Relatively untouched by tourism, Myanmar is a charming and beautiful country rich in history, culture and tradition with a warm and welcoming people.
Like a sleeping giant rising from its slumber, the burgeoning tourism industry in Myanmar is awake up and ready for action. Until recently, Myanmar spent nearly two decades in political isolation, with only a handful of tourists visiting during that time. In November 2010, it was announced the full tourism boycott would be lifted and intrepid travellers were chomping at the bit to be one of the first to see and experience this alluring country.
A holiday in Myanmar offers the opportunity to discover a country that’s still relatively untouched by tourism. The infrastructure is a work in progress and while this greatly adds to its charm for most, some may find this a difficulty. With the lack of infrastructure, getting around can be trying as roads are bumpy and treacherous while buses and trains are more often than not crowded, loud, dirty and slow. However, what you will discover is a charming and beautiful country rich in history, culture and tradition with a warm and welcoming people, cheap and tasty food and spectacular sights.
A popular and relaxing way to experience Myanmar is on a river cruise. The beauty of this style of travel is that you get to experience a more serene and untouched side of the country. The scenery as you cruise down the river is enchanting; discover golden stupas, picturesque lakes and unspoiled mountain scenery, passing by fields and clusters of tiny villages along the way. Docking on the banks of the river, you’ll have friendly villagers greeting you, still excited by the novelty of foreigners. Children innocently run up to greet you, asking for nothing in return but a smile. You get a real sense of the warmth and grace of the people and, despite the repression and torture they have suffered at the hands of their government - of how grateful and happy they are with their simplified existence.
The ancient city of Bagan is a highlight, vying for first place against Cambodia’s Angkor Wat as one of Southeast Asia’s most breathtaking sights. The capital of the first Burmese empire, Bagan is scenically located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and features over 2,500 pagodas and temples peeking up through iridescent green plains. Treat yourself to a hot-air balloon ride over the 42 sq. km area or witness a magnificent sunrise for something truly spectacular.
The city of Yangon was once under control by the British Empire, leaving behind the colonial architecture that can be seen all over the city. Lakes and lush green parks dot the city however Yangon’s main landmark is the glorious Shwedagon Pagoda, glittering brightly like a beacon from many points in the city. Myanmar’s most sacred and famous structure, the tall golden pagoda was built in the 6th century BC and is believed to hold eight strands of Buddha’s hair. Not only is it a serenely beautiful place but it also provides magnificent views of the city and surrounds.
Enjoy the peaceful scenery of Inle Lake, home to around 150,000, most of whom live on the lake on floating islands of vegetation. Witness daily life on the floating villages and visit the colourful floating markets. On the banks of the lake, you will find Shwe Indein Pagoda complex, a delightfully tranquil place where hundreds of white stupas are spread out with no record of when they were built or who by.
Mandalay is Myanmar’s cultural capital, retaining its artistic tradition’s that were once the object of royal patronage. You can find street performers and artisans all over the city, day and night. See the remains of Mandalay Palace; bombed heavily in WWII, all that remains are the walls and the moat which give you an idea of what it used to be. Climb the 700 or so steps to the top of Mandalay Hill or take the line-car service for magnificent views. At the foot of the hill, you can see the world’s largest book in the Kuthodaw Pagoda and, on the way up, the Shwenandaw Monastery – an intricately hand-carved masterpiece from the mid 19th century.
Laidback and peaceful, if you want nightlife, Myanmar is not the place for you. In a country where monks are more revered than celebrities, American franchises are nowhere to be seen and cars and motorbikes have yet to entirely take over the streets, you’ll find in Myanmar, one of the last unspoiled holiday frontiers in Asia.
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