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Travel Logs April 2013

Compulsive Traveler

Myanmar: The New Hot Destination

By Sandra Scott

Years of isolation have made Myanmar one of the few countries that has not been tainted by foreign commercialism. Add that to the fact that the people are friendly, the country is safe, and the sites are glorious. Myanmar is a great destination.

vt_scott0413Myanmar, formally called Burma, has long been off the radar of most travelers but things are changing and changing fast. Myanmar is now on the “Gotta’ Go” list of savvy travelers. Years of isolation have made Myanmar one of the few countries that has not been tainted by foreign commercialism. Add that to the fact that the people are friendly, the country is safe, and the sites are glorious. Myanmar is a great destination. Now is the time to go before things change too much.

  1. Yangon: Most travel starts in the former capital and largest city. The must-do is a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda which dominates the skyline where all that glitters is gold. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. Get a look into the glorious history of the country at the National Museum and see how lavishly the kings of old lived.
  2. Bagan: The ancient city is an expansive temple complex with over 4000 temples dating from the same era as Angkor Wat. It is one of the most important stops on the tourist trail. Visiting the shops of local craftspeople making pottery, lacquer ware, and gold leaf is interesting. A popular side trip is to Mount Popa, the home of the nats (spirits).
  3. Mandalay: The country’s second largest city is very modern and was once the capital. The golden Buddha of Mahamuni Paya is the main attraction but for many Mandalay is the jumping off point for nearby attractions such as the giant Mingun Bell, which weighs in at nearly 100 tons.
  4. Lake Inle: The lake is cool in many ways. The higher altitude offers relief from the hot temperature found throughout most of Myanmar. The beautiful lake is best known for the unique leg-rowing fisherman but the markets are not to be missed. It is one of the few areas where home stays are possible.
  5. Mrauk U: Located in Rakhine State, Mrauk U served as the capital city for three centuries. There are thousands of shrines and pagodas that adorn nearly every hilltop. A river trip to local villages noted for the ladies with the tattooed faces is a great side trip.
  6. Nay Pyi Taw: Since 2005, Nay Pyi Taw has been the administrative capital of the country and is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. The city has only recently been open to tourists. The Uppatasanti Pagoda (Peace Pagoda) is impressive and there are several parks nearby.
  7. Golden Rock: South of Yangon, the sacred Golden Rock is balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff making it easy to understand why the site is so revered. Legend has it that it is held in place by a single hair of Buddha. To truly appreciate the site an overnight stay is recommended.
  8. Irrawaddy River Cruise: Several companies offer cruises on Myanmar’s largest river including the luxurious Orient Express. Scenes along the river are timeless. Cruise ships typically stop at interesting sites and villages along the way.
  9. Hill stations: To get away from the oppressive heat of Yangon and other major cities, the English created towns in the highlands including Kalaw, now a popular destination for trekkers; and Maymyo, noted for is garden and horse-drawn carriages. The villages have a more English than Asian look.
  10. Ngapali Beach: All travel in Myanmar should end with a few days at the glorious beaches on the Bay of Bengal. Soft sands and gentle waves on the virtually deserted beaches have yet to be discovered by most of the world’s sun worshippers. Amazing Ngapali Resort is truly amazing.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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