Myanmar, formerly Burma, has always held many riches for the tourist to see but the repressive regime meant that until recent years the modern traveller rarely saw them. The regime has begun to change and with that change tourists on Myanmar tour packages have been able to see a land with a rich cultural and religious history. Add to that the great natural environment and Myanmar has become a great addition to Indochina tour packages. Much of the rest of Indochina fell under the influence of the French who left impressive architecture to enjoy in the main towns and cities. Burma’s colonial masters were the British but beyond colonial rulers, the region as a whole has a number of similarities. Each of the countries of Indochina have influenced each other and of course China, and to a lesser extent India, have all made an impact.
Arguably the lack of tourist numbers has meant that Myanmar has not had so much in the way of modern influences.
Bagan and subsequently Yangon (Rangoon) are former capitals and remain the two most important cities though the capital is now elsewhere, Naypyidaw, formerly a green field site 300 kms north of Yangon. It is more centrally located than Yangon but there is no particular reason to include it in Myanmar tour packages and certainly not in Indochina tour packages.
The fauna of Myanmar is very interesting. While some of its rarer animals remain elusive bird watchers can certainly expect to see a whole host of species.
Certainly there is much to see and do in the Country:
• Bagan is the ancient capital of the Burmese Empire which flourished between the 9th and 13th Century. Marco Polo called it the ‘’gilded city’’ which at one time had well over 10,000 temples. There are still many today, certainly 2,000 and few places can match Bagan for those interested in temples, pagodas and stupas.
• Ananda Templeis perhaps the pick of Bagan’s temples? It was built early in the 12th Century. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1975 but has been restored and on its 900th anniversary the spires were gilded. There is a week-long festival during December-January involved 1,000 monks when people from the whole region arrive to enjoy the festivities.
• Taung Kalatis a monastery on top of an extinct volcano. There are 777 steps to the summit and hence the panoramic views over Bagan.
• Golden Rock is a pagoda that balances on a large boulder that seems as though it could fall at any second. It is a major pilgrimage destination with locals claiming it contains a strand of Buddha’s hair. Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city is 5 hours away and visitors still have quite a walk to get there but it is worth it.
• Shwedagon Pagoda is 2,500 years old and is found on a hill above Yangon. It is covered in gold leaf with precious diamonds covering the stupa.
• The influences of the British, Chinese and Indians make Yangon an interesting place to take a tour. Those arriving from overseas into Myanmar are likely to start Myanmar tour packages in Yangon.
• Inle Lake is beautiful and certain to be part of every Myanmar tour packages. The real pleasure is to board a long boat though the motors are a little noisy. The villages are on stilts and little has changed in the locals’ lives over the years. There are farmers tending to their vegetables and fruit and fishermen after their daily catch.
• Mrauk U is a town that was originally a fortress though the thick walls were more to counter strong winds than invaders. It was a trading town worth the long boat trip up the Kaladan River though take a raincoat because the region is one of the wettest in Myanmar.
• Ngapalion the Bay of Bengal is arguably Myanmar’s top resort. It has wonderful white beaches and clear blue seas. There are luxury hotels, restaurants serving the daily catch and if you want a taxi, take an oxen. November to April is high season and then it returns to its sleepy self. The country’s beaches are very attractive and provide an ideal place to relax after a hectic schedule.
• Shwenandaw Monasteryin Mandalay is otherwise known as the Golden Palace. The external gold has gone but that has revealed the wonderful carvings of teak and stone. There is still gold inside.
• Maha Myat Muni Payain Mandalay is a very holy site. Its 4 metre high Buddha is made of gold and diamonds and men are allowed to add gilt leaves when they visit.
• The last palace the Burmese monarchy built in Burma in Mandalay dates back to the middle of the 19th Century. Mandalay’s fame has spread to poem and song and will certainly find a place in Myanmar tour packages.
• The Ayeyarwady Riveroffers cruises to see Bagan and Mandalay from the water, see village life, the gorges and jungle as well as the freshwater dolphins.
• Shwemawdaw Payais covered in gold that can be seen from far away. It is over 100 metres high and its diamonds add to the glitter. It is part of a 1,000 year old complex in Bago which will always be included in Myanmar tour packages.
• Pindaya Cavesup in Shan State has thousands of Buddhas made of a variety of materials; teak, marble, stone and cement. There are certain to be people meditating in one of the many chambers when you visit.
Myanmar’s tourism industry is likely to grow now the country has opened up to visitors. Despite its isolation there is no doubt that the people of Myanmar are naturally warm and welcoming. It is a country worth exploring a good tour companies are happy to arrange Myanmar tours to include a group’s particular interests. That may be history, religion or general culture. It may also be the natural environment and the way of life of people that has changed little over the years.
Read more: A Guide to Plan a Trip to Myanmar