Destination in Myanmar
Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake are the main attractions in Myanmar however there are also other exotic destinations such as Ngapali & Ngwe Saung Beach that offer un spoilt beaches in a peaceful and relaxing setting.
Each destination in Myanmar offers the traveller a unique experience In Yangon clients will be enticed with the colonial heritage of the city blending with the ancient Buddhist culture that is prevalent throughout Myanmar. In Mandalay the ancient capital and home of the former royal palace, clients will see a city that is now commonly recognized as the cultural heart land of Myanmar.
Two of the most enigmatic destinations in Myanmar would have to be Bagan and Inle Lake. Bagan is home to literally thousands of Pagodas dating back to the 11th century. You simply have not viewed a sunset until you have witnessed the sun go down with the mystical temples of Bagan serving as an inspiring background. The timelessness of Bagan will truly captivate the soul where age old traditions are preserved in everyday life. Inle Lake has a charm all of its own where the simple natural beauty of the region speaks for itself. The cool air and colorful scenery of the lake is intoxicating on every level.
Apart from these destinations, there are much more in Myanmar for slightly adventurous traveler willing to ‘get off the beaten track’ and see local unique ways of life.
MAJOR TOURIST DESTINATIONS
Bagan is one of the richest archaeological and historical sites in Asia, a large area with more than 2,000 pagodas and temples, all set in a vast plain beside the legendary Ayeyarwaddy River. During the Bagan Era (11th to 13th century), Burmese was written for the first time. Bagan was the origin of Buddhism, as still practiced nowadays, and was the seat of religious learning of clergy and laity. Mingalazedi is one of Bagan’s last great stupas to have been erected and is a fine example of the skills of the temple builders. It is also a favorite spot to catch the sunset. Foreign visitors to Bagan can be found on the steep steps waiting for the magical moment; as the sun sinks behind the already misty Ayeyarwaddy, cameras click almost simultaneously. Bagan noe features a variety of good hotels of various standards. It is also the starting/ending point of cruises on the Ayeyarwaddy River linking Bagan with Mandalay. A unique travel experience is a hot-air balloon flight over the Archaeological Zone which is available during the winter months.
Bago is renowned for the 55-meter long reclining Buddha image, the beautiful golden Shwemawdaw Pagoda and many more religious monuments such as the old ordination hall built by king Dhammazedi. It has an interesting lively market and just 10 minutes out of town, one can see authentic rural life including water buffaloes yoked in front of a plough working in the paddy fields. Bago can be reached easily by road; the 80-km journey from Yangon takes about two hours. It is situated on the road to the Golden Rock Pagoda and to Mawlamying. Bago remains a quite an easy-going town with a lot more bicycles than cars. It is, however, constantly expanding.
The Inle Lake is roughly 20-km long and of outstanding beauty within its natural surroundings. One of its many unique features is the cultivation of floating gardens where flowers as well as tomatoes, beans and cucumbers grow. Local villages and markets are interesting sighting spots. The beauty of sunrise as well as the sunset observed from this idyllic lake with the Shan mountain range as backdrop enchants all visitors. Every year, on the eve of the full moon day in October, the annual Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is held. The pagoda’s most revered Buddha images are displayed on the grand golden Karaweik, a replica of the ancient Royal Barge, and are being taken to several villages around the lake for 18 days until they arrive back at their home shrine again. Unlike other pagoda festivals in Myanmar, most of which for three days only, this one lasts for 18 days and features the famous Inle Boat Races that attract spectators from near and far. The races provide exciting additional entertainment and are well worth watching. Both men and women participate in the races with separate events for each.
Kalaw was a favorite hill station during the British colonial era. It is a picturesque village surrounded by pine forests and has some of Myanmar’s most beautiful gardens. From Kalaw there are good trekking and hiking possibilities to the neighboring hill tribe villages, which still function the same as they did centuries ago. Fans of natural beauty and peaceful sites will surely get their money’s worth. The roads leading to Kalaw and Pindaya offer breathtaking sights of the landscape and are somehow reminiscent of the beautiful Alps region in Europe.
