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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Country in Focus: Myanmar | Why You Should Visit it Now


A little over a decade ago, many locals in Myanmar can swear about seeing a foreigner as rare as a super moon. Today, those rarity has become a commonplace occurrence – as Myanmar have opened its doors to tourism in the last several years. Travel to the country formerly known as Burma has become so easy, as long as travelers from other countries (except those from neighboring Southeast Asian nations), book their Myanmar visa here before they fly to either Yangon, Bagan or Mandalay.


History and Culture Aplenty

Wherever you start your journey in Myanmar, heaps of historical and culturally rich regions will definitely satisfy all your wanderlust curiosities. From the marvelous architecture of post-colonial buildings in Yangon, to the centuries old temple and pagoda ruins of the ancient city of Bagan, stretching to the laid-back and olden vibe of Mandalay and Inle Lake, one can only scratch the surface of the many hidden historical and cultural gems of this country.

Bagan

Twice, I’ve been to Bagan and not once did I felt a déjà vu of sorts because each trip was entirely different. Journey number 1, I went with a group of friends all traveling to Myanmar for the first time. So we explored the historic plains of this ancient city with wide-eyed wonder, crisscrossing with wild abandon aboard a bicycle and on a tight schedule. In a way, that trip gifted me with a fascinating insight to the storied past of Bagan through each temples and pagodas we visited. We viewed the sunrise and sunset on different days and felt the magical vibe feeding through our soul, like a spiritual zest – while we bond over our kindred-ship over the love of traveling.


On my return trip to Bagan, I took my time spread out for almost a week. Renting an e-bicycle, I charted towards the more secluded temples passing through dirt roads and even getting lost a couple of instances.

This particular journey further endeared myself to the dreamlike plains of Bagan which is not only spoilt with significant structures dating back to the Kingdom of Pagan in the 9th century, but also inhabited by some of the friendliest people I encountered throughout my history of personal travels. Because of my memorable dual trips to Bagan, I see a big reason why a third trip back is necessary.

Mandalay and Yangon

The former Royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is a smaller, older and more laid-back version of Yangon. It has a compact city center where much of the hustles and bristles happens. I arrived here late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting over the horizon of Irrawaddy River. I remember walking towards the moat enclosed Mandalay Palace and catching the sunset fusing spectacularly with the silhouette of the Palace. A breathtaking sight ensued for a few minutes until darkness took over.


The next day, I biked and hiked atop Mandalay Hill to visit the temple and survey the amazing view of the city. At its foot of the hill, I also visited the Kuthodaw Pagoda which houses hundreds of Buddhist statues and scripture-inscribed marble slabs. I found Mandalay as a perfect place to visit after becoming templed-out in Bagan. A few days of sparse exploration and lengthy chill-time, should help you get your Myanmar travel mojo back.

Yangon’s colonial charms and street scenes would remind you of some cities in India, where a multitude of locals converge in busy streets dotted with appealing colonial buildings brimming with a variety of architectural characteristics. A walk through the downtown part of Yangon is a must for every visitor. The skyline dominating 326 foot Shwedagon Pagoda also provides some eye-candy and bits of fascinating history.


Although Yangon has changed much from my first visit here compared to my second trip here in 2016. More modern establishments such as KFC, Shangri-La Yangon, and many more have popped up during the last few years. Despite of that, the character of Yangon remains and for how long, I have no idea. This alone, makes coming to Myanmar today a wise decision.

Places in Myanmar to go next

The hill town of Kalaw, located 50 kilometers from Inle Lake appears to me as an ideal place to chill – not only because of its cool weather, as it situates 1,300 meters above sea level. But also because of the lush set of nature surrounding it. Imagine quaint towns between patches of forests and winding roads, I could see myself indulging in long day walks and cycling around to witness the various way of life of the locals.


Inle Lake is another place I missed out on my previous two visit to Myanmar. This time, I will make sure to pass by this location on my planned third trip to Myanmar.

From the mountains I am also planning on setting my path to the beaches of Myanmar. I have read quite a few spectacular locations where the glittering fine golden sands of the country’s seashores stretches to charming country sides and pleasant little towns in between.

There is Ngapali beach which according to CNN Travel “a dream beach with seven kilometers of white sand fringed with palm trees”, where a marvelous sunset is sure to take your breath away.

Other beaches includes; Ngwe Saung or the Silver Beach, Chuang Tha beach and Kanthaya Beach.

Despite visiting Myanmar twice in the past, I still have a lot of reasons to come back. History, cuisine, culture, heritage and the lovely people of Myanmar also adds to the motives that drives me to fly back to this wonderful country. For whatever political turmoil still happening in the country, it is still important to look beyond it and try to discover all the beauty and learn to know the people of this country better. 





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