for Malaysians now cost RM223
  • Went to the currency exchange on my way out of the airport to convert some of the dollars I brought to kyats for my use later
  • Note: Money changers in Myanmar only accept notes in mint condition. However in my experience, some of my notes had slight imperfections and I was still able to trade them in with no problems at all. Remember to turn in only large denominations, preferably hundred dollar bills. Don't bother with anything else, as you will often get very lousy rates for lower denominations. A nifty trick I learnt was to pay for tours & transfers in dollars, then request to get your change back in kyats, I found the rates I got were very competitive
  • Cheapest cab ride to downtown Yangon I could find was 8,000 kyat. Since I was alone, I decided to take the local bus instead
  • 9.10 am - Walked from the airport to Ten Mile market (take a right after exiting the airport, then walk down the road for about 15 minutes until you reach an arch. Turn right after this and walk for another 100m until you come to the market
  • 9.30 am - Ride bus #51 from Ten Mile market to downtown Yangon - 200 kyat. It's worth noting that the bus may be hard to spot as most of the bus numbers are written in Burmese. A good tip would be to listen out or ask for 'Sule'

Arriving in Mandalay International Airport
Changing some money into kyats at the airport, before going off on my grand adventure around Myanmar. Wouldn't say this is the best place to get your kyats, but it's a start
Leaving Yangon International Airport. It'll be another two and a half weeks before I see this place again
After walking down the road from the airport, you will come to this arch. To get to Ten Mile market, you only need to turn right here and then walk another hundred meters or so
At Ten Mile market, where I took a local bus to downtown Yangon

In & Around Yangon
  • 11.00 am - Hop off at the bus stop near Sule pagoda, located at the intersection between Merchant road and 30th street (keep this place memorized as this is also where you can take a bus back to the airport)
  • Walked from the bus stop to Maha Bandoola garden (under 5 minutes)
  • 11.10 am - 12.00 pm - Begin walking tour of Yangon by walking around Maha Bandoola garden and visiting several points of interest nearby:
  • Independence Monument. Located inside Maha Bandoola garden, where admission is free
  • Sule Pagoda. One of the oldest pagodas in Myanmar, and also marks the city's center. Only did an external viewing as there's a 3,000 kyat entrance fee 
  • Yangon City Hall
  • Immanuel Baptist Church. One of the oldest churches in Yangon
  • Yangon High Court Building
  • Lunch at Lucky Star restaurant (next to the High Court Building) - Mohinga (2,000 kyat

Hopped off here, at the intersection between Merchant road and 30th street, within walking distance to Sule pagoda and Maha Bandoola garden. This is also where you can take a local bus to Ten Mile market, and then onwards to the airport
Maha Bandoola Garden, the Independence Monument (the white obelisk) and Yangon High Court Building (the red building with the clock tower on the left) in one shot
Sule Pagoda on the left, and Yangon City Hall on the right
Immanuel Baptist Church, one of the oldest churches in Yangon
Trying out mohinga, Myanmar's national dish. Tastes a bit like laksa but more pungent in taste

 In & Around Yangon (continued)
  • 1.00 pm - 2.00 pm - Continue walking tour of Yangon along Strand Road. Visited a few points of interest along this road:
  • The Strand Hotel. Holds the distinction for being the oldest hotel in Myanmar, and is one of the most famous hotels in the world
  • Myanma Port Authority Building
  • Yangon General Post Office
  • 2.00 pm - 3.00 pm - Continue walking tour by continuing northwards along Bo Aung Kyaw street. Visited more points of interests along the way:
  • Ministers' Building. A historical landmark with a terrible past, where Bogyoke Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi) was assassinated
  • St. Mary's Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Myanmar
  • 3.10 pm - Photo walk back to Sule pagoda (did this by continuing eastward along Bogyoke road, then south down Sule Pagoda road)
  • 4.00 pm - Back at Sule pagoda. Decided to hang around and relax in Maha Bandoola garden for a bit before heading out again 

The heavily congested Strand Road
Strand Hotel, the oldest hotel in Myanmar
Myanma Port Authority Building
Rear view of Yangon General Post Office
The Ministers' Building is just beyond this fence. Couldn't find a way in, so I guess it's off limits to visitors
St. Mary's Cathedral, the largest in Myanmar
Back in downtown Yangon
After long, tiring day of walking, spending a relaxing afternoon at Maha Bandoola garden didn't seem like a bad idea at all

