Things to do in Myanmar: My 2-week itinerary including top Burma tourist attractions

Things To Do in Myanmar: Top Tourist Attractions and Itinerary Ideas was first published on on November 2016. However, ALL these Burma attractions will always be relevant! Unfortunately, the Government is currently persecuting the Muslim Rohingya…so practice responsible tourism.

2-week Myanmar itinerary, Bagan

2-week Myanmar itinerary: Bagan, a must-see in Burma!

Under iron-fist military rule for almost 50 years, Myanmar opened up to significant democratic reforms between 2011 and 2012.

Since then, tourism has boomed in the former hermit land, with an outstanding 60% growth expected this year (as of 2016).

Thankfully, it’s not too late to visit. Myanmar is still unspoiled by Southeast Asia standards.

It is truly a breath of fresh air!

From its genuine people to its virgin landscapes, I suggest you immerse yourself into this newly-opened country ASAP.

Below, the top things to do in Myanmar and tourist attractions that were part of my 2-week Burma itinerary.

Things To Do in Myanmar: Top Attractions and Burma Itinerary Ideas

top tourist attractions in Myanmar

Top Tourist Attractions in Myanmar: Indein

Yangon, The Old Capital of Burma: 1-2 Days

Many people think about skipping Yangon, Myanmar’s old capital.

Please don’t!

If you’ve been to any major city in the world, you’ll feel a change of dynamics and energy right away.

Another reason Yangon is definitely worth a stop is to marvel at the Shwedagon Pagoda and its 325-foot golden stupa.

The sight’s aura will captivate you, for it is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the country and an important pilgrimage site.

To me, there’s something deeper, inexplicably addicting about Yangon though–hiding somewhere between its feeble early 1900s baroque buildings, its people, colorful longyis (sarongs), and of course Shan noodles!

Many locals I met throughout my journey confirm the old Burmese capital is the best place to savor the traditional Burmese dish by the way.

So listen up foodies! I recommend you get lost and go on a scavenger hunt to find the country’s best Shan noodles during their visit.

Burma tourist attractions

Burma Tourist Attractions: Shwedagon Pagoda

Inle Lake: 3 Days

Nothing like the second-largest lake in Myanmar after a fast-paced introduction to the country in Yangon.

Home to several endangered species and other unique flora and fauna, Inle Lake became the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the country in June 2015.

It is a fascinating wetland ecosystem, sprinkled with entire villages built on stilts; farmers practicing floating island agriculture; and fishermen with a distinctive one-legged rowing style.

Allow yourself at least 3 days to soak in its unique culture, naturally-clean air, water, and cooler mountain climate.

My friends and I booked a reasonably-priced local private guide and boat for a few days through One-Stop Travel Myanmar to explore hundreds of pagodas and vibrant markets at the Maing Thauk and Indein water villages.

We didn’t see one other tourist in the low season (June).


On our free day, we rented some bikes and cycled to the Red Mountain Estate, a winery and restaurant with a spectacular viewpoint.

best things to do in Myanmar

Best Things to Do in Myanmar: Red Mountain Winery

Pindaya: Burma Day Trip from Inle Lake

My day trip to the Pindaya Caves was, hands down, one of my favorite Myanmar attractions. Just imagine more than 8,000 Buddha statues and altars, sheltered inside a mysterious system of caves.

Throw in a spectacular viewpoint before you even step foot into the attraction itself and…


From solid gold to jade and marble, each Buddha has been donated by a family in the hopes of harvesting blessings.

unique things to do in Myanmar

Unique Things to Do in Myanmar: Pindaya Caves

Bagan: 4 Full Days

Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Bagan was the ancient capital of the Pagan Kingdom, which ultimately united all regions that make up modern-day Myanmar.

From the over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries erected during the kingdom’s height, about 2,200 survive today.

As such, this fascinating archaeological zone is Myanmar’s equivalent to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat–so you can’t miss it.

In 4 days, we were able to see all major attractions, in addition to several minor, yet still impressive sights, at a relatively-leisurely pace.

Again, our wonderful private local guide and driver booked through One-Stop Myanmar ensured we saw as much as we could, but without exhausting ourselves, on a comfortable air-conditioned van.

things to see in Myanmar

Things to See in Myanmar: Inside Pindaya Caves

One of the days we explored Bagan independently, however, in order to rent bikes and see the ancient city from a different perspective.

It was extremely hot, exhausting, and dusty by the end of June–albeit rewarding.

We couldn’t have cycled for more than a day though! You just can’t cover as much ground.

Some of our favorite Bagan attractions and temples include:

  • Ananda Phaya
  • Dhammayangyi
  • Gawdawpalin
  • Gubyaukgyi
  • Shwegugyi
  • Sulamani
  • That Byin Nyu
Myanmar tourist attractions

Myanmar Tourist Attractions: Bagan

Mount Popa: Day Trip from Bagan

Mount Popa is a popular day trip from Bagan, included in most Myanmar itineraries.

However, I can’t really recommend this attraction for 2 weeks in Burma.

If it’s on your plans, I suggest you scratch it off.


Sure, Popa looks cool and special from a distance.

Yet, once you climb to the top, you quickly notice there are many other sites throughout the country that showcase more impressive architecture–and better viewpoints.

