By Niki Davies
Not many people know this, but Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is Southeast Asia’s largest country. It shares borders with China, Laos and Thailand in the east and Bangladesh and India in the north and is rich with culture. It is a destination to which any avid traveller would be drawn to, with the appeal of stepping back in time to experience spectacular landscapes of forests, rivers, temples and pagodas as well as unspoiled beaches, snow-capped mountains and jungle wilderness.
Myanmar’s biggest city, the commercial centre and arrival point for most visitors, is Yangon – with its wide tree lined avenues, tranquil lakes, and turn of the century architecture it is the starting point for a journey on the ‘Road to Mandalay’. At this point you may be showing your age depending on whether you think of Rudyard Kipling or Robbie Williams first, but I digress…
Every tourist should see the popular sites of Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake but to experience the culture, history and the people of this traditional land is the real drawcard. In Mandalay, you could sit on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and view the impressive moat surrounding the former royal palace which sits at the foot of the imposing Mandalay Hill. Be sure to visit the lovely hill station town of Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo), where you’ll find good examples of colonial architecture, and the unfinished pagoda at Mingun. (I bet you didn’t know this either, but) you can also hear the world’s largest working bell.
Myanmar is a country that has changed its capital city a surprising amount of times and since 2005 the capital is the lesser known purpose built city of Naypyidaw. Along with the better known, bustling city of Yangon you should pay a visit to some of the other former capitals like Ava and Amarapura where the tranquillity of rural Myanmar will best be appreciated.
Bagan will have you hustling for the best spot for spectacular sunset views over the remarkable archaeological sites from the 11th century and the ancient temples which dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.
If I was lucky enough to carry your bags for you, I’d suggest we go to Heho, the gateway to idyllic Lake Inle in the Shan mountains. It is here that Myanmar is ultimately famous for its outstanding natural beauty, floating markets, prolific birdlife and its most unusual feature being the extraordinary ‘one-legged fishermen’ who have developed an original method of rowing with one leg. Take your best camera (or iPhone if you have to) and capture the essence of this unique wetland environment as whole villages sit on floating islands on the lake. Colourful hill tribes inhabit the surrounding fertile valleys and forested mountaintops, so sample their hand-woven silks as a specialty of the region. Close by is the most fascinating Pindaya caves, home to where thousands of old Buddha images have been brought to holy caves.
Having taken your fill of culture and history, you could visit the beautiful Ngapali Beach for a bit of R&R, a time to unwind and reminisce over the experiences and memories you have captured.
There are three distinct seasons in Myanmar: The best time to visit is the cold-dry season, from November to February, with average monthly temperatures of between 20°C and 24°C (ok, so not exactly skiing weather). The hot-dry season runs from March to April where average monthly temperatures are between 30°C and 35°C. The wet season is between May and October with average temperature between 25°C and 30°C, and as the name implies, lots of rain.
At xtravel we team with our friends at eXotic Holidays to make your Myanmar experience a trip of life time. Exotic Holidays specialise in tailor making eXperiences for private, group and incentive tours throughout the Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia, Middle East and Southern Europe.
Planning your Myanmar experience with xtravel provides you with the peace of mind and knowledge that you are in good hands. New Zealanders need a Visa for Myanmar and we are able to assist you with documentation to support your application as well as provide you with useful information before you travel.