 Yangon to Bagan
  • 4.45 pm - Walked from Maha Bandoola to the bus stop next to Sule Pagoda (under 5 minutes)
  • 5.00 pm - Ride bus #43 to Aung Mingalar bus station - 300 kyat. Admittedly, it can be a bit daunting trying to get on the right bus amid the chaos. Try to listen out for 'Mingalar', or ask around using the words 'Aung Mingalar a way pyay'
  • Note: There are alternatives you can take to get to Aung Mingalar bus station. One way is to take the Aung Mahar shared taxi (1,000 kyat) from the same bus stop near Sule Pagoda, keep in mind that they only leave for Aung Mingalar when full. Another way is to ride the circular train from Yangon train station (200 kyat) and hop off at Mingaladon station. From there, it's another 15 minute walk to Aung Mingalar
  • 6.20 pm - Hop off at Aung Mingalar bus station. Walked to JJ Express's branch (under 10 minutes). The place is huge and can get quite confusing, ask around for directions if you are unsure where to go
  • Purchased a one way ticket for the overnight bus (JJ Express) departing at 8pm for Bagan - $18. Advisable to pre-book your tickets at their website as same day tickets are difficult to come by
  • 8.00 pm - Board bus (JJ Express) bound for Bagan. Was given a box of confectioneries and drinks for the journey. Sleeping on the bus wasn't much of a problem as the lights are turned off throughout the journey and the seats had ample legroom. Even if you couldn't sleep, there's in-bus entertainment to keep you from feeling bored. By far the best bus service I took in Myanmar 
  • 11.00 pm - Dinner stop on the way - Burmese style fried rice with egg (500 kyat)

Taking a local bus to Aung Mingalar bus station
Waiting to board the bus that will be departing for Bagan

Arrival in Bagan & Getting to Nyaung U
  • 5.00 am - Arrive in Bagan (dropped off at Bagan bus station)
  • Several taxis and horse carts at the bus station have quoted me a fixed price of 5,000 kyat for a ride to Nyaung U/New Bagan and 7,000 kyat to Old Bagan. Felt this was a bit too expensive for me, so I decided to exit the bus station and catch a passing cab to Nyaung U - 2,000 kyat
  • 5.15 am - Passed by the ticket checkpoint enroute, curiously I wasn't asked to pay the Bagan zone fee ($20). Under normal circumstances, all tourists entering Bagan are required to pay a zone fee and will be given a ticket which must be kept at all times while in Bagan as it will be checked regularly. In my experience, the ticket checks are sporadic and not strictly enforced, so provided you're extremely cautious, you could probably get away not paying the zone fee at all
  • 5.30 am - Arrive in Nyaung U. Was dropped off at my accommodation, Shwe Na Di Guesthouse. Tried to get an early check-in but my room wasn't ready yet. In order to maximize my time in Bagan, I decided to do some exploring around Nyaung U in the meanwhile

Arriving at Bagan bus station, and the first thing you will notice is touts, touts everywhere. The fare they were charging to Nyaung U felt like a ripoff to me, but fortunately I had other alternatives
Shwe Na Di guesthouse, my accommodation in Nyaung U. Couldn't check in just yet, so I decided to rent a bicycle and do some touring first to maximize my time in Bagan

In & Around Nyaung U
  • Rented a bicycle from the guesthouse to start touring around Nyaung U - 1,500 kyat 
  • 6.00 am - Cycled from the guesthouse to the nearby Bulethi pagoda (under 20 minutes) to watch the famed Bagan sunrise 
  • 6.30 am - 8.00 am - Sunrise viewing at Bulethi pagoda. If you time your visit just right, it's possible to catch hot air balloons fleeting across the sky as well. This coupled with the beautiful sunrise against the Bagan landscape makes for a very memorable sight
  • 8.00 am - 11.00 am - Begin cycling tour between Nyaung U and Old Bagan, visiting the following temples along the way:
  • Sulamani. The first temple I went to, only a short distance away from Bulethi pagoda. Very impressive size and architecture. Like a lot of temples in Bagan, you need to take off your footwear before entering as a sign of respect. The locals are quite strict on this, I even got reprimanded for keeping my socks on!
  • Dhammayangyi. The largest temple in Bagan, and the next one I visited after Sulamani
  • Shwe Nan Yin Taw. A collection of small temples and pagodas while navigating the backroads on the way from Dhammayangyi to Ananda
  • Ananda. One of the most popular temples in Bagan. Very well-preserved architecture, an accurate representation of what most temples in Bagan would've looked like in the old days
  • Lunch at Be Kind To Animals The Moon restaurant (located nearby Ananda temple) - Tomato curry with omelette & coffee (2,900 kyat). Good food and the prices were very reasonable too

First on my list. Cycled to to the nearby Bulethi pagoda to watch the famed Bagan sunrise
Balloons and sunrise over Bagan
View of a thousand temples from Bulethi pagoda. What's more amazing is that Bagan has more than twice that number of temples
Cycling around Bagan isn't too hard, as the terrain is mostly flat
Sulamani, the first temple I visited, just a short distance away from Bulethi
After Sulamani, it was another few minutes of cycling before I came into view of Dhammayangyi
Closer up look of Dhammayangyi, the largest temple in Bagan
Cycling through Shwe Nan Yin Taw to get to Ananda from Dhammayangyi
Admiring Ananda temple's well-preserved achitecture. This was what most of Bagan's temples would've looked in the old days
Here's what the inside of Ananda temple looks like. Came during the Ananda festival, and there were hundreds of visitors, both local and tourists, coming to offer prayer
Had lunch at Be Kind To Animals The Moon restaurant, just around the corner from Ananda
Good vegetarian food and service, and the price was pretty fair too

