The colonial charm, the sprawling parks, its soothing lakes, all within the confines of massive golden pagodas. This can only be Yangon. If you are coming in and out of Myanmar, you will most likely have to spend some time here. And since you are here, why not make the most of it? Not only does the country’s biggest city serve as a great introduction to the country, it is also home to a wide range of attractions and experiences, enough to give you unprecedented and long lasting memories of the former capital. Yangon is a mixture of cultures; you have the Burmese walking side by side with people of Chinese, Indian and even British heritage. All that culmination of cultures combine to form a city filled with interesting sites. Top highlights of course are the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Sule Pagoda, Scotts Market and the Yangon Circular Train. If you just want to see the main ones and cram it all in one day, a car tour would suffice. But if you are spending more time here, perhaps you are more interested in something more detailed like taking the Yangon Circular Train or going on a guided walk. Get lost in the city’s vibrant markets, visit Hindu temples or find a good beer and barbecue in Chinatown. The city is a walker friendly one and by doing so, you’ll also get to absorb the atmosphere, meet the people and get up close to the sights and sounds that make Yangon the unique city that it is.
There are a few things you may not know about Mandalay. The town may sound old and ancient, but in fact, it was only founded in 1857, as a new capital for the king at that time. The town is also known for its temples, some of which decorate Mandalay Hill nicely, and others down below, such as Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to the world’s largest book. If you’re in Mandalay, you should explore her temples. As mentioned, Mandalay Hill is a must, not only for its monasteries but also for the amazing views. And have you ever seen pages on a book measuring one meter wide, one and a half meter tall and almost 13 centimeters thick? There are 730 of these so called pages, stone tablets, each encased with its own stupa. Another site of high importance is Mahamuni Pagoda. The Buddha image inside is thought to be one of only five likenesses of the man himself during his lifetime. Through time, pilgrims and devotees from all over the country have pasted it with gold leaves, giving the statue its current image. Another site to visit is the grand Mandalay Palace. Make sure not to miss it while in Myanmar’s past capital.
Perhaps no town in Burma exudes more intrigue than Bagan. You can’t help but be fascinated by all the temples and ruins that dot the landscape. They surely are a marvel to look at. And to even think there were 13000 of these relics standing in the city at one point surely makes you wonder how Bagan looked like back then. Well, there’s no way to go back in the past, but what we can do is marvel at the present and use our imagination a bit and wonder how things were like 700 or so years ago.
During that time, Bagan became a center for Buddhist studies and attracted people from all over, even as far as India and Sri Lanka. As time went, the city continued to grow and prosper, as evident by the growing number of temples and monasteries. The city, however was sacked by the Mongols in 1287 but despite that, it continued to flourish as a place of Buddhist scholarship.
The city’s central location in the country along the banks of the Irrawaddy River certainly adds the already scenic nature of Bagan. One way to explore the temple rich city is by hot air balloon. And to polish the experience even more, try it during the morning! Others explore the relics by horse-cart. Not only does this offer a charming method of discovering the temple rich city, but it also preserves Bagan’s ancient structures.
As we know by now, the city holds the record for having the most temple ruins in the world. Currently there are about 2200 still standing today, in many states of repair. And just to think there were about 6.5 times more around the 13th century. And all this in an area of about 35 square kilometers! This certainly makes for splendid viewing!
Perhaps one of Myanmar’s most ecologically diverse areas with colorful rural life to match lies in and around Inle Lake. A trip here truly encompasses everything about the country. With charming culture, impressive biodiversity, calm waters, mist-covered mountains and green floating gardens, Inle Lake should be in everybody’s itinerary visiting this beautiful country.
Inle Lake is also home to several cottage industries and none as prominent as the area’s splendid silk and cotton weaving. Inle’s weavers are renowned for their beauty and intricate designs of their handicrafts which consist of its own unique and recognizable style.
Inthas (native lake dwellers) move about on the lake in their boats with a unique one-legged rowing technique. Yes, go on ahead and rub your eyes if you need to, but these guys and girls do paddle their boats with their legs. The reasons? Well, it could be that the weeds here can grow pretty tall. And another is that from a standing position, it is easier to spot fish swimming in the waters.
So, what else is interesting here? If you like little kitties, then check out the jumping cats at Nga Phe Chaung Monastery. The monks there decided to train cats to jump through hoops so to pass the time. Don’t be surprised if the monk is giving you life advice while holding a hoop for the feline to jump through in one hand!
Or do a day trip to Sagar, in the far southern region of Inle Lake. Very few tourists make the trip down to this region yet it is one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State with the mountains forming a backdrop for the small villages and fishermen on the water. This full day trip encompasses visits to sunken stupas, potters, rice wine makers, and explorations of remote lake side communities.