Top 10 Things to Do in Myanmar for Your Lifetime 2018 Indochina Tour
Posted on 25/01/2018 1:13:18
Myanmar is a land of mystery and undiscovered treasures that are hidden away in the jungles of the north and the back streets of its cities. Unknown to many tourists for decades, Myanmar is quickly becoming one of the tourist hotspots of Asia, emerging from its ancient past and finding its place in the hearts of western tourists.
Myanmar boasts a host of interesting and unique attractions that will thrill and enthrall you, from the ancient temples of Bagan to the unspoilt stretches of pristine white beaches of the south. Explore mystical caves and enjoy the most beautiful of sunsets as you fall under the spell of the country’s ancient customs and experience the unique traditions of the ancient Khmer people. In a country where monks have the status of rock-stars, Myanmar tour is unlike any other place on earth.
Things to Do in Myanmar
One of the most sacred sites in Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda is reputed to have been built on the site of one of the first stupas in the country. Local legends say there has been a stupa on the site for more than 2,600 years, and the current pagoda dates back to the 6th century.
The pagoda, which sits in the middle of modern Yangon, is 325 feet tall and is covered with a staggering 27 tonnes of gold leaf. The building is encrusted with thousands of precious gemstones, and is believed to contain the eight enshrined hairs of Buddha, that were given to the merchant brothers, Tapussa and Ballika over 2,500 years ago.
Sitting on a pedestal with four separate stairways to the entrance terrace, the pagoda shines with a mystical light when the dawn sun hits it, and glows orange and crimson in the flaming light of the setting sun.
Located in the town of Inwa, in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, Bagaya Kyaung is an ancient teak monastery that is supported on 267 teakwood posts, the largest of which measures 60 feet high and over nine feet in circumference. This cool, dark prayer hall is as old as it feels, having been built in 1593, and sits in the middle of a wide expanse of rice fields, with palm trees, banana plants, and thorn bushes growing around the site.
The stained teak timbers are decorated with a myriad of motifs, including peacocks and lotus flowers, and the architectural carvings of curved figurines and bass-relief images of birds and animals make this unique monastery even more interesting. The small decorated pillars on the wall are typical of the Inwa Era of artistic works.
The monastery, despite having an almost constant stream of tourists, is a living monastery, and the school section has an ancient, carved set of globes hung above the classroom to aid the students in their lessons.
The highest mountain in the Chin State of Myanmar, Mount Victoria is the third highest mountain in the country at 3,053 meters and is the main attraction of the region. It is located within the Nat Ma Taung National Park, and is well known for being covered with a massive forest of larger-than-normal rhododendron trees. From November to February these unique trees bloom in riotous colors of red, white, and yellow flowers.
Seldom visited by western tourists, this twin-peaked mountain is a 2-3 hour climb from the trailhead in the small nearby town of Kanpetlet. Getting to the mountain can be a chore, as there is no public transport to the villages, although local tours run for 3-4 days from Bagan regularly.
The area is home to some of Myanmar’s rarest and most beautiful plants, as well as the several ethnic tribes that are well known for the tattooed faces of their women. For those who make it to the top of the twin-peaked mountain, there is a local pagoda and Buddha statue to selfie with as proof that you made it.
A 240 meter hill that lies to the northeast of the center of Mandalay City, it is the hill that gave its name to the city that has grown around it. The hill is widely known for the abundance of monasteries and pagodas at its peak, and for more than 200 years has been a major site of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Cresting the hill is the stunning Sutaungpyei Pagoda, which translates to “wish-fulfilling”, and which is the center of the pilgrim trail to the hill. The views from the top are another thing that makes the climb worthwhile, as it looks out over the entire area of the Mandalay plain.
There are a number of stairs and walkways that lead to the top, but the most popular is on the southern slope, and is a covered walkway that has travelers walking barefoot as the path passes through several monasteries and pagodas on its ascent. The trek to the top takes around 30 minutes if you do not stop, but with such lovely views on all sides, a few hours is the average time people take to climb it.
Located in Hpa An, this huge and atmospheric cave lies just to the south of Mount Zwegabin, and is bounded on the other side by a small lake where you can take a boat ride with a local fisherman. The cave is around the size of a large football stadium, and its entrance is surrounded by over a dozen statues of Buddha, and a few smaller pagodas.