In & Around Nyaung U (continued)
  • 12.00 pm - 3.00 pm - Continue cycling tour after lunch, heading back in the direction of Nyaung U. Visited more temples on the way:
  • Upali Thein. Used to be an ordination hall in the old days. It's closed off to visitors most of the time but I was in luck. The caretaker was around to open the gates and allowed me to have a look at the murals on the ceiling and the walls inside. No photography is allowed though
  • Htilominlo. Another impressive temple, similar in shape and size to Sulamani, just a short distance down the road from Upali Thein. There's a large market inside the temple compound selling all kinds of souvenirs
  • Shwe Leik Too. A smaller temple just further down the road from Htilominlo. You can climb all the way to the top for good views
  • Shwezigon pagoda. One of the most impressive in Bagan, with the golden pagoda being its most noticeable feature, and is the blueprint for many pagodas around Myanmar
  • 3.10 pm - Back in Nyaung U. Check-in to Shwe Na Di Guesthouse - $15 per night. Due to a bit of miscommunication, the room I booked earlier for the night had been taken and to make matters worse, the guesthouse had no more rooms for the night. Was offered to stay in the shared room instead, where I only had to pay $5 for the first night. For the subsequent nights, I got a much better room for the price I paid for ($15), courtesy of the staff wanting to make up for the earlier mistake. Stayed for 3 nights (total cost - $35). Really liked the room and breakfast, but the wifi was a bit bad
  • 4.30 pm - Cycled from the guesthouse to Bulethi pagoda again for the sunset (under 30 minutes)
  • 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm - Sunset viewing at Bulethi pagoda. Some say that the sunset from Shwe Sandaw pagoda was better, but honestly I beg to differ. It's just as good, with the added benefit of having fewer crowds

Upali Thein, what used to be an ordination hall in the old days
Htilominlo is another impressive temple, similar in shape and size to Sulamani
There's a large market inside Htilominlo's temple compound, selling souvenirs of all kinds
Shwe Leik Too is a smaller temple just a short distance from Htilominlo. You can climb to the top for some good views
Continuing on Lanmadaw road back to Nyaung U
Marketplace area just before entering Shwezigon pagoda
Shwezigon pagoda, one of the most impressive pagodas in Bagan
Enjoying the sunset from Bulethi pagoda, a perfect end to the day

Back in Nyaung U
  • 6.35 pm - Cycled back to Nyaung U (under 25 minutes)
  • Stopped at Thiripyitsaya 4 street on the way. Dinner at Shwe Yar Su restaurant - Spanish fried rice (2,500 kyat) and Myanmar beer draught x 2 (1,400 kyat
  • 8.00 pm - 9.20 pm - Spent the remainder of my evening walking around Thiripyitsaya 4 street 
  • 9.30 pm - Return to the guesthouse (under 5 minutes)

Evening at Thiripyitsaya 4 road. You will find plenty of eateries and tour agencies here
Having dinner at Shwe Yar Su restaurant. Food and service wasn't that great but at least the beer's cheap

Nyaung U to Old Bagan
  • 8.00 am - Wake up
  • Breakfast at the guesthouse - Eggs, toast & cofffee (included in the room rate)
  • 9.00 am - Walked from the guesthouse to Thiripyitsaya 4 street nearby (under 10 minutes).
  • Rented an e-bike from a travel agency there - 5,000 kyat. It was my intention at first, to rent a bicycle again, however since there was more ground to cover today, I relented and rented an e-bike instead. Rented a single seater for a full day, which was enough for my usage. The double seater ones cost more, around 7,000 - 8,000 kyat
  • 9.30 am - Ride from Nyaung U to Old Bagan (under 10 minutes)

Sightseeing around Old Bagan
  • 9.40 am - Passed by Tharabar gate and arrive in Old Bagan
  • 10.00 am - 12.00 pm - Begin sightseeing tour around Old Bagan, visiting the following points of interest along the way:
  • Shwe Gu Gyi. The first temple I visited upon reaching Old Bagan, located right after Tharabar gate. You can climb up to the rooftop to get a good view of your surroundings
  • Mahabodhi. Only a short distance away from Shwe Gu Gyi, this temple was built to resemble the Mahabodhi temple in India. There are some interesting exhibits that detail how Buddha achieved enlightenment
  • Bupaya pagoda. A gilded pagoda by the Ayerwaddy river, and my next stop after Mahabodhi
  • Gawdawpalin. Second tallest temple in Bagan, only a short distance from Bupaya
  • Mimalaung Kyaung. An ancient monastery, not far from Gawdawpalin, and the halfway point of my tour around Old Bagan

Shwe Gu Gyi was the first temple I visited upon reaching Old Bagan
A common sight everywhere in Bagan, peddlers selling hand-drawn paintings 
The Mahabodhi temple in Bagan was built to resemble the one in India
Bupaya, a gilded pagoda situated by the Ayerwaddy river
Excellent views of Ayerwaddy river from Bupaya
Gawdawpalin, the second tallest temple in Bagan
The inside of Gawdawpalin
The ancient monastery of Mimalaung Kyaung, not too far from Gawdawpalin

