The Ultimate Hot Air Balloon Ride
More than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed over 800 years ago in theBagan Plains. Over 2,000 remain to this day, silently populating a UNESCO-designated area 25 times the size of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Before sunrise, board your hot air balloon and enjoy the gentle ascent over this elegant monument.
A Boat Ride Back In Time
Explore Myanmar’s lovely Inle Lake over four days. Its inhabitants, the Intha people, live in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores and on the lake itself. Photograph the iconic Intha fishermen as they row with one leg while fishing the lake. Meet the visually stunning Padaung women, part of the Kayan people, who are known for wearing stacked copper rings around their necks.
A Culinary Adventure
Traditional Burmese cuisine builds on its own set of specialized ingredients — think small amounts of fish sauce and traditionally fermented seafood — and incorporates fractional elements of Chinese, Indian and Thai cooking along the way. If you’re a fan of these cuisines, or any kind of curry, anticipate total satisfaction on Uncharted Myanmar. Try mohinga — a ubiquitous rice noodle and fish soup considered by many to be the national dish of Myanmar. Cool off with a frosty Myanmar Lager over dishes of gyin thohk (ginger salad with sesame seeds) or ohn no khao swè(curried chicken and wheat noodles in a coconut milk broth).
The Heart Of Yangon
One of the finest Buddhist shrines in Southeast Asia, Shwedagon Pagoda rules Yangon’s skyline. Layers of gold cover the pagoda that houses sacred relics. According to some, it is close to 2,000 years old. Approach it like a pro — tradition dictates that you navigate the pagoda clockwise. Gift-giving is central to Southeast Asian Buddhism. As you walk up the steps of the pagoda, stock up on flowers, candles, colored flags and streamers, and place them at designated containers. Think of it as a fair trade for time well spent within this gorgeous, revered setting.
Myanmar’s monks, collectively known as the Sangha, are venerated members of Burmese society, so much so that their people speak to them using specialized vocabulary. Throughout Uncharted Myanmar, you will have the opportunity to encounter numerous monks as they go about their daily lives. In their saffron robes, smiling with their eyes, it will bring you joy nearly everywhere on your journey.
On paper the lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide but up close it’s hard to tell where the water finishes and the marshes start. Most of the time the surface of the lake seems to perpetually resemble a vast silver sheet, one interspersed with stilt-house villages, island-bound Buddhist temples and floating gardens. Commuter and tourist motorboats and flat-bottomed skiffs navigate this watery world, the latter propelled by the unique Intha technique of leg rowing – in which one leg is wrapped around the paddle to drive the blade through the water in a snake-like motion – adding to the ephemeral aura.
One of Myanmar’s main attractions, this is a temple town. The area known as Bagan or, bureaucratically, as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies an impressive 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. The Ayeyarwady River drifts past its northern and western sides.
The excursion to the incredible balancing boulder stupa, called Kyaiktiyo, is a must-do. The small stupa, just 7.3m (24ft) high, sits atop the Gold Rock, a massive, gold-leafed boulder delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff at the top of Mt Kyaikto. This is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Myanmar.
‘Getting away from it all’ isn’t exactly why most people come to Myanmar, but if the need strikes, Ngapali’s idyllic palm-lined beach is the place to do it. With its pristine white sands, the clear blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, and a host of sophisticated accommodation, Ngapali – some say named by a wayward Italian reminiscing about Napoli years ago – has a justified reputation as the country’s premier beach getaway.
Win Sein Taw Ya
If you thought you’d seen some big old buddhas, just wait till you get a load of this one. Draped across a couple of green hillsides at Yadana Taung, and surrounded by a forest of other pagodas and shrines, is this recently constructed, 560ft-long reclining buddha. It’s easily one of the largest such images in the world.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Founded by the British in 1896, the town was originally called Maymyo (‘May-town’), after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Infantry and was designed as a place to escape the Mandalay heat. Following the Indian-raj terminology for such places, it has been known ever since as a ‘hill station’, although in fact it’s fairly flat (just at a raised elevation). After the construction of the railway from Mandalay, Maymyo became the summer capital for the British colonial administration, a role it held until the end of British rule in 1948. The name was changed after the British departed but numerous colonial structures, ranging from impressive mansions to churches, remain. So too do the descendants of the Indian and Nepali workers who came here to lay the railway line.
The usual starting point is at this, Mrauk U’s most complex temple. Shittaung means ‘Shrine of the 80,000 Images’, a reference to the number of holy images inside. King Minbin, the most powerful of Rakhine’s kings, built Shittaung in 1535. It’s a frenzy of stupas of various sizes; some 26 surround a central stupa. Thick walls, with windows and nooks, surround the two-tiered structure, which has been highly reconstructed over the centuries – in some places, rather clumsily.
Founded as a hill station by British civil servants fleeing the heat of the plains, Kalaw still feels like a high-altitude holiday resort: the air is cool, the atmosphere is calm, the streets are leafy and green, and the surrounding hills are the only place in Myanmar where travellers can trek overnight without prior permission.
In addition to foreign trekkers, Kalaw has a significant population of Nepali Gurkhas and Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, who came here to build the roads and railway line during the British period.
One of Mrauk U’s star attractions, Kothaung Paya is also the area’s largest temple. It was built in 1553 by King Minbin’s son, King Mintaikkha, to outdo his pop’s Shittaung by 10,000 images (‘Kothaung’ means ‘Shrine of 90,000 Images’). Kothaung Paya is located a mile or so east of the palace; follow the road directly north of the market, veering left on the much smaller road before the bridge.
The Sule Pagoda is not only a religious and historical pagoda landmark in Yangon, but it’s also a city navigational landmark as well; It seems that all roads in downtown Yangon eventually lead to the Sule Pagoda. The area is also home to numerous government buildings and offices, and a center for bus and road transportation. The Sule Pagoda is not only recognized and cherished for its long history, but in the more recent history of Myanmar, the pagoda has served as a strategic space for politics, rallies, and protests.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San market, also commonly known by its former name of Scott Market, was built in 1926 under a design from the British colonial period.
On the outside of the market are a number of European looking cobblestone streets with shops housed and either side, and there’s also a large indoor section that’s setup more like a bazaar.