After international sanctions were lifted in 2012, Myanmar has been put to the top of travel destination lists and it has quickly become the hot new place to visit. Closed off to the world for centuries, this is a fascinating country which is as warm and welcoming as the ruling military junta were harsh and oppressive. Megan McCormick dives in to the heart of the country to get the low down.
Megan starts her journey in Yangon where she explores the juxtaposition of modern life and Myanmar’s colonial past, so prominent throughout the country that some people still refer to it as Burma.
She finds out more from Yangon Heritage Trust founder, Thant Myint-U. Before she leaves this city, she can’t resist the pull of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in the country.
Flying to the centre of the country, she visits popular Inle Lake where she discovers just how diverse the country really is. Contrary to popular belief, the Padaung women Megan meets don’t seem to mind at all that they are being paid to draw in the tourists… provided foreigners actually respect their choice.
Next, she heads north to the town of Hsipaw where she visits a Shan Palace and uncovers a tribal rivalry dating back centuries. Chatting to the current resident, Fern, she realises that people still bear scars from the recent dictatorship.
Megan takes a bumpy train journey to Mandalay, stopping briefly at the British hill station of Pyin-oo-Lwin. In Mandalay she discovers a city devastated by WW2 and reinvented by the Chinese. Getting to the cultural heart of this city, Megan visits the golden Mahamuni Buddha, tries her hand at the dying art of puppetry and opts for evening entertainment in the form of the Moustache Brothers, only to realise that the recent politics of this country pervades everything, even comedy.
Leaving Mandalay Megan heads far from the main tourist destinations and into the Chin State where she meets the tattooed Chin women.
A tradition dating back to at least the 8th century, these women once tattooed intricate designs on their faces as protection. Now they see it as a form of beauty.
Land sprinkled with thousands of temples and stupas is Megan’s next stop on her journey. Bagan was once capital of the Kingdom that fully integrated Buddhism into the country.
Myanmar now has the highest proportion of Buddhist monks in any Buddhist country. Megan meets her guide Min Min and they explore this incredible landscape by horse & carriage.
Megan heads to the Rakhine State for her final stop. After a brief stop in the town of Thandwe she takes a boat to the ultimate beach destination, Ngapali Beach.
The Strand Hotel, Yangon
Built by the legendary Sarkies brothers and recently renovated, the Strand Hotel still epitomises British Burma. Visit the bar on a Friday evening for happy hour if you can’t afford to stay here.
The Hotel by the Red Canal, Mandalay
A gorgeous hotel in the heart of Mandalay which even includes cocktails by the pool for guests.
Laguna Lodge, Ngapali
This is a fantastic guesthouse on a stunning coastline. It really is the picture postcard beach that every traveller wants at the end of an adventure and the people who run this lodge are extremely welcoming. A perfect retreat.
Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Inle Lake
Right on the lake itself, this hotel has incredible views from each of its rooms.
Paramount Inle Resort
Peace House Travel
Mandalay Marionette Theatre
Mr. Saw is amazing and he will organise the best trip to the Chin Hills…. or apparently anywhere else in Myanmar. DO IT!
Lily’s Guesthouse, Hsipaw
Lily’s is the perfect home for travellers to Hsipaw. It’s basic, yet comfortable and from the moment you arrive, the welcome you receive will make this your second home for the duration.
Project Moken – www.projectmoken.com
Sadly for Globe Trekker, the weather prevented us from filming with the Moken as we couldn’t get to the islands. However, for more information, please visit Project Moken.
The Moken Sea Nomads are the last marine population to have survived as ocean drifters; their final realm an archipelago off the coast of Burma. Discover the world of these unique voyagers through Film Director & Cinematographer Runar J. Wiik’s work. He is the first filmmaker to be granted full access to their undiscovered aquatic ways.
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Sea Nomads of Myanmar: The Monken
Outside the west coast of Burma is a vast archipelago few people have ever heard of consisting of approximately a thousand islands called The Mergui (Myeik)Read Article