Sightseeing around Old Bagan (continued)
  • 12.00 pm - 2.00 pm - After Mimalaung Kyaung, I took the backroads and continued my sightseeing tour around Old Bagan, stopping by at more places of interest enroute: 
  • Pahto Thamya. Small and often go unnoticed, it's a hidden gem of a temple on the backroads on the way to Mahazedi and That Byinnyu
  • Mahazedi pagoda. Great views of Gawdawpalin and That Byinnyu from the top, and another excellent spot for sunsets
  • That Byinnyu. The tallest temple in Bagan
  • Shwe Sandaw pagoda. The most popular spot for sunrise and sunset in Bagan, not surprising given how spectacular the views are from up here. For those who somehow managed to enter Bagan without paying the zone fee (cough), keep in mind that due to its popularity, ticket checks are rigorously done during sunrise and sunset. The checks are a bit more relaxed during other times of the day though

Stopping for a photo near Pahto Thamya
A glimpse inside Pahto Thamya
Mahazedi pagoda, another great spot for sunsets
Views of Gawdawpalin and the Ayerwaddy river from Mahazedi pagoda
That Byinnyu, the tallest temple in Bagan
Shwe Sandaw pagoda, just about everyone's favorite spot to watch sunrises and sunsets in Bagan
Views from the top of Shwe Sandaw pagoda. That Byinnyu, the temple I just came from earlier, can be seen in the distance. You could probably make out Gawdawpalin in the far distance
Another view from Shwe Sandaw, Dhammayangyi can be clearly seen on the horizon

Sightseeing around Myinkaba & New Bagan
  • 2.15 pm - Ride from Old Bagan to Myinkaba village
  • Late lunch at Diamond Arrow restaurant - Stir fried vegetables and rice (3,000 kyat). Food here was okay, just not worth the price
  • 3.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Continue sightseeing tour around Myinkaba, visiting more temples on the way to New Bagan:
  • Mingalazedi. Very similar in design to Shwezigon pagoda, minus the gilding
  • Gubyauknge. Another hidden gem, quite close to Mingalar Zedi. In addition to being very photogenic, the wall carvings here are some of the most well-preserved I've seen in Bagan
  • Gubyaukgyi. Located next to Myazedi, the murals inside are said to be the oldest remaining in Bagan. They don't allow any kind of photography inside though
  • Myazedi. A beautiful gilded stupa worthy of admiration, and is also home to the Myazedi inscription, the oldest stone inscription in Myanmar
  • Manuha. This unassuming temple in Myinkaba houses a reclining Buddha and a gigantic sitting Buddha 
  • Nagayon. Another hidden gem located past Myinkaba on the way to New Bagan
  • 5.00 pm - Continue on to New Bagan
  • 5.20 pm - 6.20 pm - Had some drinks and watched the sunset at Sunset Garden restaurant - Myanmar beer (2,500 kyat)

Arriving in Myinkaba village
Mingalazedi, an almost identical twin to Shwezigon
Gubyauknge, a hidden gem of a temple with well-preserved wall carvings, just off the road a short distance from Mingalar Zedi
The murals inside Gubyaukgyi are said to be the oldest remaining in Bagan
Next to Gubyaukgyi lies Myazedi, a beautiful gilded stupa which houses
The Myazedi inscription, the oldest stone inscription in Myanmar, which is written in four ancient languages, one on each side
Manuha temple in Myinkaba
The large reclining Buddha in Manuha temple
The gigantic sitting Buddha inside Manuha's main chamber
Nagayon was my last temple for the day. Another hidden gem located on the way to New Bagan from Myinkaba
Sunset and drinks at Sunset Garden, New Bagan

Back to Nyaung U
  • 6.30 pm - Ride back from New Bagan to Nyaung U (under 30 minutes)
  • Stopped by at Thiripyitsaya 4 street. Went to the same travel agency again to book a daytrip by shared taxi to Mount Popa the next day - 10,000 kyat. Trip duration is about 4 hours, and there are two timeslots available, 9am and 3pm. Took the 3pm one as I wanted to see the sunset
  • Dinner at Novel restaurant - Set dinner comprising of fish curry, vegetable soup and salad (4,800 kyat)
  • 9.00 pm - Return to the guesthouse

Back in Shwe Na Di guesthouse. Finally got upgraded to the room I paid for :D 

Sightseeing around Nyaung U town
  • 7.30 am - Wake up
  • Breakfast at the guesthouse - Eggs, toast, samosas & coffee (included in the room rate)
  • Had no plans for the morning, so I decided to do some sightseeing around Nyaung U town
  • 8.30 am - Walked from the guesthouse to Nyaung U town center (under 20 minutes)
  • 9.00 am - 10.30 am - Did some sightseeing and shopping at Mani-sithu market. Had coffee at Cafe Bagan - Cafe latte (2,500 kyat) and a slice of cake (800 kyat)
  • 10.45 am - 11.45 pm - Walked to the Nyaung U 'beach' to do a bit of sightseeing
  • 12.00 pm - 2.00 pm - Photo walk back to the guesthouse, visiting a few points of interest on the way:
  • She Mye Hna
  • Aung Mye Bontha
  • Bokadaw Hpaya
  • Sapada Paya 
  • 2.00 pm - Back in the guesthouse. Had a quick shower and some rest

