Burma is one of those places that has to be seen; a country rich in history and culture but relatively untouched by tourism. With a diverse ethnic mix, distinctive culture and historic influences from Britain, China and India, a Burma tour promises to be a fascinating experience for any traveller. With limited time to explore the country, the following are highlights on Cox & Kings' Burma holidays:
The largest city in Burma (and its former capital), Rangoon remains the heart of the country. Dotted with the largest number of colonial era buildings in south-east Asia, the heritage of Burma is well reflected in Rangoon; with its temples, churches, museums and bustling street markets. The most iconic sight is the Shwedagon Pagoda, whose gilded gold stupa – at more than 100 metres high – can be seen from anywhere in the city. Studded with close to 5,000 diamonds, and other precious stones including rubies, topaz and sapphires, the pagoda is said to enshrine locks of Buddha’s hair; making it one of the more glorious and sacred sites in all of Burma.
One of the more famous attractions in Burma is Pagan – a vast, sprawling plain, filled with more than 2,000 historic and sacred temples and pagodas. The former capital of many ancient Burmese kingdoms, it is nearly 68 sq km in size, and, at its heyday, was home to more than 10,000 temples. The tallest is the Thatbyinnyu Temple, standing at 66 metres and built in the 12th century; climbing to the very top is a rewarding way to admire the surrounding temples, spread out in every direction. Otherwise, aim for a hot air balloon ride during sunrise – watching the stupas rising out of the mist as the sun pierces through the clouds is a truly memorable experience.
The attraction better known as the Golden Rock, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a small pagoda that sits on top of a giant, granite boulder covered in gold leaf. The rock itself is more than 7 metres tall, and, supported supposedly by a single strand of Buddha’s hair, it sits precariously balanced on the side of a hilltop. The pagoda has been visited by devoted pilgrims for centuries, and locals will visit the pagoda at least once in their lifetime, to honour the Buddha with offerings of food, candles and incense. Sunset is the perfect time to visit – the flicker of hundreds of candles and the low hum of monks in prayer creates an unforgettable, mystical atmosphere.
Home of the native Intha people, Inle Lake is not only a spectacular sight for tourists, but is also the life-blood of the locals. Many villagers live in wood and bamboo houses, steadily balanced on stilts above the water, and are self-sufficient farmers, growing fruit and vegetables in floating gardens on the lake. The fishermen are known for a unique way of rowing – standing with the oar wrapped around one foot and pushing down with the strength of their legs. Experience the local culture on a long-tail boat ride or by enjoying an Intha cooking class. If wildlife spotting appeals, consider a guided bird-watching walk along a lake shore.
Situated by the stunning blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, and boasting a 3km stretch of white sandy shores, Ngapali beach is an idyllic spot for a bit of relaxation. One of the more developed beach resorts in Burma, it has maintained a peaceful and cultural feel, with ox-carts and banana sellers still wandering slowly along its shores. Dappled by shady coconut palms, and with a perfect selection of luxury resorts, Ngapali beach is certainly a rival to better known beaches in south-east Asia – and a magnificent place to relax after a Burmese adventure.
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