I can attest to this from personal experience.

Given the choice, I would opt for an extra day in Bagan or even Inle Lake instead.

top tourist attractions in Burma

Top Tourist Attractions in Burma: Mount Popa

Phoe Win Taung and Monywa: 2 Full Days, 1 Night

On our road trip from Bagan to Mandalay, we visited several off-the-beaten-path Myanmar attractions that blew us away.

First was Phoe Win Taung Hill, with its fascinating labyrinth of caves, filled with incredibly-well-preserved murals, frescoes, and Buddha statues.

Second stop was Bodhi Tataung, or Buddha ‘the Redeemer statue’ (as like I like to call it!), in the outskirts of Monywa.

Soaring at 424 feet (129 meters), it is the second-largest statue in the world!

Speaking of Monywa, both the city itself and the vicinity were surprisingly interesting.

We stayed at the Hotel Chindwin, which proved to be a brilliant choice as it has outstanding rooms. Better yet, it is a short walking distance from Monywa’s night market, full of cheap local street food to sample.

Another unique Burma attraction that stunned me was the unique design of Thanboddhay Paya.

According to locals, its design was conceived by a globetrotting monk who explained each of the paya’s Buddhas represented men who became enlightened thanks to him–over half a million or so.


The paya might only be 80 years old, but its history, bright Candyland-like colors, and 500,000+ Buddha images make it worth visit.

best things to do in Burma

Best Things to Do in Burma: Bodhi Tataung

Bagan-Mandalay by Boat

Need more downtime or ideas for unique things to do in Myanmar? Another option is to take a 10-hour day cruise between Bagan and Mandalay.

While no stops are offered at sites of interest, you get to see hundreds of glimmering pagodas, village people, and brightly-robed monks from the historic Irrawaddy River.

If you opt for a boat trip transfer, however, you must ensure you visit in the right season or river levels can adversely affect your Myanmar holiday.

When to go down the Irrawaddy, then? Right after the rainy season, between October and January. During these months, river levels are high, storms are unlikely, and the sun is not that hot yet.

Keep in mind, though: dry season also coincides with high season. In turn, you will encounter a larger volume of travelers and more crowded tourist attractions in Myanmar.

things to do in Burma

Things to Do in Burma: Boat Ride

Mandalay: 3 Full Days

The last royal capital of Burma is a fantastic base to explore several top attractions in the central region.

From Mandalay, you can see Amarapura, Sagaing, and Inwa in one full day; while you can pay a visit to Mingun in a leisure morning.

Again, I recommend enlisting the help of a local guide and driver will ensure good time management and a wealth of historical fun facts.

What about Mandalay itself? You can hit all significant sights in just one day.

things to see in Burma

Things to See in Burma: Mandalay

Some must-see attractions in Mandalay area include:

  • Myatheindan Pagoda, Myanmar’s Taj Mahal equivalent as it was built for love
  • Kuthodaw Pagoda and The World’s Biggest Book; Kyauktawgyi Temple and its big Buddha, carved from a single block of marble
  • Mandalay Hill, its bedazzled temple and ritualistic sunset chats with local monks
  • U Bein Bridge, the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world
  • Shwenandaw Monastery, a converted teakwood royal palace, gilt with gold and filled with exquisite carvings

Have you been or wish to travel to Myanmar? Let me know below!

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2-week Myanmar itinerary, Burma attractions

Batu paragliding: My life as a Darmasiswa scholar in Malang, Indonesia

September, 2014. The bottomless pit of heartbreak and the high, limitless skies. Dizzying jet lag and altitude change. Intense pain and adrenaline. A Batu paragliding day trip is definitely not what my ailing body and mind were expecting.

paragliding in Batu, Malang, Indonesia

flying over Batu, Malang, Indonesia

My long-time boyfriend had broken up with me and told me to never speak to him again 2 days earlier. I was still jetlagged from flying all the way from Tampa, Florida to Malang, Indonesia that same week. Back-to-back fibromyalgia flareups were drilling me with unrelenting chronic pain. Going up the mountain on the rickety van further intensified the lightheadedness and nausea I was experiencing from both the altitude swings and the dramatic 12-hour time zone change.

“Batu Paragliding: one of the best things to do in Malang! Want to do it?!”


We Darmasiswa scholars were told one of our first local East Java day trips was going to be a relaxing getaway to the rural Kota Batu. This mountainside resort in the Malang regency is a popular destination for agri-tourism and promised to be a refreshing break from the scalding hot Malang City center, where our study abroad university was located.

Mountainside villages! Lots of greenery! Fresh air! It’s going to be great!

The rickety van, outfitted with ill-padded benches (instead of seats) and sans-safety belts, should have been the first sign.

I’m tiny, okay?! I have always been under 120 pounds. 5’4″ at most. Throw me into a tiny bench, no seatbelt, up winding roads with no barricades is nerve-racking on a good day. Let alone while trying to get over a heartbreak, jet lag, fibromyalgia chronic pain, altitude sickness, motion illness, and now culture shock…

I kept banging my head against the roof and being thrown from side to side to the amusement of my classmates. They created a human shield for me and everything (at least they had a heart).

