Last month some of our Asia Specialists spent 7 days exploring Burma, this is their first hand account.
Some holidays are once in a lifetime experiences. The fact that each of our Asia Specialists visits their destinations across Asia ensures we can select the best possible accommodation, hunt down most unique experiences and stay up to date with the latest travel developments across our destinations.
My overall impression of Burma is of a fresh, stunningly beautiful, old-world Asian country with the sweetest locals you’re ever likely to meet. We travelled to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake over a week, but I wished we’d had much longer.
Each area had its own unique charms. Yangon has fabulous British-colonial architecture, charming local tea houses, and lively markets. The highlight however is to spend time at the gorgeous Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset watching the enormous golden sphere change colours. I loved walking around this spiritual centre of the city surrounded by local families and monks making their evenings prayers. We ended our last day of the journey with a golden sunset over Inle Lake. An experience I’m sure we’ll all never forget.
By Ian from our Australia office
Schwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
Arriving into a city where the roads are quiet and the mopeds are far and few between is a rare sight in Asia, however, that is what we were greeted with upon our first nights arrival into Yangon. Our touring began with stunning clear blue skies and an early morning stroll through colourful markets lined with fresh fruit and vegetables, blooming flowers and smiley happy locals mingling in between. Wandering through the crowds and snapping away without any other tourists in sight was an amazing welcome to Burma and a setting of things to come. The sunny streets and quaint buildings led us through the old Indian and Chinese Quarter’s before we did what only the English would do and reflected on our time at a traditional road side tea house. Surrounded by the locals we sipped on clay coloured, sweet tea (a must try!) accompanied by traditional Burmese treats.
We were lucky enough to catch the Shwedagon Pagoda shining gold and bright from our hotel window, but nothing prepared me for the exciting hustle and bustle and beauty of Asia’s most impressive golden Pagoda at sunset.
Having travelled through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, I am happy to say that wandering around the Shwedagon Pagoda talking to monks, nuns and smiling Burmese people with a sky streaming colours of pink and purple is a truly magical experience.
By Clare from our UK office
Inle Lake, Leg Rower fishermen
After leaving the jetty at Nyaung Shwe, we boarded our very comfortable long tail boat which was to be our mode of transport for the next two days, and definitely a very relaxing way to get around. We were instantly in awe of this beautiful, tranquil lake set in the valley surrounded by stunning mountains – it really takes your breath away and is a photographers dream. We were to witness the locals going about their daily routine on the lake, watch the fishermen at work and the unique one legged rowing style only seen in this part of the world.
On our way to the ‘Jumping Cat Monastery’ we were lucky enough to be caught up in a local festival celebrating the area’s 501st birthday, we witnessed boatloads of merry local men heading down to the lake with drums beating and firecrackers going off and the women and children looking on in amusement from the sidelines, it was good fun!
Our accommodation on the lake was in the most breathtaking setting, and after check in it was time to relax, have a Beer Mandalay and watch the stunning sunset.
The next morning we set off to explore the lake in more detail, with a visit to the areas local market, frequented by Burma’s many ethnic minorities, and a great opportunity to interact with some of the locals and check out the local produce! We learnt how the locals build garden beds on the lake and grow fresh produce – ingenious and interestingly this area produces 80% of the countries tomatoes!! A visit to the Pa-oh village – a local minority group in In Dein to see its beautiful ruined ancient stupas was also a highlight. Inle Lake is a must on any itinerary to Burma as it is simply breathtaking!
By Bronwyn & Kelly from our Australia office
Nunnery at Sagaing
Nunnery at Sagaing
My highlight of Burma had to be visiting a local nunnery in Sagaing for lunch, from the minute we stepped into the nunnery we were welcomed with warm beautiful smiles. The experience was truly unique and the food was the best I tasted during my trip!
The young nuns were laughing and joking whilst they prepared lunch before inviting us for a blessing of the food which included fish, vegetable, & chicken curries accompanied by plenty of tasty vegetable dishes and rice.
The nuns watched us enjoying their delicious food with both excitement and curiosity- being the first western group to visit the nunnery we were extremely lucky and this felt like a real once in a lifetime experience.
The whole group were touched by the friendly sincere charm of the nuns as we waved goodbye with smiles on our faces.
By Jade from our UK office
Spiked temples of Bagan
It was an early start to the day, with a 6am flight from Yangon. As we were landing just after 7am we got to see the hot air balloons drifting over the vast plains and could see the light catching the tops of hundreds of pagodas. It is a very picturesque landscape intensified by the red brown earth. Our first Pagoda was a stunning example and arriving early meant we beat the crowds!
Bagan is divided into two areas, new and old. The old town is now almost non-existent, just a government operated Lacquer-ware shop and hotel. The new area is spread out with the majority of properties being on large grounds with lush gardens (seasonal of course). Most have views of the pagodas and some have a few ruins onsite. Overall it is a very tranquil area, undeveloped and would be an excellent place to unwind.