The cave is pitch black inside, so it is advisable to bring a torch when you visit unless you pay the “donation” of around 3,000 kip to have them turn on the lights. Inside you can explore the cathedral-like chambers and huge stalactites that hang from the roof, as well as crystal walls that reflect the torchlight, giving the caverns an eerie, surreal glow.
Located in the northwest of Chin State in Myanmar is the Mizo lake known as Rih Dil. The lake is around a mil long and half a mile wide, and is in the shape of a stylized heart. The name comes from an old Mizo myth of a young girl who brought her sister back to life with the help of a spirit, but was transformed into the lake at the same time.
This delightfully scenic lake has special spiritual significance for the ancient Mizo people, who live on both sides of the border with India, in what was once the land of Mizoram. The Mizo people are mostly Christian now, but the lake remains a popular spiritual place in their traditions, as it is believed to be the gateway to the Mizo heaven known as Piairal.
The lake’s remoteness close to the Mizoram border enhances its mystical aura, and it is a major pilgrimage site for the Mizo people from the Indian side of the border. In Mizoram, there is a local saying that goes, “The largest lake in Mizoram is Rih Dil, but it is in Burma”.
One of the most popular tourist spots in Myanmar for sunset photography, U-Bein Bridge is a 1.2 kilometer-long bridge made of teakwood that spans the shallows of the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura, one of the townships that make up Mandalay.
The world’s longest wooden footbridge, it has become one of the most photographed sites in the world, and the silhouette images of the bridge can be found everywhere on the internet. While the dry season leaves the lake waters some way below the walkway, in the wet season the lake swells, and the waters often lap the wooden planks of the bridge.
The bridge rests on 1086 teakwood poles that are embedded into the bed of the lake, and the best time to visit the bridge is just after sunrise, when it is in use by hundreds of monks and villagers, commuting across the lake to the township. While this may be one of the busiest tourist spots in Myanmar, it rarely feels like it has succumbed to the commercialization of tourism.
The teahouses of Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon during the British occupation of Burma) have become ever more popular with the locals as well as the tourists in this burgeoning former capital city. While the military government may have moved the nation’s capital to Naypyidaw in central Myanmar, Yangon remains the largest city in the country with over seven million permanent inhabitants.
Teahouses in Yangon have evolved to sell not just tea, but a wide range of Burmese cuisine, local cocktails, and many Indian curries and biryanis. Now a big part of the modern city culture of Rangoon, the teahouses are a must-see part of tourism in the city, and no visit is complete without experiencing this unique cuisine culture of the modern Yangonian.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Formerly known as Scott’s Market in the days of the British colonial rule, Bogyoke Aung San is one of the largest bazaars in Myanmar, and is located in Pabedan Township in central Yangon. Popular with tourists for its cobbled streets and colonial architecture as much as for its antique Burmese jewelry, art galleries, and clothing stores, the market is also popular with locals for foods, garments, medicines, and the popular foreign goods.
With more than 2,000 shops inside, not counting the removable stalls and street vendors, it is possible to get lost in the buzz of shopping and spend an entire day within its walls. Like the huge malls of America, it is one of the most popular places for young Burmese to hang out, as well as the place to find some of the best men’s tailors in Asia. A hangover from the British rule, gent’s outfitters abound in the market, and a good tailor will run you up the finest new suit in less than three days.
Now known as Bagan, the former capital of the ancient Pagan Kingdom of Myanmar is located in the Mandalay region of the country. This ancient temple city covers the largest area of any temple complex in the world, and contains more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries, and pagodas.
Built at the height of the Pagan kingdom, between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Bagan plains still have more than 2,200 temples and pagodas that have survived ruin, and are still standing whole. The main attraction of the nation’s tourism industry, the plain of temples is seen as comparable to that of Angkor in Cambodia.
Located in a zone of active earthquakes, the temples have suffered greatly from the seismic activity over the centuries, with more than 400 recorded earthquakes in the area in the last century alone. Today, Bagan is a tourist destination that sees around 400,000 visitors every year, and is one of the most spectacular sights in the world as the sun drops behind the temple plain.