Then you tell me you want to take me paragliding in Batu?

I thought we were going to have a picnic on top of the roof of a villager’s house while looking at the stunning rolling hills, rice paddies, and fog. We did that under the stars in an oasis in the middle of the desert when I was studying abroad in Egypt and that’s cool. What’s totally not cool is all the aforementioned circumstances, including the scary little van, with the fog, mixed with extreme sports now.

Let’s do it. Let’s f***ing go Batu paragliding, biatches.

Think of the van as a torturing machine that slowly broke me down until I had no choice but to succumb to my death. “This is a pretty badass way to go,” I rationed. “Jumping off a mountain as if I were an X-gamer somewhere exotic and gorgeous.”

Morale of my day paragliding in Batu:

it isn’t about the fall, but whether you get UP

That Batu paragliding day trip was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’m so happy I just got tired of having such a tough first week in Indonesia that I simply went for it. I finally made the decision to stop beating myself up for everything that had gone wrong lately. In the process, I learned that fear and adrenaline are what we need sometimes to move forward.

We can be pretty damn dramatic after we just had our heart broken. And after an episode of fibromyalgia. And after jet lag. And motion sickness. And and and. We always seem to come up with excuses: some more valid than others. Regardless, instead of focusing so much on the fall, we should look up instead of down. Scheming getting up instead of pitying being down.

The fall is all about how you get up. Learn from your mistake, but don’t beat yourself up so much for it. Don’t waste time crying over spilled milk.Focus your attention on how to move forward.

PS. People have asked me what paragliding feels like…

Feels like a pretty damn good punch in the stomach at first. But afterwards? It’s like you died and came back to life. A huge pump of fresh air pushed into your lungs. Like CPR for your mind, for your heart. Just what I needed to start my year studying in Indonesia with the right mindset.

One more tip: you can also go zip lining down  “flying fox” for about US $2.00!

zip lining and paragliding in Batu

Batu paragliding details:

Cost: 300,000 Indonesian rupiah as of 2015

Transportation: either private taxi or hire a van and divide the cost between a couple of students.

Darmasiswa students note: ask your program contact whether this Malang day trip is included as one of your activities from UMM or other colleges from Kota Malang!

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Paragliding in Malang, Indonesia

An Ugly Day in Koh Tao Island: My Motorcycle Road Trip [VIDEO]

It was bound to be an ugly day in Koh Tao for me, even despite the fact that ​I was closing off an incredible year in Asia. I learned a new language after being awarded a full-ride scholarship to study in Malang, Indonesia. I had already enjoyed several days of incredible diving in Thailand. Yet… The stormy clouds above me were bringing back the demons of my struggle with chronic fibro pain. I could feel them, bone-deep, as invisible knives began to slash all over my body, cutting my freshly-healed hope open.

But the wonderful staff at Crystal Dive, Crystal Images, and Koh Tao Regal Resort fought back.


Is that what an ugly day in Koh Tao Thailand looks like? What it’s like to ride around the island in a motorcycle, while graced by gray skies, stray dogs, exploring rock climbing spots, hiking up viewpoints, jungle fitness courses, etc.?

Yep. Although it was a radically-different experience to me than what it seems…

I couldn’t dive that day. I was having another flare of my chronic, painful condition. Getting out of bed, getting out there, was so hard to do given how stiff and painful every limb of my body typically feels on a rainy day. Add to that that heck, I already knew how bad the roads could be when wet!

only day in Koh Tao motorcycle road trip

So yes, it began as an ugly day in Koh Tao for me.

But wow, what can the brain not do?

Once I took that first step, that first arm swing to brush my teeth, to clothe, to go outside, to breathe deeply… To really open my eyes and be thankful I could still see a sky, however gray it may be… To be grateful to be surrounded by people who want to make it all better for me…

The pain slowly faded into the back of my mind.

Don’t get me wrong: the pain was still there. I was still hurting despite all the smiles, climbing up and down, grabbing the camera and clicking the shutter. Gee, you have no idea how badly my index finger can hurt sometimes just by taking a few shots…

But that doesn’t stop me from continuing to take shots.

I focused on all the beautiful landscapes right in front of me that day — the day that was supposed to be an ugly day in Koh Tao and yet another painful day in my medical history. I didn’t allow the gray skies, both physical and metaphorical, cloud my perspective.

I didn’t allow the pain to take the spotlight.

I persevered by pushing it off, brushing it off, depriving it of any attention. It’s incredible how fast the rest of our body starts changing as soon as we start to shift our attention to other than the pain.

Some days are better than others – ​you don’t always get to spend ​an ugly day in Koh Tao – but keep fighting.

ugly day in Koh Tao Road trip bikini selfie

You may think I’m just lucky because I’m the travel blogger. Of course if the worst you seem to experience is in an exotic land – easy for you to say!

Chronic pain doesn’t care about your perceived “worldly privilege,” I’m afraid.

I’m in chilly Washington DC now — but I continue to seek and find beauty in different ways. I continue to find reasons to keep on wanting to push that huge wall that tells me I’m sick as I wake each morning.

I get my a** up, as hard as it may be, mind-fogging fatigue and stabbing pain overwhelming me and all.

