Myanmar is entirely unique. Not only can the country be identified as two different names but it also has some of the oldest and best-preserved sites in all of Asia. Not to mention they are extraordinary.
This incredible country is known as Myanmar officially but it is often referred to informally as Burma, it’s former name. The reason for the change was both to rid the country of its colonial British influence as well as to distance itself from some of its unsavory historical moments. Names of the cities were changed as well, Rangoon became Yangon, Maymyo became Pyin Oo Lwin, Ayeyarwady became Irrawaddy and Moulmein became Mawlamyine. People now typically use the names interchangeably with Myanmar being slightly more formal than Burma, the colloquial version.
After arriving, you may start asking yourself, “Where are all the travelers?” Myanmar may not be as popular as some of its neighbors like Thailand, China and India, but that is part of the beauty and draw to this country; The travelers have not discovered its enchanting beauty yet. Modern Myanmar is a melting pot of over 100 ethnic groups including British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian. It is sure to impress you right from the start with a friendly and helpful culture, incredibly beautiful sites to explore and plenty of charm. Come explore Myanmar with Discovery Tours today.
First, fly to the incredible melting pot that is Yangon and discover the mix of cultures and astonishing panoramas as you transfer to your hotel. Yangon is the most populous city in the country and was the capital until 2006 before it was moved to Naypyidaw in the center of Myanmar. Shwedagon Pagoda is the true highlight of this city with its spiritual atmosphere, array of golden accents, serene Buddhas and mythical creature statues. This gilded gem truly shines in a city full of incredible sites. Bogyoke Aung San Museum is the former home of the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a fascinating look into the history of the country. In the downtown area of Yangon, view the octagon-shaped Sule Pagoda that is 2500 years old and the Independent Monument in Mahabandoola Gardens with its striking obelisk honoring freedom of Burma from Great Britain in 1948. In the Bogyoke Aung San Market take a stroll through this shopping area with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. Find handicrafts, jewelry, clothing stores and other shops while weaving through the aisles of this covered market.
Next, visit Amarapura, a former capital of the country and now township of Mandalay city. An exclusive bronze casting lesson allows you to learn about a traditional art form that has been used for hundreds of years in this country. The 200-year-old U-Pein Bridge is the oldest and longest teak bridge in the entire world and a massive part of the community with hundreds of locals walking across it daily. Take a glimpse into the monastic way of life at the massive Mahagandayone Monastery where more than 1,000 monks study and live together.
Your next stop is Mandalay, Myanmar’s center of culture and the last Royal capital. A morning cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River introduces you first to the ancient city of Mingun where you will visit the Mingun Temple, Mingun Bell and Myatheindan Pagoda. Mandalay Hill introduces you to the golden Kuthodaw Pagoda, or the “world’s largest book,” because of its 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. The nearby town of Pyin Oo Lwin, founded by the British, offers an escape from the Mandalay summer heat and is famous for its local fruits, jams and wines. Be sure to wander through the Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens that include beautiful views of 480 species of flowers, plants and trees. The Kandawgyi’s bridges, gilded pagodas or a leisurely cart ride are all excellent options for exploring this area.
Travel to Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s spiritual center with over 2,000 pagodas, stupas and temples dotting the city. Shwezigon Pagoda, built by King Anawrahta, is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments in the city and is plated in gold and glimmers in the sunlight. The cave temple of Gubyaukgyi is covered in religious murals while the Ananda Temple houses 4 standing Buddhas. The buzzing shops of Nyaung-U Morning Market allow you to immerse yourself completely in the life of the local people where you can shop, bargain and sample the wares. An exclusive Discovery Tours experience brings you to the home of a local family where you will have a home-hosted lunch and learn about the country’s customs, traditions and history. A remarkable Sunset Cruise on the Irrawaddy River closes out this amazing day full of new experiences and unforgettable travel memories.
Next, traveling East, arrive in the Inle Lake area to Pindaya, famous for its limestone caves containing over 8,000 images of Buddha dating back to as far as 1750. The stunning Shan mountains loom in the background of this area while the placid lake intensifies the landscape. Board a ship that takes you on a cruise of the serene Inle Lake with its stilt-house villages and floating gardens. Make note of the legendary leg rowers here because this is the only place to see them in the world. Native Burmese fisherman grip a single bamboo oar with one leg and paddle long flat-bottomed boats around the lake dressed in their traditional Shan attire. Paung-Daw-oo Pagoda is the lake’s main building and the Nga-Phe-Chaung Monastery decorates the surrounding area. Participate in an exclusive Discovery Tours cooking class with a chef at the Thahara Inle Heritage. You will prepare local Burmese specialties before a delicious lunch.
The amazing thing about this new-to-tourism country is its authenticity. Myanmar has long been isolated and Burmese culture has progressed seamlessly without outside influence. Very few countries today can provide such an untarnished experience. You will meet locals who are truly in love with their country and enjoy a way of life that sways along at an easy pace, even in the large cities. Buddhism is actively practiced by 89% of the Burmese, making for a peaceful and religious place. Even through struggles, the Burmese have clung to traditions that generations have held dear. The country has also recently turned a political corner toward a more democratic government. Experience an unaffected culture, explore magnificent temples, stupas and pagodas, step back in time and do so with the ease, flexibility, and access that only a Discovery Tours small group allows. We urge you to reserve soon because once word gets out about its breathtaking wonders, Myanmar may never be quite the same again.