Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake. I spent ten days in Central Myanmar, experiencing some of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. Here are 13 pictures from Myanmar that summarize my experience.

Myanmar (aka Burma) is slowly opening up to tourists and democracy.  While parts of Myanmar are still closed to foreigners, the country in Southeast Asia is getting more and more visitors every year. Now, the tourist sights can feel even too crowded and commercialized.

The National Specialties

Burma / Myanmar in pictures. A young and beautiful Myanmar woman with thanaka face paint on her cheeks by the Inle Lake.

One of the most visually distinct feature of Burmese culture. Many locals decorate their faces with thanaka paste.

A sitting Buddha statue in Mandalay, Myanmar with a flashing neon sign circle behind his head.

For some reasons, many Buddhist statues in Myanmar are decorated with neon signs and “Christmas lights”. This Buddha in Mandalay even had an animated neon light circle behind his head.

The Hluttaw or Supreme Court in Mandalay Palace and other main buildings of the site from a view tower in the southeast corner of the area.

It was impossible to miss the military presence near Mandalay Palace. The historical site was surrounded by a military area where photography was prohibited.

Htanyet jaggery candies on a vase in a restaurant near Inle Lake, Myanmar.

After a meal in a restaurant in Myanmar, you get candies called htanyet made of palm sugar. And they’re really, really good! Seriously, like the best candies I’ve ever had.

The Ruins of Bagan

Two small temples in Bagan, Myanmar slightly covered in moss.

Bagan is an ancient city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar. About a thousand years ago, the local rulers just got a construction frenzy and built thousands of temples in the area.

Most pictures of Bagan show several temples in the distance. The temples are often closer than they appear in photos, because some of the buildings are very small, which creates an optical illusion.

Most pictures of Bagan show several temples in the distance. However, the temples are often closer than they appear in photos. Some of the buildings are very small, which creates an optical illusion that fools the eye.

The most popular temples are extremely touristy, with plenty of vendors selling their products.

The most popular temples are very touristy, with plenty of vendors selling their products.

A broken Buddha statue with a missing head and a small head in front of it outside in Bagan, Myanmar.

But take a bicycle and motorbike and explore some smaller paths, you’ll find more quiet (and less renovated) spots like this one.

Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake

A guy from Myanmar taking selfie on a long boat in Inle Lake.

The town of Nyaung Shwe and the Inle Lake are popular with locals and foreign tourists alike.

Pictures of Myanmar. A young boy leading a boat to Hpaung Daw U Pagoda in Inle Lake.

While Inle Lake is advertised for its nature, the area is extremely commercialized. The shared boat trips to the lake are more like shopping tours, as the boat stops in shops and marketplaces.

Boat tour to Inle Lake. Dozens of boatmen and longboats in a dock in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

And when I say Inle Lake is a popular destination, I really mean it. All the stops of the boat tour were crowded, and there were dozens of boats waiting for their passengers to continue their journeys.

A local fisherman hitting water surface with a paddle in Inle Lake.

However, you can also catch glimpses of the local culture around the area. Like this local fisherman hitting the surface of the water with a paddle to scare the fish into his net.