Whether my bed has an ocean view or just another wall and a window facing even more walls…

Look around you – we are all surrounded by beauty, we just need to train our eyes to see it.

You’re stronger than you think. Please don’t give up. Keep on fighting in this world with me. Thanks for following – I am back 😉

Full 2017 travel recap AND 2018 travel plans coming up soon! <3

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Want more Koh Tao? Click here for my top things to do in Koh Tao

This ugly day in Koh Tao was sponsored by Crystal Dive, Crystal Images, and Koh Tao Regal Resort. Thank you so much for your hospitality — you went way above and beyond than my proposal! You have hearts of gold! Can’t wait to see y’all again

Visiting Singapore – A City Guide

Visiting Singapore – A City Guide was originally published as Singapore Guide on IHG

visiting Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Visiting Singapore? Gardens by the Bay is one of the top attractions

Modern, prosperous and dynamic, Singapore is a global hub for finance, high-tech industry and international trade. If you’re visiting on holiday, it’s a shopper’s haven and a foodie’s dream, with gleaming malls and a legendary food scene that takes in everything from Chinese, Malay and Indian street food to sophisticated fine-dining restaurants.

If you’ve an urge to explore, you can discover the island’s multicultural heritage in Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and the grand colonial buildings of the Civic District. You’ll also find plenty of beachside activities, rainforest parks, a thriving arts scene and 21st-century attractions like Gardens By The Bay.

Visiting Singapore: city layout

Shaped like a diamond, Singapore combines towering skyscrapers, traditional communities and modern waterfront developments.

Restored 19th-century colonial buildings are clustered in the city and Civic District near the Singapore River, with Chinatown close by. Little India and Kampong Glam are found to the north of the city and head east for the popular local suburbs of Geylang and Joo Chiat.

There’s an extensive network of nature reserves and parks throughout the island. Holidaymakers are drawn to islands such as Pulau Ubin for nature trails and bike tracks as well as Sentosa island, connected to central Singapore via a bridge, for seaside entertainment and theme parks.

Top attractions in Singapore

The beautifully landscaped Gardens By The Bay is home to the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome greenhouses, filled with blooms from across the world. Don’t miss the OCBC Skyway, a walkway set among 18 ‘supertree’ sculptures, which comes alive after dark with a magical light display.

For a relaxing day out, head to Sentosa island to soak up the sun on the beach, enjoy a leisurely round of golf or brave the thrilling rides at the Universal Studios Singapore theme park.

Singapore Zoo is home to white tigers, honey-loving sun bears and African lions. You can spot the giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, at the River Safari, or nocturnal leopards on the Night Safari.

For a bird’s eye view of Singapore head to the Singapore Flyer, a 165-metre observation wheel with 360-degree views of the island.

The concierge recommends…

  • A walk around Marina Bay to enjoy the city’s night lights.
  • A stroll through the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site housing lush themed gardens with more than 1,000 species of orchid.
  • food tour through the well-loved haunts in Chinatown, Geylang Serai, Joo Chiat or Kampong Glam.
  • A visit to Pulau Ubin, a kampong (traditional) village off the coast near Changi Airport.
  • Booking tickets for a traditional dance performance, a play or a concert at the iconic Esplanade arts centre.

Hotels in Singapore

For your stay in Singapore there are hotels that will suit every budget and travel need. The city’s efficient transport system makes travelling around a breeze, and it’s easy to find hotels within walking distance of a train station.

If you want to be in the thick of the action, pick a central location like Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping street, or close to the energetic nightlife hubs around Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay or Club Street. For a budget hotel in Singapore you’ll find good choices in Little India and Kampong Glam.

Singapore hotels in the central business district (CBD) or at Bugis, Outram Road and North Bridge Road are good for business travellers, with plenty of entertainment nearby.

Families might appreciate the quieter residential areas with easy access to the centre, like Tiong Bahru and River Valley, or a beachside retreat on Sentosa.

Eating Out in Singapore

Katong Laksa, Singapore Cuisine

Singapore Katong Laksa by Jpatokal, wiki Commons

Singapore’s culinary scene lies at the heart of local life. Choices range from Chinese, Indian and Asian street food at budget-friendly hawker centres in Maxwell Road, Lau Pa Sat and Tiong Bahru Market to award winning fine-dining restaurants like Restaurant Andre or Tippling Club.

For a special night out, try a rooftop restaurant such as Stellar at 1-Altitude to enjoy panoramic city views while you feast on modern European or Asian fare.

If you’re looking for an authentic Singaporean experience, BonAppetour organises trips to local families’ homes for a traditional meal, as well as gourmet cooking classes.

The chef recommends…

  • Chilli Crab: Sweet, savoury and spicy, this dish is prepared by stir-frying crabs in tomato and chilli sauce. Best eaten with fried mantous (Chinese buns).
  • Hainanese Chicken Rice: Steamed chicken, rice cooked in rich chicken broth and cucumber slices make up this beloved national dish. Spicy chilli and ginger paste is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Laksa: This delicious Peranakan soup consists of rice noodles, spices and seafood cooked in creamy coconut milk.
  • Bah Kut Teh or “meat bone tea”, prepared by simmering pork ribs in broth filled with herbs and spices.