Early morning in Nyaung U town center
Mani-sithu market. Best time to come here is early in the morning, where you get to see it in its loud and chaotic glory
Another part of Mani-sithu market, where locals peddle just about everything under the sun, poultry, vegetables and flowers
Strolling along the Nyaung U 'beach'
Just one of the few small temples I visited around Nyaung U town on the way back to the guesthouse, this one is named Aung Mye Bontha
Just some of the neighborhood I passed by on the way back

Mount Popa & Taungkalat Monastery
  • 3.00 pm - Pickup by shared taxi from the guesthouse to Mount Popa. The journey to Mount Popa wasn't as bumpy as I heard it to be, guess the road conditions going there must've improved a lot since then
  • 4.30 pm - Arrive in Mount Popa (dropped off near the entrance to Taungkalat monastery)
  • Before doing anything, I decided walking a bit up the road to get a good view of Taungkalat monastery from afar
  • 4.45 pm - Begin ascending the 777 steps to the top of Taungkalat monastery (under 20 minutes). It's a strenuous climb but very manageable if you're fairly fit. It's free to enter but you will be asked for donations
  • 5.05 pm - 5.45 pm - Sunset viewing at the top of Taungkalat monastery
  • 5.50 pm - Descend to the base of Taungkalat (under 10 minutes) to wait for my transport back to Nyaung U

The taxi I shared with a few other travelers going to Mount Popa
Short tourist stop at this small, local brewery by the roadside, where they harvest palm sugar and sesame seeds from the nearby plantations
Where they process into wine and various kinds of candy
Taungkalat monastery from afar
Climbing the 777 steps to the top of Taungkalat monastery
Some of the amazing views from the top of Taungkalat
View of Mount Popa from Taungkalat. People often get these two confused with one another
The beautiful sunset from the top of Taungkalat

Back to Nyaung U
  • 6.10 pm - Pickup by shared taxi back to Nyaung U
  • 8.00 pm - Back in Nyaung U (dropped off at Thiripyitsaya 4 street). Went to the same travel agency to book my onward trip to Mandalay the next morning. There are plenty of options but I went with the minibus (OK Express) departing for Mandalay at 8am the next day - 9,000 kyat
  • Walked back to the guesthouse and had dinner at Perfect Cafe, a local restaurant just nearby the guesthouse - Hot & sour chicken (1,200 kyat) and fried potatoes (800 kyat). Unbeatable price for really good food in Bagan
  • 9.00 pm - Return to the guesthouse

Having dinner at Perfect Cafe near my guesthouse on my last night in Bagan

Bagan to Mandalay
  • 7.00 am - Wake up. Pack up and check-out from guesthouse
  • Breakfast at the guesthouse - Eggs, toast, samosas & coffee (included in the room rate)
  • 8.30 am - Pickup by minibus (OK Express) from the guesthouse. Depart from Bagan to Mandalay
  • Everything about the OK Express was just as the name suggests, their punctuality and door-to-door service was top notch. They were right on the money when they said they would arrive in Mandalay when they said they would
  • 10.00 am - Short stopover at Myingyan

Taking the OK Express from Bagan to Mandalay

Arrival in Mandalay
  • 12.30 pm - Arrive in Mandalay (dropped off near my accommodation in Mandalay)
  • Check-in to Ace Star BnB Backpacker Hostel - $10 per night. Stayed for 3 nights (total cost - $30). The hostel was decent enough for a few nights, located within walking distance to Mandalay train station and 77th street, where you can find plenty of street food day and night. Special shout out to the reception staff who were incredibly friendly and helpful. Really appreciated their kind gesture when they helped packed my breakfast for my onward trip on my last day here

Dropped off near Mandalay train station where my accommodation was
Acestar BnB Backpackers Hostel, Mandalay
The bunk bed I got in the hostel

In & Around Mandalay
  • 1.30 pm - Hired a motorcycle taxi to take me to Mandalay Royal Palace - 1,000 kyat (bargained down from 2,000 kyat)
  • 1.40 pm - Arrive at Mandalay Royal Palace (dropped off at the east gate). Paid the Mandalay zone fee, which gives you access to the royal palace and some of the main temples around Mandalay, Amarapura and Innwa - 10,000 kyat
  • 2.00 pm - 3.30 pm - Sightseeing around Mandalay Royal Palace. If you're going on foot, do take note that there's a considerable distance between the east gate and the royal palace, about 1km each way (under 15 minutes). You can rent a bicycle at the gate for 1,000 kyat 
  • Mandalay Royal Palace wasn't that interesting to be honest, but I suppose it's still a worthy investment of your time if you have an afternoon to spend. Climbing the watch tower to get a good view of the palace grounds was a particular highlight

The moat around Mandalay Royal Palace. Mandalay hill can be seen far in the distance
Beautiful flower beds just outside the palace walls
The long walk from the gate to the royal palace. Now I wished I had rented a bicycle at the entrance earlier lol
Inside Mandalay Royal Palace. The palace watchtower is the cylindrical structure in the middle
View of the Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

