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Introducing Burma

Lauren Curd

Experience the old Orient before the 21st century world takes its hold on Burma (officially known as Myanmar). Home to the oldest civilisation in South East Asia, Burma is a fresh face in the tourism industry after decades of inaccessibility, and very few visitors over the years mean this extraordinary country retains the traditional ways of Asia that its neighbours have left behind.

Buddhism isn’t just the predominate religion in Myanmar; it is a way of life. Mesmerising monuments can be found all over the country but probably the most iconic area is stupa-studded Bagan. Festivals in Burma are also a big thing. Thingyan (the water festival) celebrates Burma’s New Year (13-16 April) by drenching locals with fire hoses in the cities. The most spectacular is the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival (held in September/October according to the moon) on Inle Lake, when Buddha images travel on the lake via gilded barge, pulled along by hundreds of rowers and leg-rowers.

Here are our suggestions on where to visit in Burma:

Yangon 

The historic capital of Burma and still the main gateway to the rest of the country, Yangon’s colonial architecture reflects the British presence that once was. Head downtown to explore the bustling streets complete with traditional tea-houses and spice markets. One of the not-to-be-missed highlights in the “The Garden City of the East” is the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, where you will see the city’s residents paying their respects to one of the many shrines inside the temple.

Two young monks in red walking past the golden edifice of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

Mandalay

The second largest city in Myanmar on the east bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, Mandalay was the capital before the colonial era. Mandalay is home to rich cultural heritage and a number of Buddhist monuments, including Myinmu Nunnery, at the base of Sagaing Hill, which is well worth a visit.

Novice Monk in red robes in Mandalay, Burma

Bagan

The iconic stupa-studded vistas of Myanmar are found here on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River. Bagan is one of South East Asia’s richest archaeological sites and the arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Myanmar. Over 3,000 holy pagodas and stupas tell tales of the ancient city and an awe-inspiring way to explore Bagan is with a hot-air balloon ride. 

Panoramic view of the pagodas of Bagan

Ngwe Saung

The vast stretch of white sandy beach at Ngwe Saung lends itself to explorers looking for a few days of rest and relaxation on the Bay of Bengal after touring Myanmar.

Ngwe Saung fisherman throwing his fishing net into the sea

Nyaung Shwe

This busy trading town acts as the gateway for visitors heading down to Inle Lake and has becoming a bustling centre in its own right, with several hotels and restaurants now available.

Long-tailed boats beside Inle Lake at Ngwe Shwe

Ngapali

Famous for the beautiful 3km stretch of soft white sand on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, Ngapali is the country’s premier beach resort and offers a range of sophisticated accommodation, yet still it remains pretty sedate, in-keeping with the rest of the country.

Ngapali Beach in Myanmar Burma

Inle Lake

Nestled in the heart of Shan State, tranquil Inle Lake spans for 35 kilometres beneath stilted fishing villages. The shallow waters of the lake can be found 900 metres above sea level in the cool north of Myanmar, with Thailand and Laos to the east. Take a boat trip for a glimpse into life of the lake-side locals and you may even see the famous leg-rowing fishermen at work.

Burma Myanmar Fishermen Sunset Lake SS

Myanmar Climate 

With its tropical climate, Myanmar experiences three main seasons. The low season, and the most cost-effective time to travel, runs from late May to late September, during the south-west monsoon period. July and August are the rainiest months, however downpours are short and sharp and often early morning and early afternoon. The coolest time of year is October to March and the hottest months are from March to May. Inle Lake area is usually considerably cooler and is prone to fog during the coolest month of December so be prepared for flights to be impacted/delayed.

Dress Code in Burma

Casual loose clothing is recommended in order to cover up due to the warm and humid climate. Sundresses exposing too much skin or short shorts are frowned upon, particularly in pagodas and temples. Whenever visiting religious sites, clothing must cover the knees and all shoes and socks are to be removed – bare feet are compulsory.

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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