Shopping in Singapore

Singapore’s vibrant local shopping streets and glitzy international malls should satisfy even the most demanding of shoppers.

Around Orchard Road you’ll find glamorous malls like TakashimayaParagon and Ngee Ann City, filled with high-end boutiques, luxury labels and gourmet food products. For popular local brands try exploring central malls like Marina SquareMillenia Walk or Raffles City Complex.

If you’re on the lookout for souvenirs, you can pick up Asian antiques, artworks and colourful fabrics along the quirky streets of Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam.

Local shopping in Singapore:

  • Ann Siang Hill: The historic streets around Ann Siang Hill and Telok Ayer are lined with independent boutiques selling unique clothing, fashion accessories and home ornaments.
  • Haji Lane: Designer boutiques selling modern and vintage fashion and lifestyle accessories have transformed this narrow alley in Kampong Glam.
  • Bugis Village: Its crowded lanes are home to a labyrinth of stores in restored shophouses, selling everything from fashion to food and electronics. Ideal for shoppers on a budget.

Culture & Nightlife in Singapore

Singapore’s cultural scene reflects its unique racial mix. The streets of Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India are filled with traditional shophouses and temples. A trip to the Buddha Tooth Relic TempleSri Mariamman Temple or Sultan Mosque provides a glimpse into the religious traditions of the local Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities. You’ll find throngs of devotees in traditional garments playing musical instruments at Sri Mariamman’s frequent temple processions.

You can trace Singapore’s history through the art, artefacts and multimedia displays at the National Museum of Singapore. Traditional Chinese beadwork, porcelain and sarong kebaya dresses are on display at the Peranakan Museum.

Singapore nightlife takes in everything from sleek rooftop bars to chic beachside hangouts and stylish nightclubs. For an evening of feasting and late-night revelry head to Clarke Quay or ClubStreet. The vibe is quieter at Robertson Quay, or at Dempsey Hill, where a relaxed evening can be enjoyed.

Live music venues in Singapore:

  • Blu Jaz Cafe: Jazz lovers flock to this funky bar for its live music, as well as R&B, hip-hop and Latin dance parties.
  • Timbre: There are three Timbre venues in Singapore, with regular performances by local and international bands.
  • Catch a free concert from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, held at venues such as the Botanic Gardens.

Leisure in Singapore

Lovers of the outdoors can find plenty to please in Singapore’s parks. You can rent a bike and follow the island-wide park connector network. You’ll enjoy coastal views, tropical greenery and cooling breezes on a ride from East Coast Park to the popular Changi Village Food Centre, which dishes up some of the best nasi lemak (coconut rice) on the island.

Nature lovers can take a treetop walk on the suspension bridge at MacRitchie Reservoir, a leisurely stroll around the hilltop at Fort Canning Park or enjoy panoramic views of the city from the Southern Ridges.

For families, the landscaped roof of the Marina Barrage, looking out over the city and Marina Bay, is a popular spot for picnics and kite flying. Ride the Singapore Cable Car over to Sentosa resort for beach watersports, golf, theme parks and views of the harbour from the Imbiah lookout.

Thrill seekers can try indoor skydiving at iFly Singapore on Sentosa or hurtle through the air in a reverse bungy or GX-5 extreme swing at Clarke Quay. Get closer to nature in the Bedok Reservoir and tackle the family friendly treetop ziplines at the Forest Adventure.

Singapore Hokkien Mee

Singaporean Hokkien Mee by Nicholas Chia, Flickr

To eat as the Singaporeans do, head to a local cafe for a breakfast of kaya toast and soft boiled eggs. For a Sunday treat, try one of Singapore’s famous Champagne brunches at Garibaldi or Catalunya.

Best Eats in Singapore:

  • Tong Ah Eating House: This cafe serves up slices of crispy kaya toast and cups of smooth, fragrant kopi (traditional coffee).
  • Chinatown Food Street: Great for street-side dining on local delicacies like hokkien mee and roti prata.
  • Kok Sen Restaurant: This old-school dining establishment turns out some of the tastiest Cantonese wok-fried dishes on the island.
  • Din Tai Fung: This Taiwanese dumpling house has taken Singapore by storm with branches throughout the island.

My Top 5 Underrated Kuala Lumpur Attractions

I’m taking a break from my trip to Mexico to continue chronicling my epic adventures throughout Southeast Asia last summer! I picked Malaysia because the country was not even on my radar until I was invited to dive in Tioman. So it was during two stopovers of that journey that I was hit by a slew of surprises. This is why I’m introducing you to my top 5 underrated Kuala Lumpur attractions and travel tips today 😀

My Top Underrated Kuala Lumpur Attractions and Tips

underrated Kuala Lumpur attractions, Skybar

Another underrated Kuala Lumpur spot Couchsurfers introduced me to? The best viewpoint to see the Petronas Towers: Skybar at Traders Hotel!

1. Kuala Lumpur’s Couchsurfing community: even if you booked a hotel

I may be obsessed with Couchsurfing, but on my first stopover I just wanted to meet up and have my own space. This is why I used to book my hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

I loved using the site to book hotels while living in ASEAN for two main reasons. Firstly, I was able to pay with my American debit card for no additional charge. This was great because my bank Charles Schwab has no foreign transaction fees. Secondly, Traveloka has no booking fees.