Mandalay Hill
  • 3.35 pm - Walked to the base of Mandalay hill (under 15 minutes). Visited the Sandamuni and Kuthodaw pagodas before continuing on
  • 5.00 pm - Begin ascending to the top of Mandalay hill on foot (under 30 minutes). Found it to be a lot harder than Taungkalat (Mount Popa) but still quite manageable due to the pleasant weather
  • Note: Don't worry if you're not able to do this, as there are other ways to get to the top. You can hire a motorcycle taxi to bring you to the top, costs around 1,000 - 2,000 kyat, depending on how good your bargaining skills are. Alternatively, you can also rent a motorcycle and ride to the top, keep in mind however that there's a toll and parking fee of 200 kyat each
  • 5.30 pm - Arrive at the top of Mandalay hill. Paid the camera/entrance fee - 1,000 kyat
  • 5.35 pm - 6.30 pm - Sunset viewing from the top of Mandalay hill
  • 6.40 pm - Start descending to the base of Mandalay hill (under 20 minutes). Stopped a few times on the way down to admire the beautifully illuminated temples in the distance
  • 7.00 pm - Back at the base of Mandalay hill. Quick photo stop at Kyauk Taw Gyi pagoda

Just one of the few temples at the base of Mandalay hill. This is the Sandamuni pagoda, its signature trait are the few hundred white stupas contained within its compounds
That tiring climb to the top of Mandalay hill
Watching the sunset from Mandalay hill
Viewing area at the top of Mandalay hill
Enjoying the night's view from the top
Admiring the beautifully illuminated temples on the way down
Kyauk Taw Gyi pagoda. It's worth spending some time here just to see the main highlight of the place, a large Buddha image which was carved out from a single piece of marble

In & Around Mandalay (continued)
  • 7.25 pm - 7.55 pm - Photo walk along the eastern side of the Mandalay Royal Palace
  • 8.00 pm - Hired a motorcycle taxi to take me back to the hostel - 1,000 kyat
  • Dinner at Super 99 Beer Station (located along 77th street) - Yangon steamed rice (2,000 kyat) & Myanmar beer (700 kyat)
  • 10.00 pm - Return to hostel

The beautifully lit Mandalay Royal Palace moat at night

  • 7.00 am - Wake up
  • Breakfast at the hostel - French toast & coffee (included in the room rate)
  • Rented a motorcycle from the hostel - 10,000 kyat (renting for 1 day). Quite expensive, but I haven't found any other place nearby that offered a cheaper rate. It's worth noting that the hostel I stayed at also arranges day trips covering Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing by shared taxi for the same price of 10,000 kyat, however I went with the first option as I wanted more freedom to explore Mandalay at my own pace

Mahamuni Temple
  • 8.00 am - Ride from the hostel to Mahamuni temple
  • 8.20 am - 9.20 am - Arrival and sightseeing around Mahamuni temple, the holiest site in Mandalay and one of the holy three of Myanmar. Wasn't asked to pay the camera fee (1,000 kyat)
  • Keep in mind that the dress code is very strict here, so dress conservatively before coming here, and wear a longyi so that you don't get turned away at the gate. Another thing to note is that women are not allowed inside the inner sanctum (bummer!)

Mahamuni temple, the holiest site in Mandalay
Devotees offering prayer in the prayer halls just outside the inner sanctum
The Mahamuni Buddha inside the inner sanctum

Mahagandayon Monastery, Amarapura
  • 9.30 am - Continue on to Mahagandayon monastery in Amarapura
  • 9.45 am - Arrive at Mahagandayon monastery, just in time to witness hundreds of monks lining up for breakfast, usually starting around 10.15am daily. This place was recommended to me by the hostel. While it was a rather interesting event, I found it to be extremely touristy and not worth the time. Skip this unless you have plenty of time

At Mahagandayon monastery, just outside the canteen area where the monks will line up for breakfast
Monks lining up for breakfast. Count the number of tourists and cameras in this picture

Inwa (Ava)
  • 11.00 am - Continue on from Amarapura to Inwa
  • 11.20 am - Arrival at the jetty to Inwa island. Parked my motorcycle near the jetty and ride the ferry across the river to Inwa (under 5 minutes) - 1,000 kyat (two way). Take note that you can also bring your bike across for an additional 1,000 kyat. There's not much of a waiting time, as the ferry is fairly frequent (every 10-15 minutes)
  • Over at Inwa, you can hire a horse cart to bring you around for around 15,000 kyat. Too expensive for me, so I decided to explore Inwa on foot
  • 11.30 am - 1.30 pm - Walking tour around Inwa, visiting the following the points of interest on the island:
  • Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan monastery. A rather quaint and impressive monastery, just under 15 minutes walk away from the jetty. Was asked for my Mandalay zone fee ticket upon entering
  • Nanmyin watchtower, the former site of the Palace of Ava, another 10 minutes walk from where Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan is
  • 1.35 pm - Ride ferry back to the mainland (under 5 minutes)

Boarding the ferry at this jetty to cross the river to get to Inwa island
Walking around Inwa. I chose not to hire a horse cart as a lot of the main sights are within walking distance from the jetty
Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan monastery, one of the main sights in Inwa
Nanmyin watchtower is what's left of the Palace of Ava. It's a shame you can't climb the stairs to the top

