Myanmar (Burma): The Golden Kingdom
Myanmar is an utterly intriguing land full of historic wonders, magnificent temples, white sandy beaches, beautiful scenery, lively markets and charming people.
The country now known as Myanmar is the last frontier of discovery for cultural travellers in Southeast Asia. Towering, gilded pagodas, spectacular architectural sites, beautiful beaches and stunning mountains, and a fascinating traditional culture that is at the forefront of local life are among the reasons why record-breaking numbers of visitors have been beguiled by Myanmar since the easing of the tourism boycott in 2010. With Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest and a program of sweeping political reform now underway, the future finally looks bright for a country blighted for decades by civil war and economic stagnation.
Now is the moment to visit this extraordinary land, scattered with gilded pagodas, where the traditional ways of Asia endure and areas that were previously off-limits are opening up. Travelling to Myanmar is a chance to swap the electronic demands of modern life for the calm of gilded temples and ancient monasteries. Enjoy slowly unfolding journeys through serene landscapes including meandering rivers, lush jungles, ethnic minority villages and pristine palm-fringed beaches. The combination of Myanmar’s beauty and diversity, its rich culture and history, and its charming people make it one of Asia’s most rewarding and truly enchanting destinations.
Top Reasons to Visit Myanmar (Burma)
It is in architecture that one sees the strongest evidence of Myanmar artistic skill and accomplishment.
Myanmar is country of zedis, often called ‘pagodas’ in English. Wherever you are – boating down the river, driving through the hills, even flying above the plains – there always seems to be a hilltop zedi in view. It is in Bagan that you will see the most dramatic results of this national enthusiasm for religious monuments. From the richly carved teak Shwenandaw Monastery in Mandalay and the crumbling stupa complexes of Inle Lake to the exceptional reclining Buddhas at Bago and Yangon, Myanmar is dotted with a vast array of Buddhist architecture waiting for you to explore.
Also worth inspecting are the buildings erected during the British colonial period which feature a variety of styles and materials, from the rustic wood-and-plaster Tudor villas of Pyin U Lwin to the thick-walled, brick-and-plaster, colonnaded mansions and shop houses of Yangon, Mawlamyine and Myeik.
Must-see archaeological wonders:
From beautiful beaches to stunning mountains, Myanmar has been blessed with a diverse range of natural landscapes.
Stretching 1,275 miles (2,050 km) from the eastern arm of the Himalayas to the palm-fringed coast of the Andaman Sea, Myanmar encompasses an astonishing array of landscapes. Enjoy slowly unfolding journeys through serene landscapes including meandering rivers, lush jungles, ethnic minority villages and pristine palm-fringed beaches. Board a luxurious ship and sail down the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River, go scuba diving in the Myeik Archipelago, one of the world’s last great tropical marine wildernesses or laze at an idyllic resort in Ngapali, an undeveloped coastline of pristine beaches where fishermen cast their nets wide into azure waters.
Best natural experiences you can’t afford to miss:
CRUISING THE AYEYARWADY
One of the best ways to experience Myanmar’s natural beauty is to cruise the Ayeyarwady River.
Two millennia after its waters nourished Myanmar’s first planned cities, the Ayeyarwady continues to serve as an essential artery for the millions who live and work in the settlements clustered along its banks. For visitors, the fleet of ferries and cruisers that ply the river offer a unique perspective on the country. Whether in the luxury of a teak-lined, five-star vessel, roughing it third classs on a government double-decker to distant Bhamo, or chugging gently upstream from Mandalay to Mingun, journeying on the silty blue-brown waterway is among the defining travel experiences of the country.
Best trips on the Ayeyarwady:
Myanmar is one of the few Southeast Asian countries where you can witness strong cultural traditions handed down from generation to generation.
Years of isolation, lack of development and a strong sense of cultural identity have been favourable to Myanmar’s arts and crafts. Lifestyles and traditions which are fast disappearing elsewhere in the region are still alive and well in Myanmar. A storehouse of art and culture, Myanmar offers sights ranging from the ethereal ruins of Bagan to the faded structures of colonial Yangon, and rich traditions of music and dance nurtured in the conservatories and theatres of Mandalay. Many crafts, such as stone carving, bronze casting and the making of parasols, are inextricably linked to Buddhism as are the many colourful festivals and events held throughout the year.
Best places to experience traditional arts and culture:
From the ethnic minorities you’ll meet in the villages to the urban crowds in the cities, the people of Myanmar will influence you and colour your trip like no other.
Isolated from the rest of the world for centuries, Myanmar is made up of a large number of ethnic minority groups who have a strong sense of culture and identity.
Although subjugated and poor, the people of Myanmar can be as proud of their country and culture as any nationality you’ll meet. Keep in mind that these long-suffering people are also gentle, humorous, engaging, considerate, inquisitive and passionate; they want to play a part in the world and to know what you make of their world.
Best places to meet different ethnic groups:
Best Time to Visit Myanmar (Burma)
The best time to visit Myanmar is between November and February. During these months it rains least (if at all in places) and it is not so hot.
March to May brings intense heat. At this time, Yangon’s daily temperatures often reach 40°C, while areas around Bagan and Mandalay go a few digits higher. The cool town hills of Shan State offer relief from the heat, though.
The southwest monsoon starts between mid-May and mid-June, bringing frequent rains that dunk the country through till October, peaking from July to September. The dry zone (roughly the area between Mandalay and Pyay) gets less rain that the rest of the country, though roads anywhere (and particularly in the delta region south and east of Yangon) can become impassable. Rakhaing State bears the full force of the rains – often exceeding 500cm of rain annually.
Where is Myanmar located?
Situated on the western edge of Southeast Asia, Myanmar encompasses an area of 677,000 sq km (261,228 sq miles), making it the second largest nation in the region after Indonesia. The country spans 936 km (581 miles) from east to west and 2,051 km (1,275 miles) from north to south, sharing its borders with Thailand and Lao PDR to the east, China to the north-east, and India and Bangladesh to the north-west. Myanmar’s extensive coastline runs for 2,800 km (1,740 miles) along the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Mottama and the Bay of Bengal.