Once settled, I contacted local Couchsurfers (CSers), who encouraged me to join their wildly-popular Friday meetup.

underrated Kuala Lumpur attractions, Couchsurfing

Couchsurfer Lucienne and I exploring colorful Kuala Lumpur market summer 2015

Kuala Lumpur’s Couchsurfing (KL CS) group is a big tight family where locals, expats, and travelers passing by get together weekly. We ate deliciously-cheap Indian food, then went club hopping.

The KL CS community is huge by the way. I even got free rides from one of the locals!

So great is the vibe of KL CSers that I pulled an all-nighter hanging out with them 😀 Heck, one of the girls even explored the city the next day with me and came to visit me in Tampa, Florida earlier this year!

top Kuala Lumpur attractions, Islamic Museum

2. Visit the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia for unique Muslim world POV

As you know, I have lived in three different Muslim-majority countries and have a deep appreciation for their art. So imagine my reaction when I found some of the finest collections linking Egyptians, Moroccans, Indonesians, and other peoples of the Islamic world!

Opened in 1998, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) intricately weaves together centuries of Islamic culture in a variety of rotating and permanent exhibitions.

Traditional clothing, jewelry, artworks, complete room replicas and architectural models from dozens of countries are impeccably curated throughout 30,000 sq meters.

While I only spent half a day here due to another brief stopover, I would have happily spent on entire day prancing along the museum’s 12 galleries.

Easily reachable by metro and a pleasant (Google maps!) walk from the center, IAMM is on Jalan Lembah Perdana 50480. Still lost? Just ask where the National Mosque is — the Museum is right next door.

off-the-beaten-path Kuala Lumpur attractions, MUD

3. Learn more about Malaysian history with MUD

MUD may be popular among family travelers, yet barely on the radar of solo travelers in Kuala Lumpur.

This musical about Malaysian history follows the lives of three friends as they migrate to Kuala Lumpur seeking better lives.

Through songs and colorful costumes, the story gives the audience an entertaining introduction to the melting pot that makes up the modern nation of Malaysia. You can’t miss it!

unique things to see in Kuala Lumpur, skyline

4. Take in KLCC’s skyline: it’s free!

Got your tickets for an evening showing of MUD? Wake up early that day in order to explore other interesting parts of Kuala Lumpur’s City Centre District (KLCC).

Take in the mix of contemporary, British colonial, and Mughal designs that make the city’s skyline beautifully photogenic. Highlights include the 100-meter-high Menara KL; the (Islamic govt bldg?).

Midday, head to shady KLCC Park for a picnic–another option to save money. The 202,343-sq-meter oasis hosts a big dancing fountain at Lake Symphony; waterfalls; and approximately 1,900 trees and plants.

Can’t abandon the #fitfam? They got a 1.3-kilometer track to break a sweat at as well.

off-the-beaten-path Kuala Lumpur attractions, Aquaria

Off-the-beaten-path Kuala Lumpur attraction: off-the-beaten-path Kuala Lumpur attractions, Aquaria by SAM Cheong, cc-by-sa-2.0

5. Dive into Aquaria

Other underrated Kuala Lumpur attractions in KLCC include Aquaria, a complex aquarium like no other.

Highlands, jungle, and coral reef ecosystems flourish here, interconnected by walk-through tunnels.

The highlight at Aquaria though is the giant tank that holds a 90-meter-long shipwreck replica. You can even explore it with a moving travelator!

To fill your belly, I recommend you go off-the-eaten-track with one of Food Tour Malaysia food crawls. I was surprised by the variety of cuisines delicious dishes Kuala Lumpur has to offer as well.

Like this Kuala Lumpur mini guide? PIN IT below!

Underrated Kuala Lumpur Attractions Guide

Got other underrated Kuala Lumpur attractions & tips? Comment below!


Guns and Roses Cover Band + AC/DC: Videos from Chiang Mai!

Where the heck did the Guns and Roses cover band come from, in the middle of freaking Thailand, you may ask?

Well well well… 😀

guns and roses cover band video

The spectacular Chiang Mai Cabaret show wasn’t the only highlight of one of my funnest nights in Southeast Asia. Right after that incredible performance, the Indian and the Spaniard trotted along the Anusarn Market Night Bazaar with me–too amped up to say goodbye to the night just yet.

And then…my finely-tuned ears caught a glimpse of a Guns and Roses track.

But wait a second. That’s too real.

“That’s freaking Axl, man. That’s probably a really good live recording. Let’s head to that bar, it’s one of the few still open and at least they have good music.”

WELCOME to part 5 of my solo female travel chronicles throughout Thailand!

Guns and Roses Cover Band LIVE

JUMP to 0:53 seconds-on for the BEST close-ups and moves! ^

We couldn’t believe our ears.

This was a live band. An amazing Guns and Roses cover band.

We arrived toward the end of their “November Rain” rendition–me too flabbergasted to even press record on my camera.

Oh, but that performance was followed by an insane Welcome to the Jungle cover.

And then… They just kept going. We felt like we were at a freakin’ Guns and Roses reunion tour!