Kyaikhtiyo / Golden Rock
The Golden Rock of Kyaikhtiyo is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Myanmar Buddhists. The gold –plated boulder is said to maintain its balance thanks to a single hair of the Buddha being enshrined inside the pagoda. To reach the top of the mountain , one can either make a 13km climb ( which will take around 7 hours or more ) or sit on the loading area of open trucks that take passengers to a so-called middle camp through a steep and winding road. From there all visitors have to walk up the remaining 4 km (500 meters in altitude) on steep tracks. An easy alternative for those who can’t manage the way on foot is to sit on sedan chairs, which are carried by four porters to the top. Once arrived at the pagoda, one can enjoy a spectacular view, which is particularly beautiful a sunrise or sunset. The whole site has a magic charisma and famous for meditation.
Located high in the Shan Hills at the center of the Golden Triangle, it is one of the country’s most remote outposts and probably the most scenic town in Shan State. At one time Kyaing Tong was the Shan capital and this ancient city is the gateway to rugged journeys and exotic sights. More than a dozen different tribal groups live around Kyaing Tong. The hills and the vast vally floor are dotted with small villages, home to at least ten different tribal groups. Living almost side by side in small communities are groups of Ang, Lahu Ahka, Akhu, Padaung, Kala, Shan, Chin, Lishu, Pao, the headhunting Wa, Khun and Laui. All are living in different stages of development, some still following very traditional ways. Days of change will soon be coming to this remote area.
Lashio in relative proximity to China is a trading town in a mountain basin at 855 meters above sea level and inhabited mostly by ethnic Shan-Chinese and Chinese. This township is located at the southern end of the formerly famous Burma Road. Mya Kantha Hill in the northern part of town offers good views of the city. Testimony to Lashio’s predominately Chinese population bears the steady traffic at Myanmar’s largest Chinese temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy Quan Yin.
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and situated in the hot and dry central region of the country. Mandalay is the cultural center of Myanmar and the last royal capital. It is surrounded by other ancient royal capitals, Sagaing, Ava (Inwa) and Amarapura, which are highly interesting sightseeing destinations due to their historical and religious importance – in ancient times as well as at present. In Mandalay, visitors can watch traditional handicrafts being made, such as kalaga tapestries, marionettes, bronze casting, stone and woodcarving. Mandalay also houses the most revered Buddha statue in the whole of Myanmar, the Maha Myat Muni. The Buddha Himself is said to have breathed onto the just-finished image thus giving it some of the Buddha’s power. People believe that image is somewhat “alive” and it is therefore treated with the utmost respect. Every early morning, monks and people come to the pagoda to wash the image’s face and to make offerings of water, food, flowers, candles and incense. Another interesting sightseeing point is the 230 meter high Mandalay Hill, from where one has a scenic view of Mandalay, the plains surrounding it, the Shan Mountain, as well as the Ayeyarwaddy River. The site is famous for beautiful sunsets. Mandalay Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1945 and has been largely reconstructed in recent years. Its grounds can now be visited as a museum. Another interesting attraction is Kuthodaw Pagoda (also called the largest book in the world), built by King Mindon after the Fifth Buddhist Council, where he entire Buddhist Canon in described on 729 marble stone slabs. Mandalay has excellent air, road and river connections to all parts of Myanmar and is the ideal base from which to explore the rest of Upper Myanmar.
Monywa lies on the banks of the Chindwin River, 140-km northwest of Mandalay. It is the gate way for excursions to the cave temples of Phowin Taung, situated across the river and reached by ferry. The caves are famous for their Buddha statues, mural paintings and woodcarvings. There are quite a few legends about the caves, related mostly to nats (the Myanmar spirits). There are supposed to have been over 400,000 Buddha image carved out in the caves. Another highly important attraction is Thambuddhe (or Sambuddha Kat Kyaw) Pagoda, completed in 1951 after 12 years of construction with over 800 small stupas on and around the pagoda. There are also reportedly 582,357 Buddha statues on the ceiling, walls, and archways and in niches in and on the temple compound.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano and with 1,500 meters the highest point within the bago Yoma range. The main attraction of this region however is the smaller, 730-meter high conic rock Popa Taungkalat, also known as the “ Olympus of the Nats” because it is the home of Myanmar’s legendary 37 ‘Nats”(or spirits). To reach the top of the volcanic plug with its many shrines and a monastery, one has to climb up 700 steep steps accompanied by a crowd of monkeys. This effort will be rewarded many times by the extraordinary panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Around the area of the Popa Yoma Mountain, there is the Popa National Park with dense sandalwood forests and rare species of birds and butterflies worth a walk or a trek. Other attractions include two important “ Nat Pwes” ( or festivals) held each year (one in May-June and one in November-December) when people from all parts of Myanmar come to appease and worship the spirits. These spirits are evoked by so-called “ Nat Gadaws” ( or mediums) and offer their bodies to get possessed. The nats still play an important part in many Myanmar people’s lives in spite of the dominance of Buddhism.
The capital and largest town of Kachin State is an important trade center between China and Myanmar. It is an ideal starting point for excursions to tribal villages, jade mines and the Myitsone River confluence (40-km from Myitkyina), where two Himalayan streams (Mehka and Malikha) meet to from the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River. Kachin State is renowned for its scenic natural beauty; from untouched jungle areas to the Himalayan Mount Hkakabo Razi ( the highest point in Myanmar at 5,889 meters) with it year-round snow- capped peak ( first climbed only in 1996). This mountain area in the far north is literally yet untouched by tourism. At present, an important part of these regions has become a national Park as some rare wild life species – declared extinct elsewhere in the world – have been discovered there.
Ngwe Saung (Silver Beach)
A new destination on Myanmar’s tourism map, Ngwe Saung Beach offers its visitors unspoiled beaches and tranquility on the coast of the Indian Ocean. A few entrepreneurs have begun developing accommodation for local and foreign visitors. The destination is still in its early stages of this development process. Ngwe Saung can be reached by car from the capital Yangon in approximately five hours. The journey takes travelers across the wide alluvial Ayeyarwaddy Delta region. A stop can be included in Pathein, a busy trading toen on the banks of the Pathein River. As an alternative to road travel, it is possible to travel from Yangon to the Pathein River by boat. Float through picturesque scenery, passing by houses and villages that dot the riverbanks. The vast and fertile Ayeyarwaddy Delta is connected to countless larger and smaller river tributaries; it’s an ideal area for rice cultivation. Up to today, Ngwe saung Beach has remained a largely unknown destination, a jewel for independent travelers seeking nothing more but sand, sea and tranquility.
Northern and Eastern Destinations
In the north and east of Myanmar are several small towns still not easily accessible for general tourism. For the time being, hotels and other facilities are extremely limited. For the adventurous traveler however, such destinations as Hakha( the capital of the Chin State), built on mountain terraces and surrounded by magnificent pine forest or Tongzan, the cultural center of Chin tribes, as well as the 2,704-meter high Mount Kennedy near Teedeim, may soon become accessible. In Bhamo visitors can see hill tribe people from the surrounding regions. Travelers can reach the mountainous region around Lashio, an important trading center, by train or road from Mandalay. From Lashio further up north lies the border town of Muse, through which travelers can enter overland into China.
Situated in the delta of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Pathein is the most important port for trade in the delta region. The region is the heart of Myanmar’s paddy cultivation. Pathein is a peaceful little town with a scenic waterfront, many Chinese and Burmese temples and Pathein umbrella workshops. The colorful hand-made umbrellas of Pathein are famous all over Myanmar. The traditional umbrellas for monks and nuns, as one commonly sees in upper Myanmar, are manufactured here. Pathein, located some 190 kilometers west of Yangon, can be reached in three hours by road or by overnight ferry through the alluvial Ayeyarwaddy river delta region.
Pindaya lies at an altitude of 1,200 meters surrounded by hill tribe villages. Its main attraction is the natural limestone cave that branches out widely, displaying more than 8,000 Buddha images made of wood, marble, lacquer, brick, stone and bronze. Many devoted Buddhist pilgrims have placed them there over the centuries. The collection of these images in such a setting is unique and well worth seeing. Pindaya also features the picturesque Boutaloke Lake, beautifully set amongst huge old trees. A major handicraft industry in Pindaya is umbrella manufacturing. The making of these pretty hand-made paper umbrellas can be seen in several workshops in town.
A small town on the bend in the Ayeyarwaddy river. Pyay is very close to what was the seat of the Pyu Kingdom called Sri Ksetra from the 5th to 9th centuries. In the surrounding areas there are the ruins of this ancient capital. The Thayekhittaya Site, dating back to the 5th century, features a quite different architectural style than other periods and represents one of the most interesting historical and archaeological sites in Myanmar. Pyay lies 290-km northwest of Yangon and is comfortably accessible by car (5-6 hour journey).
Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo)
This one-time British hill town hideaway, about two hours drive from Mandalay, offers cool weather, eclectic architecture and stagecoaches. The town dates from the early 20th century and its main street is part of the famous Burma Road, an important route that leads north to the trading town of Lashio and beyond to the Chinese border. The street is an interesting place to walk about, lined with a mishmash of building styles; iron grillwork, balconies, chimneys and wood-carved decorations accent the architecture. The town’s clock tower, the Purcell Tower with its Big Ben chime, is said to be a present from Queen Victoria, identical to one in Capetown, South Africa. Close to Pyin Oo Lwin are several natural attractions, waterfalls and caves. Sports of major tourist interest include the Peik Chin Myaing Cave, which houses many Buddha images, and some models of Myanmar’s most revered pagodas. The cave lies in a beautiful setting with some waterfalls around. It is a favorite weekend destination for local tourists. Also of interest is the national Kandawgyi Botanical Garden. The garden, founded back in 1915, is home to a large variety of trees and flowers from Myanmar and abroad as well as numerous birds. What really makes Pyin Oo Lwin unique are brightly painted miniature stagecoaches drawn by lively.
Sittwe and Mrauk Oo
Arriving at Sittwe makes you step back in time where the airport consists of just one room with ceiling fans. It is a port city and served as a major trading point with India during the time of the British. Sittwe boasta several interesting pagodas and a very exceptional monastery that has a wonderful collection of Buddha images, some dating back to the 15th century when Mrauk Oo had reached its peak. Sittwe’s main importance lies in the fact that it is the starting point of the boat journey on the Kaladan River to the ancient former capital and important archaeological site of Mrauk Oo. In the 15th and 16th century, Mrauk Oo was a culturally. King Minbin, a very powerful rakhine King, built the most famous Shittaung Temple in the 1535 and it remains the main attraction of the Mrauk Oo temple site. Additional interesting sightseeing points are the ruins of the royal palace and the remains of the city walls.
A small town that is well known for its pottery is manufacturing and cotton weaving. Another interesting site to visit is an old Mon pagoda. The town is situated at the Twante Canal, which was dug during the time of British rule in Myanmar to provide a short boat ride from Yangon. A ride on the canal offers contrasting images; from the buzzing chaos in Yangon to the provincial calmness of the countryside.
Walk the streets of Old Yangon to see leafy lanes and byways filled with enormous timber mansions, decorated in unique Myanmar style, where British captains of industry once lived.
See century-old buildings with magnificent architecture, reminders of Yangon’s past.
The number of colonial buildings still standing in downtown Yangon is nothing short of spectacular. Myanmar’s isolation from the rest of the world during the years after independence resulted in a unique preservation of many of its old buildings. It is heartening to see that at last, many of them are restored to their former beauty. Yangon’s colonial streets are a showcase of the best, or most ostentatious, of colonial architecture an exuberant display of wealth and designer dexterity. The influence of Victorian and Edwardian architectural details soon made a deep impression on the local and Indian craftsmen who embraced the styles wholeheartedly. Buildings developed an amazing hybrid style that resulted in an array of curlicue trims and turrets along with cupolas and pergolas that adorn so many of the early buildings. Carved wood trims were also popular, all adding together to from an extraordinary architectural style unique to Myanmar. Yangon is perhaps the last authentic example of an Asian tropical city still featuring its former colonial origins, huge parks, shady trees and lakes and its religious monuments .Of those monuments, the most legendary, graceful and majestic of all, is the Shwedagon Pagoda built around 2,500 years ago.
Other recommended Yangon tour highlights include Chaukhtatkyi - the Reclining Buddha, colorful markets of Chinatown, a Meditation Centre, Sule Pagoda, Botataung Pagoda, Kaba Aye Pagoda, Maha Pasana Guha Cave, Kalewa Monastery, Buddhist Art Museum, National Museum, Naga glass factory and the Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market.