Category Archives: Myanmar

I was immediately approached by a swarm of operators offering to take me to my guesthouse in Bagan, Burma on a horse cart.

Setting Foot in Burma: Living like a King in Heho (Inle Lake)

First entry of my Burma trip can be read here.

One of my favourite places to visit when I was in Burma was Heho, the gateway to the famous Inle Lake. From Yangon, I was supposed to take a non-stop flight to Heho, but the flight was cancelled about two weeks before my visit to Burma.

So my awesome travel agent Annie from Compliance Success Travel & Tours immediately informed me and changed my flight to a direct one, which stopped at two locations before reaching Heho.

Upon arrival, I was welcomed and pleasantly surprised by the chilly weather at Heho – it must have been just slightly above 20 degree Celsius, and the wind was blowing strong. It was rather cloudy but didn’t rain.


It was only when I was about to leave Heho on the second day that I found out the place is actually sitting some 3,800 feet above the sea level!

I shall talk about the hotel that was arranged to me first. Well… MY JAW DROPPED, when I arrived at the Golden Empress Hotel situated in the  humble town of Nyaung Shwe – about 45 minutes away from Heho:


I had no idea what I did to deserve such fantastic treatment, but I had never expected anything like this from my tour. It was so nice of Annie to have arranged me this fantabulous hotel!

I don’t generally fancy the commercial, modern-looking types of hotels; something to the likes of the Golden Empress Hotel explains my taste perfectly and is good to make me go hoo-ha.


My room could accommodate 3 persons with one big bed and another small bed, but then there was just me monopolising the big one, and of course the whole room! There was no air-con available because apparently Heho/Nyaung Shwe is known for its cool weather.



The dining hall where breakfast would be served:


During my stay in Burma, most meals I had in hotels and restaurants were served in a big portion – sometimes to the extent that I couldn’t finish the food and would feel guilty about it.

Below was my breakfast at the Golden Empress Hotel:


The staff at the Golden Empress Hotel were also super hospitable – they would greet me with a smile every time I came back or bumped into one of them.

I remember being escorted to my own hotel room on the first day upon arrival while they helped carry my backpack. I was a little uneasy about letting especially the female workers carry my heavy backpack, and politely told them I could do it on my own, but they were very professional and insisted on carrying it for me.

Alright, abrupt end of the hotel story to focus on the main highlight in the town of Nyaung Shwe – the Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda.

I didn’t get to photograph the exterior of the pagoda but here are some views from the inside:


Continue reading Setting Foot in Burma: Living like a King in Heho (Inle Lake)

Setting Foot in Burma: Just My 65-litre Backpack and I

First of all, if you have not noticed I’m using the old, now unofficial name of “Burma” instead of Myanmar in this post because I like the former better and I am feeling it much more than the official one. It has got this “classic” feel to it – at least in my opinion – and thus has a more “sovereign” connotation.

Just like I prefer “Saigon” to “Ho Chi Minh City”, and “Siam” to “Thailand”. I know lah it’s just a name, but I can have my own preference, right?

To be honest, I feel sorry for Burma.

Sorry because it is such a beautiful country with unbelievably friendly people of as many as 135 distinct ethnic groups, valuable ancient monuments that do not lag behind the likes of Cambodia’s Angkor Watt, and rich cultural and religions heritage. Yet it has yet to receive the positive publicity and international media coverage it deserves!

I knew nothing much about Burma until I accidentally came across a picture showing the panoramic view of Bagan one day, and thought to myself, “I have to visit this place!”

Image credit to

Half a year later, I found myself standing at the arrival hall of the Yangon International Airport; what accompanied me was my favourite 65-litre backpack and also a sling bag I would carry everywhere.

If you are curious about the budget to backpack in Burma, frankly speaking, it should be a lot higher compared to other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand.

But in Burma, things are expensive for some reasons:

  1. Expensive fuel – The price of fuel is always on the rise due to the high inflation rate. From my understanding, the economic sanctions that some Western countries impose against Burma has also taken a toll on the fuel price.
  2. Expensive hotel rates – While Burma is starting to open its door to the world, especially in the travel and tourism sector, there is an acute shortage of hotels/guesthouses, which then leads to higher rates.

Other than those, rates for other items like food and zone fees are reasonable.

My backpacking trip was arranged by Yangon-based travel agency Compliance Success Travel & Tours, run by Burmese Chinese Annie and her partners.

With Yangon-based travel agent Annie.

Maybe mine was more of a flashpacking than backpacking trip as it involved a personal driver and a tour guide in some of the locations, although not all. Also, from Yangon to Heho and from Heho to Mandalay respectively, I took a plane.

The entire package cost me USD600 (RM1920), but the value of service and exposure definitely far exceeded the cost I paid. In fact with the amount that I paid, I felt like living like a king there.

If I had travelled with a partner, the amount per pax would probably be slashed to about half of what I paid.

Annie was kind enough to let me make the full payment upon my arrival in Yangon. When asked how she was going to book my air tickets (for domestic flights) if I did not pay her some advance amount, Annie said,

“Our service is based on trust.”

After her saying that, I was even more certain about using her service! Details of Compliance Success Travel & Tours are as follows:

195 U Chit Maung Rd, Sayarsan (N-W) ward, Bahan
Yangon, Burma
Tel: +95 (1) 8603675, (1) 8603676

Please hor I’m not doing any advertising nor do I get any commission from the travel agency. Just that she was really good and able to organise a tour package based on my preference.

First day of my solo trip was on my own, and hotel was arranged by Annie. It seemed to me that most hotels did not offer single rooms, and thus throughout my stay in Myanmar I had the privilege to monopolise the queen-size bed.


I didn’t really have any idea on where to visit on the first day in Yangon, except I understood from my Internet research that there was one famous pagoda situated on a roundabout (I didn’t know there were three famous ones back then).

My hotel in Yangon was located at the 33rd street in the downtown area, and according to the hotel receptionist I could find a pagoda about 20 minutes away from where I stayed.

I did, after all.

It was the Sule Pagoda, the third largest in Yangon.


I was busy camwhoring in front of the pagoda for like five minutes (it wasn’t easy to take a good picture that captured both myself AND the stupa at the back okay!) when two strangers came up to me and asked if I needed their help to take a photo.

I was stunned by their kind act for a split second before I nodded yes. For a moment I realised human hearts could be so simple and beautiful…

It was a rainy season when I visited, so it rained every other hour. Good thing was that apart from Yangon, other areas were not affected; therefore the rest of my journey had been great.

But then again as I’m recollecting my experiences on the first day, it was strange to realise how the occasional downpours throughout the day didn’t affect my journey that much – I always found myself at sheltered areas during rainy moments.

At the Sule Pagoda, I spent about an hour and a half praying, observing, chatting, and loitering around, after which I tried my luck to walk to the second largest pagoda – the Botataung Pagoda built some 2,500 years ago by the bank of the Yangon river.

Continue reading Setting Foot in Burma: Just My 65-litre Backpack and I