We were screaming like children.

Guns and Roses Cover Band in Thailand

But it didn’t stop there. Bon Jovi, AEROSMITH…even freaking AC/DC!

Say whaaaa?!

Man, they played American classic rock hit after hit. For hour and a half!

I can remember how much were the beers, but who cares? We had a blast.

Worth every single penny… of the FREE admission!

Band plays Wed-Sun. 9:30 PM @ Thai European Food & Bar, Chiang Mai!

My Video from the Spectacular Chiang Mai Cabaret

This week, you’ll watch a video + photos of two of my best nights out in Southeast Asia last summer. In Thailand, the rendezvous involved the gorgeous ladyboys from the infamous Chiang Mai Cabaret — and the most talented classic rock cover band I’ve had the privilege to see perform anywhere in the world.

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show Video

Ladies and gents, this shall be part 5 of my solo female adventures in Thailand!

Chiang Mai Cabaret: “BEST Of” Video

DISCLAIMER: after the 2-minute mark, I believe the video below is not safe for work and suggested to be watched by mature audiences. I recommend this entertaining video only to individuals over 17 years of age.

You’ve been warned 😉

It started innocently enough, with a curious walk around the Night Bazaar Anusarn Market. Then, as you found out the other week, I witnessed one of the best drag queen shows I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Funny. Emotional (tearjerking, really). Surprising.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to share this experience with other travelers.

And so, when the innocent Indian-American and Spanish boys shared with me at Wat Umong that they had never been to a ladyboys show, I had to take them to the Chiang Mai Cabaret!

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show

Granted, the night I took them my favorite number of all, Lady Marmalade from the Moulin Rouge, wasn’t performed again. BUT! They got to enjoy other pretty fun numbers–including a few favorites from the night before as well.

Their faces. My gosh. If I could’ve photograph them!

They were too busy telling me to record those video clips and take specific snapshots of their favorite ladyboys, though.

What’s crazy is this was the last night in Chiang Mai for both of them. We all agreed it was one of the funnest nights we’ve had in any of our travels throughout Southeast Asia.

What a hoot 🙂

Most beautiful ladyboy at the Chiang Mai Cabaret show

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show: Useful Tips

  • DO NOT bring children. This show is for adults only.
  • Tickets cost around 290 baht per person, which includes general admission + one drink.
  • Show starts at 9:30 PM, but be there by 8:30 to secure good seats.
  • DO NOT sit on any of the first tables in front of the 2 columns closest to the stage IF you don’t want to be touched, danced on or even picked to be part of the live show!
  • If you see the video, I sat right behind and in between the aforementioned columns. These, in my honest opinion, are the BEST seats in the house! Pick any of the tables in that area for phenomenal views.

VIDEO of the talented classic rock cover band NEXT WEEK! Stay tuned 😉

Chiang Mai Ladyboys, Monks, and Micro Flights

It always seems to be the case with me that, after an enlightening, wholesome experience, I go down the deep end — FAST. But deep end in Maria Alexandra’s life is just a night of absurd fun. Or 2. In a row. Minimal drinking required. Alongside the most beautiful Chiang Mai ladyboys:

Chiang Mai ladyboys

And an innocent Indian-American boy and a good 20-something Spaniard–whom yours truly both enlightened and corrupted in less than 24 hours.

Don’t jump into conclusions so fast, though.

WELCOME to part 4 of my impromptu solo adventures in North Thailand!

Chiang Mai nightlife

Chiang Mai Ladyboys, Monks, and Micro Flights

After my magical afternoon tea time at the Makka Hotel, I walked down the old city until night fell. Then, some catchy music caught my years at the Night Bazaar inside Anusarn Market.

Out of the blue, gorgeous Thai women started to approach me. It only took one of their friends walking after for me to realize that,

Chiang Mai ladyboys Cabaret


Many of these Chiang Mai ladyboys were more gorgeous than me, though.


And so, I was convinced to pay the ~290 baht entrance fee and enter the magical world of the celebrated Chiang Mai Cabaret.

All by myself. Right in 2nd row.

ladyboys Chiang Mai

brightly-colored Chiang Mai ladyboys!

I laughed until my tears were so salty my eyes stung. Almost immediately after, another act moved my heart toward another bout of tears.

HOW, in the world, could a ladyboys show be so funny, so entertaining, so sultry, feisty, and yet moving — all at the same time?

I’ve been to my fair share of drag queen shows and let me tell you, Chiang Mai’s was peculiar. And far more fun.

Maybe I’ve never been to a particularly good one? It was my first trip to Thailand, after all. Maybe next time I should go on a ladyboy Cabaret tour around the country.

(that sounds fun as heck)

the next morning…

MICRO FLIGHT TIME! ‘Cause I don’t waste time between my thrills.

Another last-minute arrangement of mine in Chiang Mai: to fly high above the sky and see the region from yet another perspective.

At the crack of dawn, I was scootered to the Old City by my Couchsurfing host to be whisked away to a tiny airfield at a nearby town.

WOW is all I can say — some of you have seen the Chiang Mai micro flight video from a previous post. Here are some photos again!

micro flight over Chiang Mai

My host Julien had yet another busy morning playing online poker for a living, so it was time for me to crash a hostel patio one more time to make more friends and rally up a new crew.

