From temple-dotted plains to golden stupas, floating gardens to colonial gems, Myanmar has so much to see and experience. Yet there is no denying the country is changing. Here are five of Myanmar’s myriad of sights that should not be missed, according to John Pond, our editor-at-sea:
No journey to Myanmar is complete without a visit to the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (pictured). Thought to have been built by the Mon people during the 6th century, this is one of the most impressive Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia and a true religious wonder of the world. Besides the beauty of the temple itself, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a fantastic spot for people-watching, with devotees making offerings, worshiping and meditating before the golden stupas.
Cruising the waters of this peaceful lake, flanked by floating gardens and wooden stilt-houses, is an unmissable experience. The antics of its famous leg-rowing fisherman, whose distinctive method can be observed nowhere else in the world, is a major draw for visitors to this tranquil oasis in the Shan Hills. When compared to the bustle of Yangon, Inle Lake is a place to relax, unwind, and observe communities and customs little-changed for thousands of years.
As a result of British rule between 1824 and 1948, and its relative isolation in the years that followed, Myanmar is home to some of the finest colonial architecture in the world. As the country has been opening up to tourists, development has been inevitable. Yangon is changing at a rapid pace so my advice to travellers who want to see Yangon’s unique heritage buildings is they should visit now.
The temples of Bagan
Where else on earth can you watch the sun set over more than two thousand temples? The temples of Bagan are truly unique. For a truly spectacular view, the temples should be seen from above – in the luxury of a hot air balloon. Due to demand, it’s really important to book the hot air balloon before travelling to Myanmar, at the same time as booking into a small group journey or making private travel arrangements.
Having explored temples and colonial wonders in Yangon, cruised Inle Lake and watched the sun go down over Bagan’s mesmerising plains, travellers deserve some time to unwind at the beach. Few people realise Myanmar shares the same incredible stretch of coastline as its better-known neighbour Thailand, with white sand and the famed azure waters of the Andaman Sea. This tranquil coastline and its quaint smattering of fishing villages is the perfect way to end a visit to Myanmar.