  • 1.40 pm - Continue on from Inwa to Sagaing. Stopped for a quick photo stop at the Yadanabon bridge before crossing to Sagaing
  • There are some checkpoints after the bridge, where tourists will be requested to pay the Mingun/Sagaing zone fee (5,000 kyat) before entering. Fortunately for me, I wasn't asked to pay this
  • 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm - Sightseeing around Sagaing, visiting the following points of interest around the area:
  • Kaunghmudaw pagoda. A bell-shaped pagoda painted in brilliant gold. This was the furthest away, so I decided to start with this first
  • Soon U Ponya Shin. My first stop coming to Sagaing hill, located on the eastern face. Great views of Ayerwaddy river from up here. On clear days, it's possible to get a glimpse of Mandalay from up here. Wasn't asked to pay the camera fee (1,000 kyats)
  • U Min Thonze. Second stop in Sagaing hill, located on the western face. Good views of the countryside, even better when it's sunset.

Quick photo stop at Yadanabon bridge, linking Mandalay and Sagaing
Sagaing hill as seen from the bridge
Kaunghmudaw pagoda, my first stop in Sagaing
A closer look at the golden bell-shaped pagoda inside Kaunghmudaw
Motorcycling to the top of Sagaing hill
The viewing area in Soon U Ponya Shin, my first stop in Sagaing hill
Beautiful views of Ayerwaddy river from Soon U Ponya Shin
Another view from Soon U Ponya Shin. Count how many pagodas can you see in this picture
U Min Thonze, my second and final stop in Sagaing hill
The view from U Min Thonze

U-Bein Bridge, Amarapura
  • 4.35 pm - Continue on from Sagaing to U-Bein bridge in Amarapura
  • 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm - Arrival and sightseeing at U-Bein bridge, the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Was not asked to pay any entrance fees. Stayed around until sunset before heading back to Mandalay

U-Bein bridge at Amarapura, the world's oldest and longest teakwood bridge
Capturing silhouettes in the sunset, a favorite must-do here at U-Bein

Back in Mandalay
  • 6.35 pm - Ride from Amarapura back to Mandalay
  • 7.00 pm - Back in Mandalay. Dinner at a roadside stall at 77th street - Sea perch curry (2,500 kyat) and Myanmar beer (700 kyat)
  • 9.00 pm - Return to hostel

  • 6.30 am - Wake up
  • Breakfast at the hostel - Eggs, toast & coffee (included in the room rate)
  • 7.30 am - Walked from the hostel to Mandalay train station (under 5 minutes) to buy train tickets for my onward journey to Hsipaw the next day
  • Went to the ticket counter upstairs and purchased a one way ticket for the train departing for Hsipaw at 4am the next day - 1,700 kyat (lower class seat). Tried to get upper class seats (3,950 kyat) but they were sold out unfortunately. It's worth noting that they allow the buying of tickets only the day before your departure

Buying my train ticket to Hsipaw at the counter in the upper floor of Mandalay train station

Mandalay to Mingun
  • 7.45 am - Hired a motorcycle taxi to take me from the train station to Mayan Gyan jetty - 2,000 kyat
  • 8.00 am - Dropped off at Mayan Gyan jetty. Went to the building (with a signboard that says 'tourists transport jetty') and purchased a ticket for the 9am ferry to Mingun - 5,000 kyat (two way). It's important to note that there's only one ferry to Mingun daily. Be sure to bring your passport along as they will request for it when issuing the tickets
  • While it's possible to travel overland to Mingun, I preferred the experience of travelling by ferry on the Ayerwaddy river to Mingun
  • 9.15 am - Board ferry departing for Mingun

The 'tourists transport jetty' building at Mayan Gyan, where you can buy tickets for the ferry to Mingun
Waiting for the ferry at Mayan Gyan jetty
On our way we go! The journey from Mayan Gyan to Mingun takes about an hour each way

In & Around Mingun
  • 10.20 am - Arrive in Mingun. From the jetty, there are bullcarts you can hire to take you around, however I felt this was unnecessary as the main sights are within walkable distance from the jetty
  • There's a checkpoint on the way in, and again I wasn't asked to pay the Mingun/Sagaing zone fee (5,000 kyat)
  • 10.30 am - 12.30 pm - Walking tour around Mingun. Visited the following points of interest in the area:
  • Pahtodawgyi pagoda. A massive pagoda the size of a small hill. It's almost impossible to miss, and it's usually the first thing most people will spot when approaching Mingun. There are some steps you can climb to the top for a bird's eye view of Mingun
  • Mingun bell. Currently the second largest bell in the world
  • Hsinbyume pagoda. A beautiful white pagoda, just a few minutes walk down the road from where Mingun bell is. Similar to Pahtodawgyi, you can also climb all the way to the top for a good view of your surroundings
  • 12.35 pm - Board ferry back to Mandalay

The Pahtodawgyi pagoda is so massive, it can easily be mistaken for a small hill
There are some steps on one side of the pagoda where you can climb all the way to the top
At the top of Pahtodawgyi pagoda
Spectacular views of Mingun from the top of Pahtodawgyi. Seen here are the Mingun Bell (the red roofed building in the middle) and Hsinbyume pagoda (the white pagoda-like structure on the far left) 
Mingun Bell, currently the world's second largest bell
Hsinbyume pagoda
In Mingun, you can hire a bullcart to take you around, but I don't know people bother anyways since they seem to be moving slower than a walking person lol
Pondaw Paya, near the Mingun jetty, is a scale model of what the Pahtodawgyi was supposed to look like if it had been completed

