Only recently opened to foreign visitors, the land of Burma still has much of the unspoiled beauty so rapidly disappearing from the rest of South-East Asia. With its rich history, its beautiful temples dotting the gentle landscape and its gentle, charming people, Burma is a fascinating land waiting to be discovered.
The Old-World Charms of Myanmar
The road to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is richly paved with history and myths. For enthusiasts, the wealth of Myanmar history spans centuries with ancient cities, art treasures, as well as a legacy of powerful kings and skilful artisans to study.
Traditionally, holidaying in Southeast Asia has always meant destinations like Bali, Singapore, Phuket, Bangkok and Cebu. These days, Myanmar is beginning to figure increasingly in the itinerary of many travellers looking for something different and exotic, a place whose natural beauty is still unspoilt by technology and concrete cities.
Until as recently as 10 years ago, Myanmar (or Burma as it was previously known) kept its doors closed. With its gradual liberalisation, the rest of the world can now discover and appreciate a country of great tradition, architecture and scenic beauty.
Myanmar: A Background
Myanmar is a country of warm people and rich culture steeped in over 5,000 years of history. Thousands of pagodas and temples sprinkle a land area larger than that of England and France combined. Breathtaking sights like the Reclining Buddha in capital Yangon and the 12th century Thabyinnyu temple are simply awesome. Other famous landmarks include the Inle Lake, the precariously balanced giant Golden Rock and the Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, which houses the entire Buddhist scriptures carved onto 729 marble slabs.
Not surprisingly, the people of Myanmar still lead simple lives unfazed by all of modern day technology. For the tourist, this means fantastic art and crafts, bustling fresh produce markets and a chance to experience the uniquely Myanmarese way of life. Central to life in Myanmar are the numerous religious and cultural festivals celebrated throughout the year. Among the more colourful are the Thingyan (water) festival in April, the Pagoda festivals in March, the various boat regattas and the Kyaukse Elephant Dance. Perhaps if you consider that the population of 45 million is made up of over 130 ethnic groups, this plethora of festivities is hardly surprising. Famous writer and traveller Rudyard Kipling once described Myanmar as “a golden mystery, a beautiful winking wonder that is quite unlike any land you know about.” A century later, the mysticism and charm of Myanmar are still there for all to see.
Yangon, the capital, offers a unique blend of old world charm and modern vitality. Visit the Schwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s renowned temple which boasts a gold-leaf covered dome, speckled with diamonds and precious gems, reaching up 300ft into the sky.
Mandalay, the cultural centre, features the world’s oldest ringing bronze bell, a 78m high gold-plated tower and a king’s mausoleum among its attractions.
For those with a penchant for shopping, Mandalay also offers a variety of tribal handicrafts and Myanmar’s fabled blood-red rubies for purchase. Or try the local delicacies, pan-fried grasshoppers and grubs become the order of the day when in season.
Articles About Myanmar