The Golden Land of Pagodas, Myanmar continues to open to the rest of the world yet it is still one of the most mysterious and least discovered of South East Asia’s destinations, a land of breath-taking beauty and charm that offers traditional Asian delights to all visitors.
Nestled between Thailand, Laos and China to the east and north, and Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea to the west, Myanmar is a destination rich in history, culture and heritage. The former capital and the largest city, Yangon in the south is the convenient starting point for most travels in the country. The city’s unique charm comes from its tree-lined streets, serene parks and tranquil lakes combined with the hustle and bustle of street vendors and thriving markets. Recent years have seen the modernisation of the urban landscape but Yangon still boasts the highest concentration of colonial heritage in South East Asia. It is also home to one of the world’s most spectacular monuments – the glorious Shwedagon Pagoda that dominates the city’s skyline.
To visit Bagan in the Mandalay Region is to take a step back in time and be charmed by the area’s captivating landscape and fascinating history. Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city between the 9th and 13th Centuries having been the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. Today, over 2,200 pagodas and monuments still stand in proud testimony to these former heydays.
Situated on the banks of the legendary Ayeyarwady River is Mandalay, the last royal capital of the Burmese Kingdom. Today it is Myanmar’s second largest city and is considered the centre of Burmese culture, being home to thousands of young monks and many different forms of crafts. A day trip to the nearby ancient royal capitals of Ava, Amarapura, Mingun and Sagaing makes this one of Myanmar’s most historical and culturally rich regions.
Famous Inle Lake in Shan State offers wonderful peace and tranquillity. Listed in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, it is the country’s second largest lake and is best known for the extraordinary lives of the people who live on and around it, known as the ‘Intha’. As well as beautiful floating gardens, this is where to see the unique one-legged rowing style of the local fishermen using traditional conical nets.
Myanmar also boasts its own gorgeous beaches around Ngapali and the Mergui (or Myeik) Archipelago, one of the planet’s most unspoilt destinations.
Yet it is the people of Myanmar that are the country’s most precious treasure and the many enchanting and beautiful festivals held throughout each year are a great opportunity to experience local culture and lifestyles. Pagoda festivals are very popular, and national groups also celebrate their own new year and harvest days.
Myanmar’s climate makes for three distinct seasons: the cool season from October to February when it can even get down to near freezing at night around Inle Lake; the hot season from March to mid-May; and the green season from mid-May to September when frequent short rainstorms are prevalent.
As Myanmar opens to the outside world, visitors are also discovering a cuisine that’s largely been hidden for the past 50 years. Myanmar cuisine has its own special identity which is beloved by local people, and while it draws from its neighbours it is neither as hot as Thai nor as spicy as Indian while the use of stir-fried vegetables is the closest it resembles Chinese cooking.
Discover the picturesque beauty, enchanting culture and fascinating heritage of Myanmar today, with Travel Exclusive Asia!