Back in Mandalay
  • 1.30 pm - Back in Mandalay (hopped off at Mayan Gyan jetty)
  • 2.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Photo walk back to the hostel, stopping at various points of interest along the way:
  • Thinga Yazar canal, located just a short walk away from Mayan Gyan jetty. You can cross the canal on the lovely teakwood bridge spanning it, if you don't mind the smell of rubbish and sewage
  • Chan Thaya pagoda. Stumbled on this rather interesting temple just after crossing the Thinga Yazar canal
  • Shwe In Bin Kyaung. A beautifully carved teakwood monastery, and one of the last remaining wooden monasteries in Mandalay. Entrance is free.
  • St. Joseph's church. A quaint gothic style church in Mandalay 
  • 5.30 pm - 7.00 pm - Did some sightseeing and shopping in Yadanarpon Supercenter before going for dinner
  • Dinner at Super 99 Beer Station at 77th street - Pashu friend rice (2,500 kyat) & Myanmar beer (700 kyat)
  • 8.30 pm - Return to hostel

The teakwood bridge spanning the Thinga Yazar canal near Mayan Gyan. Chan Thaya pagoda can be seen in the distance 
Shwe In Bin Kyaung, one of the last remaining wooden monasteries in Mandalay
Beautiful teakwood carvings are the main draw of Shwe In Bin Kyaung
Quick photo stop at St. Joseph's Church on my way back to the hostel
An incoming train passing under the bridge I was walking on
Walking along the streets of Mandalay
Yadanarpon Supercenter in Mandalay

Mandalay to Hsipaw
  • 2.30 am - Wake up. Pack up and check-out from the hostel. The hostel staff was gracious enough to pack up some breakfast for me for my onward trip.
  • 3.15 am - Walked from the hostel to Mandalay train station (under 5 minutes)
  • 4.00 am - Board train departing for Hsipaw

Getting ready to board the train to Hsipaw

How much?
What for?
MMK 84,500
Accommodation in Nyaung U, Bagan (3 nights)
Accommodation in Mandalay (3 nights)

MMK 82,400
Ground Cost
Bus from Yangon to Bagan (JJ Express)
MMK 500
Transportation around Yangon
MMK 2,000
Transportation around Bagan
MMK 1,500
Bicycle rental in Bagan (1 day)
MMK 5,000
E-bike rental in Bagan (1 day)
MMK 10,000
Shared taxi to Mt. Popa
MMK 9,000
Minibus from Bagan to Mandalay (OK Express)
MMK 4,000
Transportation around Mandalay
MMK 10,000
Motorcycle rental in Mandalay (1 day)
MMK 10,000
Mandalay Zone Fee
MMK 1,000
Mandalay Hill – Camera fee
MMK 1,000
Ferry to Inwa (return)
MMK 5,000
Ferry to Mingun (return)

MMK 102,295
In & Out Cost
MYR 341
Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon (return)
MMK 1,700
Train from Mandalay to Hsipaw (lower class)

MMK 75,831
MMK 34,000
Food & drinks
MYR 141.80
Myanmar tourist visa

MMK 345,026

How much did it cost me?

  • In local currency: MMK 345,026
  • Conversion rate (at the time): MYR 1 = MMK 295, $1 = MMK 1,300
  • After conversion: MYR 1,170 (for 8 days)


  1. Hi, could I ask for your day trip to Mount Popa, which travel agency did you approach? And do they take in solo travellers! Thank You :D and thanks for the post it's really helpful

    1. Hi,

      It's all a little blurry, but I believe the company's name was Green & Green tours at Nyaung-U who arranged a shared taxi to Mount Popa for me. But almost every guesthouse and tour agency in Bagan can arrange a shared taxi for you to Mount Popa

      Yes, they take in solo travelers as well

  2. i really love your blog.. thanks for sharing the journey. Will going to Myanmar by this December, so how about the weather in Old Bagan ? any sugestion..
    and for the air ballon, can u give some suggestion. thanks

    1. Hi Agung,

      The weather in December will be chilly! It's also a super peak period for Myanmar, so it would be wise to book your accommodation (and transfers) in advance.

      Can't really comment on the hot air balloon as I've not done it. However, I've heard only good things about Balloons over Bagan, though you may need to book well in advance, as seats run out really fast

      Hope I helped you with my answers :)

  3. Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, wonderful blog! myanmar travel agency

    1. Hi Kristina,

      Thanks for the heads up. Will look into it ;)

  4. Hi Garrett,

    This is very informative! I am traveling to Myanmar in March for a week, so your blog provides a great reference to my journey. I never rode an E-bike, but thought it would be fun to give it a try after reading your blog. I also like that you give a very detailed itinerary of your daily trip and the pictures accompanied. Can you advise what camera you were using when taking the pictures? Thanks!

  5. Hi,

    Thanks, glad my blog helped you in planning your trip. All pics are taken with sony a6000 :)


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