For Aussies visiting many of the Asian countries it is generally an assault to the senses. The sights, smells and experiences are vastly different to what we have back home. Countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have been some of our favourite travel destinations for years. With mass tourism comes change and the authenticity of the country gets lost forever.
I have just returned from an emerging Asian travel destination and I wanted to share my view in the hope that if you wanted to experience a truly authentic and enchanting Asian culture and way of life you too would like to visit Myanmar.
For the past 8 days I have travelled across this captivating country. It has not all been pretty but the experience as a whole has been pretty amazing. I feel very privileged to be apart of the group travelling with Asia DMC (winners of the world travel awards Asia in 2017 & 2018) to experience this countries charms in person.
Myanmar is also known as Burma, it is situated in South East Asia bordering Thailand, Laos, China and Bangladesh. There has been some published political unrest regarding the countries Rohingya people (an ethnic minority group) and their treatment from the military and government, it has lead to an ongoing refugee crisis. This has cast a negative light onto the country and it’s tourism industry has been hit hard. When you visit the locals, spend time in the villages, see the beautiful destinations and experience the hardships the tourism industry is facing as a result of this you can’t help but want to help the people of the country.
Myanmar is considered an ‘up and coming’ travel destination, if your seeking adventure and new experiences with an Asian flair Myanmar is for you. The country has a rich and interesting history and has a diverse list of experiences and vastly different destinations to choose from. Religion is a very important factor in the culture of the Myanmar people. Buddhism is the predominant practice with 88% of the countries population following this religion. Monks, temples, pagodas, stupas, lotus flowers and the like are all common sites.
Whilst in Myanmar I experienced 4 of the most popular tourist hot spots. I have and will be continuing to post many of my photos onto Instagram @kb4travel, so if you would like to see more, head over there after this blog.
We started our journey on the road to Mandalay. As the second largest city in Myanmar, Mandalay is where we are introduced to the Burmese culture. We see many amazing stupas (religious monuments), experience night markets, taste the local food and experience the friendly nature of the people. They are deeply spiritual and have a unique and fascinating look. This is particularly due to the thanaka being worn on the face, mainly by the women and children. This is a ground bark paste that is said to protect the skin. Both men and women wear a longyi (sarong type skirt) and will have both shoulders and knees covered out of religious respect. Monks are also a common site in Myanmar with an estimated half a million living there. We shared experiences with monks and monk novices on several occasions during our visit which was very touching.
My favourite spot and a highlight for me was Bagan. From the photos I had seen I knew it was going to be magical. More than 3000 temples are scattered across the countryside and what better way to experience it than by horse and cart meandering through the 11th, 12th and 13th century structures. I found this one of my ‘can’t believe I am really here’ moments. There is a sense of wonder and awe I get from visiting ancient and majestic sites like Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Giza and Bagan did not disappoint. There are a number of beautiful hotels here able to accommodate tourists and it felt safe enough to hire an ebike and cruise around the streets. We visited a laquerware shop where we got to see some of the amazing talents of the locals. I could have spend several days here just exploring but we had a flight to catch to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake holds more interesting and unique sites and experiences. Here we commuted around on long boats, took part in a Burmese cooking class, and cruised around the stilt houses in the fishing villages. The local way of life on the lake has been adapted to suit it’s unique environment. The unique Pa’O people in this Shan state have another colourful form of dress and are again very friendly and welcoming. There are a number of distinctive quirky experiences you can have on this idyllic lake as you take in all of it’s beautiful scenery. Families may wish to experiences bathing elephants at the elephant sanctuary or attend a local puppet show. We visited a local Charoot (like a cigar) making workshop and a fascinating lotus hand weaving business. The scenery in this region is just striking, it is very peaceful and beautiful.
In contract to the idyllic Inle lake we arrived I bustling Yangon. The sites, smells and noises of the city are similar to other large cities I have visited throughout Asia, particularly Thailand and Vietnam. The most striking place in Yangon is Shwedagon Pagoda. A glowing Buddhist temple in the centre of the city. This is the first experience I have had here in Myanmar that I have had to share with many other tourists. Outside of Yangon, Myanmar feels very tranquil, however Yangon is very busy. We also took a local ferry across to the lower class regions of the town. This instils a strong appreciation of our western customs, culture and amenities. Pollution is an issue with plastic bottles dotting the country side. We visited a quaint little shop that offers recycled products made from the waste, which was great to see but they do have a way to go in getting this problem under control. It was fun to get around in the locally run tuk tuks and tour the local markets again to take in the sites and smells of this bustling city.
The food we ate for the duration of our tour was in abundance, the stable being rice and various curries. We have eaten in 5-star hotels and also in the local markets with the brave trying local delicacies such as grasshoppers, 1000-year eggs and betel leaf which makes the teeth go red.
We have stayed in some beautiful hotels and toured many great others. If you would like some more information on this intriguing country, I would love to hear from you. It’s my job to help you plan your next visit to Myanmar so you too can be enchanted.
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