Friday, 13 November 2015

[Little Traveler]: Yangon-Inle Lake-Bagan-Mandalay: Adventure with Toddler in Myanmar

I was about to abandon this particular draft since the travel occurred almost two years ago until I read a mom's travel note on her recent trip to Bagan on BAMBI Magazine. To her surprise, she found it difficult to obtain necessary information regarding traveling to Myanmar in general, especially with young children in tow, then I realized that our experiences with David who was 15 months, and 21 months old when we came back for the second time, might be useful to anyone planning for a family trip to Myanmar.


- Leave the stroller behind
The country's developing capital is interesting to explore regardless the absence of proper pedestrian paths in many parts of the city. Based on our own experience, it is better to bring baby carrier or (once they walk) just let the children walk.  
- Take a taxi
Public transportation, i.e. buses, are always packed with people, therefore taking buses around with kids is not an option. The best option to go sightseeing around Yangon is by jumping into a taxi upon agreeing on the negociated price.Taxis here are cheap and considered safe.
- Pack your bag with the childrens' needs for a day stock
The convenient stores and supermarkets are available in the city. However, it may take time and efforts to find or reach one, so better prepare everything before going out of the hotel, from extra nappies to their snacks/meals/milk.
No luxury, no worries
Unless a 5-star accommodation is reserved, do no expect anything fancy. First time coming to Yangon, we requested a crib for our son. It turned out that the crib is an old-style (commonly used in the 1970's-1980's, I believe) swing crib intended for newborn that, of course, cannot be used by our 15-month toddler. Instead, extra bed might be a better option. Forget about kids' club or other means of toys to entertain young children. Let the children enjoy their time by exploring the Shwedagon Pagoda,  playing and mingle with local children in Inya Lake or Kandawgyi Lake or just strolling around Independence Monument Park. It is definitely worth the experience.
- Food
Food varies with Indian food as the most common. However, young children can also enjoy the local experience without having to eat all those spicy dishes. Bread is available mostly everywhere and fresh fruits are widely sold at street vendors. Do not forget to bring bottled water at all times.

My personal guide at Shwedagon Pagoda
Making new friends

We reached Inle by air, arriving at Heho airport, we had about less than one hour drive by minivan to the pier, and then continued the trip by speedboat to reach our accommodation at the southernmost of Inle Lake for approximately an hour or so. The picturesque Inle Lake is our most favorite place in Myanmar so far. Holiday has its real meaning in Inle and we'd never want the holiday to be over. Few tips on traveling to Inle Lake:
Renting a private boat to go around the lake is a must
To experience the Inle's community life, see how the farmers work at their floating gardens, or just enjoy the serenity of the lake, private boat rent is recommended. They have life vests on board, too although we did not use it (we also brought our son's own life vest in case infant life vest is not provided). The best time to go by boat is either in the morning or in the afternoon, allowing nap time for whoever needs it the most.     
Baby carrier is still the best option
As speedboat rides could be slightly bumpy due to the current and speed, having the baby securely attached to us in baby carrier offers comfort and safety feeling for both parent and baby.
- Hats, sunglasses, sunblocks, and jackets/raincoats
Inle climate is mild and a bit chilly at nighttime. However, during the day, the sunlight might cause sunburn if your skin is left unprotected. Wearing a jacket/raincoat or light windbreaker is suggested to protect ourselves from the wind breeze.
- Bring enough snacks for the duration of boat ride
Although there are small food and beverage vendors in the nearest villages, having a small bag with snacks/bottled water is always essential.

During our boat trip cruising Inle Lake
At Indein Pagoda complex

At Indein Pagoda
Navigating the floating garden at Inle Lake

We hardly met other families traveling with young children during our Myanmar adventure, except one adventurous couple with their one-year old we encountered who were also waiting for their flight to Bagan. Some things to consider while going around Bagan:
Try taking horse cart to go around Bagan
 Although it is dusty and extremely hot during the day, taking a horse cart to go around is so much fun. By doing that, we also help the local economy running. Just make sure that you have hats, masks and plenty of bottled water. With older children, the option of renting a bike looks more fun. 
- Pick few pagodas only
 From thousands of pagoda ruins, pick a few. Our picks were Thatbyinyu Pagoda, Shwezigon Pagoda, Shwesandaw Pagoda, and Ananda Pagoda. Of course, although our son can roam around freely to his heart content, we are bound to respect the rules applied in those holy places of the Buddhists.

Curiosity kills boredom

Picking small stone..throw it away...pick another one...throw it away...repeat at least 30 times!

Boys' talk
Chasing the pigeons
Thatbyinyu Pagoda
Surrounded by Burmese little girls

Our main destination in Mandalay is the infamous U-Bein bridge, the world's longest teakwood bridge. We reached Mandalay by car after approximately 3-4 hour ride from Bagan. No car seats provided by the rental company so bear with the fact that young children should be held all the time. We also had a day trip to Mingun, a small pretty town on Ayerwaddy river. We did not see much of downtown Mandalay, but we managed to go to Mandalay Hill and Kuthodaw Pagoda. Regardless the absence of children-oriented destination in Myanmar, in fact our little one figured out that venturing around the pagoda complex and mingling with the friendly Myanmar people were so much fun.

On the boat en route for Mingun
Kuthodaw Pagoda
He just loves to make friends

So, Myanmar is not an impossible destination for a family holiday, right? Happy traveling and have a great adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment