Low Tourist Traffic
Since Burma or Myanmar, opened to tourism in the mid 90s, the world is slowly discovering it’s Southeast charm and simple tropical beauty. Burma’s culture is largely a result of Indian culture intertwined with Chinese influences and local traditions. As possibly one of the last less-traveled Asian destinations, Burma offers real thrills for exploration without a major tourism industry that makes everything feels exciting, new and where the only time you might see another tourist is at your hotel.
Golden Temples and Mysterious Architecture
One of the most breathtaking temple complex to visit in the world is Bagan. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan valley and of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive, scattered and grouped throughout the valley that creates an amazing view. To really understand its vastness you may need to take a ride on a hot air balloon, available between October and March, from where you can take in the entire plain.
Discover the City of Mandalay
Travel to Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar, is like traveling into a monk city. This city conjures an ethereal sense of calm, romance, and serenity, mixed with old colonial buildings that line bustling streets. You can enjoy a vast scene of street foods, snacks and market stalls. Mandalay offers modern comforts, five-star hotels and restaurants along side British colonial buildings, temples and charming city parks. Another iconic location to visit is the Mandalay Palace, the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy.
Value and Easy Bargains
You can get good bargain on electronics and clothing is China or Singapore, but in Burma you can get great value on gems, precious and semi-precious stones like jade, ruby and sapphire. Gold and silver jewellery is also a great buy. Plus in the souvenir markets where price gouging might be expected, starting prices are surprisingly reasonable and shop-keepers tend to avoid strong arm bargaining that may be used elsewhere in Asia.
Fascinating Inle Lake
Inle Lake can be described as a wonderful world of floating gardens, stilted villages and charming stupas. Mountains tumble down towards the lake shore, blurring the distinction between the horizon and the water’s edge. For many travelers to Inle Lake it has been described as a paradise on earth and a place where you can pass the time canoeing, cycling and walking through the lush countryside. The local Intha people are famous for their unique method of leg rowing, and a monastery where monks have taught the cats how to jump. Inle Lake deserves a slow and romantic visit where many travelers end up staying for longer than they expected.
Handmade Lotus Silk Goods
The stilt village of In Phaw Khone in the middle of Inle Lake is the only place in the world where people spin thread from lotus root fibers. Standing in the workshop, you can watch craftsmen expertly turn lengths of sticky brown root into some of the most valuable fibers on earth. It’s a meticulous process, taking over two months of work to produce one pound of fiber. That silk fiber is then used to create reams of fabric and robes, generally given as gifts of devotion to Burma’s monks. Lotus fiber fabric and clothes are available for sale but because of the amount of labor involved and the rarity of the raw materials, they may not be a cheap item.
Golden Shwedagon Pagoda
According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. The Shwedagon temple complex is a vast collection of golden Buddhist pagodas in various sizes and age. One may feel as if they are in a forest of glittering golden shrines surrounded by the perfume of sweet incense and local devotees. The large platform that supports the great stupa contains a variety of other stupas, pagodas, prayer halls, sculptures and shrines. A number of these are associated with the eight “days” as Wednesday is divided into morning and afternoon. Each has an associated planet, direction and animal sign, all wonderful to discover and learn.
Friendly Locals and a Delicious Cuisine
In every village, town and city you’ll be greeted by smiling faces. Everyone is friendly and very eager to talk to you about your tour to Burma and hear your stories of home. It’s a friendly place and everyone’s English is so good that you could easily talk away for hours. Plus the cuisine is mouthwatering good. Food presentation and basic ingredients are similar to Thai food, but with a more Indian approach. One of our favorite dishes is the Burmese Biryani a rice and chicken dish that uses curry as a seasoning and whole peanuts. Regardless of what you decided to try, you will find yourself in a cuisine paradise as well as a tropical getaway.