I first met up with José* (the young handsome Spaniard) again after he decided to join his friends at Pai a day later.

Then, super randomly, a good-natured Indian-American crashed our duo.

I can’t even remember how it happened–we were kind of talking about what we would do for the day and he said something along the lines of “hey! My name is Vader* — can I join you?!”

Nightlife in Chiang Mai: Tips

And just like that, the new 3 Musketeers were born. At least for a day.

Our Top 2 Off-The-Beaten-Path Chiang Mai Temples

The day flew by: I showed them some of my favorite Chiang Mai temples from the day before, in addition to going on the hunt for some off-the-beaten-path gems.

What really happened is I got lost again, drifting them into local labyrinths.

And so we found beautiful things somewhere between suburbia and the forest:

off-the-beaten-path Chiang Mai temples

Wat Ram Poeng

1. Wat Ram Poeng: a fascinating monastery that now serves as a popular meditation center for both locals and foreigners alike. Charming 6-acre campus.

Why I call it off-the-beaten-path? It is only popular with people who are extremely serious about meditation, going on 10 to 26-day courses.

We were the only visitors there who were not enrolled in such a course. The calming energy that enveloped us was incredible.

2. Wat Umong: conveniently located close to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment, we ended up here after a long, long walk from Wat Ram Poeng. The smartphone map said it was close! (we probably got lost and took a parallel road. Again).

This was the most touching, as it blended seamlessly with the surrounding forest:

off-the-beaten-path Chiang Mai, Wat Umong

Wat Umong

There was even a lake and intricate caves doubling as temples:

We spent several hours there, until I had to go back to my host’s apartment to hang out and have dinner.

BUT WE SCHEMEDDDD *insert evil laugh here*

After a wholesome afternoon exploring some of the most gorgeous, off-the-beaten-path temples around Chiang Mai, I started to tell the boys about my crazy time at the cabaret the night before.

Lake in Chiang Mai Forest Temple

They were more than intrigued: they had never been to a dragshow. EVER

Like, nowhere in the world. In their entire lives.



My host Julien shied away after my proposal, so he went back home after dinner–while I proceeded to have one of the funnest nights of my solo travels anywhere in Southeast Asia…

Chiang Mai ladyboys after Cabaret

CLICK HERE to watch the Chiang Mai ladyboys VIDEO!

Chiang Mai Temple Hopping and Thai Food PHOTO Extravaganza

Big nose boo-boo and embarrassing temple desecration aside, I continued my exciting trot around Thailand solo. The next day would be full of even more Chiang Mai temple hopping and mouthwatering Northern Thai food.

Chiang Mai Temple Hopping and Foodie Crawl

As my delicious Northern Thai food guide shows, I had an incredibly tasty time this day. What I haven’t shared with you yet though are the details of the beautiful Chiang Mai temples that were mixed in with that equally-beautiful food.

temple hopping in Chiang Mai

I always get insanely lost (how do I manage to travel the world, I wonder?!), so I was a good 40 minutes early (so I didn’t get lost this time! yay!). Which, would prove to be, the best thing to kick off my day:

A Thai Temple all to myself, except for a monk or 2.

temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Chiang Man temple was relatively small, but intricately decorated. The golden adornments shone brightly against the sun–and the carpet inside seemed to have absorbed an intense amount of holiness from the many prayers to have been lifted from it.

It was, really, inexplicable magic.

Chiang Mai temples

The magic spell was broken by a couple of scantily-clad travelers breaking into the silence. With their uncovered spaghetti straps and loud conversation, I bounced.

Right on time to meet two other travelers and our guide!

This, by the way, was a last-minute arrangement. I decided to go on it and luckily they had space. There were only 3 of us. I love the low season.

As previously mentioned, we proceeded to devour Chiang Mai’s best foods:

foodie temple hopping Chiang Mai

We walked and walked. We also hailed a red cab or 2 for longer jaunts. The most enjoyable way to go Chiang Mai temple hopping–all while learning about the history of Northern Thai food and the city.

We visited local shops while stopping by some of the most popular temples on the way–and also discovering other tiny ones, hidden among the maze of alleyways that I didn’t even know crisscrossed the Old City.

best Chiang Mai temples

My second favorite moment, though, was having a few seconds with 2 monks and myself at Wat Chedi Luang:

Those are some of my favorite photos from my entire trip to Thailand.

Oh & this colorful Asian-but-Spanish-Conquistador-looking door. And altar.

But THEN! Then

Tea time at the Makka Hotel’s mini library, the last stop of our cultural foodie crawl, was just as holy and memorable:

Chiang Mai Makka Hotel

Then, I spent 3 hours after everyone left on my own, in that very library, reading books about Buddhism and their Enlightened authors.

I had an epiphany or 2. Some life lessons learned.

Among one of the quietest, most delicious afternoons of my entire life.

And yet, all alone.


It is in the so-called “void” that we sometimes find the most enjoyment.

Coming from me, you must be sure by now that this is a very, very special place.

Chiang Mai Temple quote

Read part 4 of my solo adventures in Thailand by clicking here!