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HIGHLIGHTS of MYANMAR

SOUTH

Yangon

Yangon

Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city and the most popular point of arrival for most visitors to Myanmar. It is a city of contrasts with its crumbling colonialism, glass office blocks and ancient stupas and temples. Yangon (Rangoon) was established as the colonial capital city by the British in 1885 and many people still refer to it by its old name, Rangoon.

The highlight of Yangon is Shwedagon Paya. This Golden Dome is the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar and is quite spectacular. It is said that it is covered with more gold than is held in the vaults of the Bank of England!
**See Shwedagon Paya in all its glory at sunset full moon if you are lucky

Explore the city with the locals, using river ferries, trishaws and carts, and make friends with the locals in the city’s vibrant markets (Bogyoke Aung San Market).

A popular excursion is a visit to the famous Golden Rock.

Mount Kyaiktito (Golden Rock) Northeast of Yangon

With its great weight balanced so precariously on the cliff edge, the Golden Rock is a truly extraordinary natural feature and is regarded with sacred awe. According to legend, it is kept in place by a single hair of the Buddha that a hermit brought his king. The hermit instructed that his gift be enshrined under a rock shaped like the hermit’s head. (The name Kyaik-htiyo means “Pagoda on a Hermit’s Head.”)

CENTRAL

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is 22km long and is densely inhabited by many different tribes and is a wildlife sanctuary home to many waterbirds who use the lake for breeding and migration.

The lakes houses floating villages and is home to Inle's unique fishermen. They fish using an oar with one leg, move the water in a snake like motion, and are quite a sight to see.

A day out on the lake is one of Myanmar’s “must do” attractions. The trips are arranged to show you the lake’s Golden Pagoda, Inles' unique water lily weaving workshops and workshops that make hand made cheroots. There are also trips out to the islands that are home to the world famous long necked tribal women at their paper making workshop and craft shop.

An excursion to the "Jumping Cat Monastery” is also recommended. The Monastery is famous for its jumping cats that jump through hoops for food. The Monastery has many cats that seem content to share with the monks. It also has many Buddhas created in four different tribal styles. The mirror work and craft-work is amazing so don’t let the cats steal the show!

Bikes can be hired for further exploration on the shores of the lake, where you can visit the water lily strewn villages and swim in the hot springs. Wine tasting at the Shan State winery is also worth a visit

BAGAN

The sacred sites of Burma are amongst the most beautiful and spectacular in Asia. The fame and sacredness of these holy places rests firmly on the myths and legends that surround their founding and the origins of their relics. The temple complex at Bagan is the most visited in Myanmar.

Bagan is sat beautifully on the banks of the mighty Ayeyarwady River and it rivals the temples at Angkor Wat, Cambodia for it’s beauty and size, being home to more than 4000 temples! You could write books on the temples (and people do) but photos do more justice!

The town of Nyaung U is nestled in amongst ancient stupas, and many days are recommended for exploring the many styles and influences, before finishing with its crowning glory, the beautiful Ananda Pahto Temple.

MANDALAY

Mandalay is Myanmar’s second largest city and was the last Capital of the last independent Burmese Kingdom. The views from Mandalay Hill are a highlight of a visit to the city. The city is also home to Palaces, Pagodas and Monasteries to explore.

Mandalay is the cultural and craft making centre in Myanmar and a centre for Art, including Dance, Marionette theatre, Music, Sculpture, Painting and
Literature.

A highlight of Mandalay is a trip to the gold leaf making factory but is where all of the gold leaf is made that is used to adorn the pagodas and stupas that are peppered throughout the land.

Another highlight is a trip to Taungthaman Lake. Negotiate a taxi to take you on a trip to the lake and cross U Bein's (the world's longest teak bridge), particularly stunning at sunrise or sunset. The waters are serene and the views of Mandalay's distant temples are stunning. The Bridge is alive with monks and locals gently crossing or limbering up with some gentle exercise. The water of the lake is alive with fishermen throwing their nets and the shores are busy with farmers were preparing their ox for the fields. Quite a magical place to watch the world go by!

Escape the heat of Mandalay city by visiting Pyin U Lwin, former British hill station, where you can enjoy visiting the Botanical Gardens, or take a pony and cart, or speak English with local students.

Trekking in the North East is a popular activity*

NORTH

MYITKYINA

MYITKYINA

Heading up North you can visit the less travelled areas of Burma and spend time with the locals. A highlight of this trip is to take a winding boat trip back down the Ayeyarwady River to Mandalay.

Myitkyina was a nice city which felt more like a town. It is very 'orderly' and very welcoming altogether. Few tourists travel up so far so visitors are even more of a novelty and the people could not be kinder!

The train ride south to Mandalay is an alternative, but only recommended for the brave or insane!  The rail track is not one of the best and accidents have been common, and you also face the prospect of up to 22 hours on a train that has not been upgraded since the colonial era!

The views however are breathtaking! Jungles and villages as you imagine Myanmar to be, and to add to the flavour (and our timing) occasional smatterings of camouflaged soldiers toting rifles facing you too! A great way to make new friends and altogether a journey to remember!

WEST

The West of Myanmar is an area less travelled well worth it.

Ngapali Beach- (South of Mrauk U)

Ngapali Beach

What a jewel. The beach is stunning with white sandy beaches and turquoise seas! A beautiful un-spoilt beach nestling on the Bay of Bengal! The seas are so tranquil in the mornings and followed by welcome sea breezes in the afternoon! Good for snorkelling and seafood.

A great place to stay before heading back to Yangon or heading further East to Mrauk U.

Chaung Tha Beach (South of Ngapali Beach)

Like Ngapali Beach, this is a stunning beach in the South West, which is also good for snorkelling

Mrauk U

Mrauk U is 30 miles from the Bangladeshi border and is the country's second most important site after Bagan. Mrauk U was once an ancient city that rivalled London and Amsterdam in the 16th Century but it has the feel of a small town today.

Mrauk U’s temple area is geographically small compared to Bagan's 26 square miles, however it is enchanting and atmospheric, with temples dotted in amongst the most scenic little "mountains.”

To reach Mrauk U you have to fly in and then take a 5 to 7 hour boat trip from the Bay of Bengal and up the river to the City. It is the only way to reach it and the journey itself is quite a trip! The countryside here is undisturbed with tranquil village scenes and serene fishermen abound. Any local who catches your eye waves! It is a great way to reach the destination, and as the river narrowed and the city nears, the views just get better and better.

Mrauk U is a sacred site, but it is not a site that is kept as a "mausoleum". It is lived in. All the temples are surrounded by picturesque bamboo cottages and the site is quite vibrant with life! It is recommended to take a few days to explore its delights!

A highlight of the trip is a visit to the minority tribes in remote villages. Take a boat ride upstream and visit remote tribal markets and villages. It is a spectacular journey that allows you to meet the tribes people themselves. A real privilege!

Take the grand boat trip upstream and return to the Wild West town of Sittwe-, before returning to Yangon

NORTHEAST

Northeast Bound* Trekking.

Northeast Bound

Hsipaw is perhaps one of the most well known and powerful saopha states of Shan State and the town of Hsipaw itself untouched with beautiful mountain scenery. A place where you can spend time enjoying its laid back atmosphere or taking a trek.

You can also arrange trekking in Kalaw in the mountains. It's cooler up in hills and has a relaxed atmosphere (quite reminiscent of Nepal and Northern India). You can also arrange to take a car for sightseeing before trekking on to Inle Lake

Visit Pindaya, a massive limestone cave full to the brim with literally thousands of gilded Buddha statues which have been left by many devotees over many years. The journey itself is a highlight that shows you the beauty of the farmed landscape and the ox and carts. This area could be called the "Garden of Myanmar.”

The three day trek from Kalaw to Lake Inle is higly recommended! Arrange a trip with a guide ("Rambo"!) Rambo’s grandfather came here to work on the railways when the British were here. He is a Sikh but like all beliefs in Myanmar they seem to overlap and co-exist quite happily.

Our trek:-

WE arranged a trip with a guide ("Rambo"!) Rambo’s grandfather came here to work on the railways when the British were here. He is a Sikh but like all beliefs in Myanmar they seem to overlap and co-exist quite happily.

The first day of the trek was amazing. We headed off across the countryside and after a brilliant Nepalese lunch headed up into the hills. We met lots of different tribes in the villages and when we arrived at the top of the hill, the villagers were still celebrating the full moon. They have a seven day festival where the monks recite their mantras 24/7 for the full seven days (in rotation). They invited us all in to join them and gave us copious amounts of tea and offered us their Burmese fare! They even offered us their local cigarettes (cheroots ) made from natural leaves and fruits and tobacco! What a welcome... and what great people. The Burmese have never expected any money for anything, they just share. They are so friendly and hospitable, so we spent some time there before popping in to the school next door, where we practiced talking English with the kids as they were finishing for the day!

We were a little behind schedule but it was so worth it and Rambo then offered to take us to a local shaman- if we didn't all mind finishing our trek in the dark! This became a bit of a habit for our group!!!! The shaman was a man in his 80s and he explained a little of their customs and herbalism to us through our guide and they shared stories and experiences. The Shaman were the result of a marriage between a man and a dragon (no jokes please!!!!)/ The Shaman are said to have emerged from the resultant egg and their traditions are passed down from father to son. Regrettably, the Shaman's son is now more interested in modern ways and so the learning’s could easily be lost!

Dean tried a few herbal "remedies" - all natural and plant based and we shared tea before we moved on through the darkness to our home-stay with a local tribe... which although basic- was brilliant. And what food! After more tea (and I have acquired a bit of a taste for the weaker Myanmar green tea) it was early to bed - ready for day two!

Day 2 was the hardest day. We walked for miles and miles over nine hours in temperatures in the high nineties. It was worth it though! We saw the countryside at close range and tried many different seeds and vegetables. The patchwork fields are amazing and we also got to meet many different tribes. We were offered sweets by some people thrashing out the rice in the fields and we shared some time communicating without words! Fun. The boys were also given betel nut to chew-, which went down well too! We carried on trekking and again stopped and met locals in a village and bought some hand woven scarves to keep off the sun! We took our time trying everything, which meant that we arrived again in the dark at our second resting place-, which was a monastery !

The Monastery supports itself by allowing trekkers to stay overnight for a small donation from the guides. It is amazing how open and part of life the monks are. The Monastery also takes in local orphans and teaches them until they are old enough to decide what to choose for their lives and like most Buddhist boy monks they have fun and play like boys anywhere/everywhere! It was a nice place to rest and recover from our 20 mile hike!

The final day of the trek was the easiest! Phew!

We headed out for a final day meandering through the countryside and across hills, where we saw our first glimpse of the amazing Inle Lake (which measures 13.5 x 7 miles!). We had a late lunch and then awaited our boat to take us to the town! Alas, the boat was broken- so we ended up being transported in a local taxi boat! But we are sure that was much more fun!!! It made the locals smile too!

Chaung Tha Beach

Like Beach is a stunning beach in the South West
Good for snorkelling

The mermaids of the Sea

Take a trip down to the Thai borders




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