Go East is a new series from Lighthouse that brings you countries and destinations that lie east of India and have not hit the big time yet on the travel circuit. Forget Europe, forget Australia, forget Morocco. Give a miss to South Africa, drop the trip to the US, keep New Zealand waiting. Go east with Lighthouse as we move to Myanmar having covered Bhutan.
Do you know what Rudyard Kipling said about Burma (as Myanmar was then called) way back in 1898? “This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.”
And, it surely holds true today as well!
Called Amarapura, the Land of Immortality, and Yadanarbon, the Land of the Gems, the country remained cut off from the rest of the world for a very long time and is only now opening up.
Little has changed since British colonial times. People dress in traditional clothing, there are no ATMs, your mobile will not work in all probability and the Internet speeds are very slow.
So, cast off and enter a world that works on a slower time scale. How about a cruise down the Ayeyarwady (for those of you brought up on Commando comics, that’s the Irrawaddy river)? Discover the cultural heritage along the river, visit capitals with a royal past, and dip into the lifestyle and traditions of the people living along the river banks.
A trip to Inle lake is a must if only to see the famous leg rowing fishermen. On a serious note, Inle is a wonderful watery world of floating gardens, stilted villages and crumbling stupas. Marvel at the amazing hydroponic cultures of the floating gardens, their tomatoes and flowers. And see mountains tumble down towards the lakeshore, blurring the distinction between heaven and earth
In the middle of the country is Bagan. The beauty of a misty dawn breaking over 4000 brick and gold-gilded stupas on the shores of the Ayeyarwady in Bagan is a sight not to be missed.
Undoubtedly one of the best places for a relaxing holiday is Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal. One of the loveliest places in Myanmar, Ngapali is also one of the most unspoilt beaches in the world, with miles of pure white sands skirting the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Actually, Ngapali is not one single beach. but a series of beaches interspersed with small fishing villages. On a bicycle or just walking, you will find this a wonderful place where you can see villages, rice fields and hills.
Kyaikhto is not on the standard tourist circuit but worth a visit for the Golden Rock pagoda. The sacred pagoda, over 2500 years old, sits on the top of a golden rock that perches precariously on the edge of a cliff. Legend has it that the Buddha gave a strand of his hair to a hermit, who in turn gave the strand to the King, with the wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit’s head. The King found the perfect place at Kyaiktiyo and built a pagoda, where the strand was enshrined. It is this strand of hair that, according to the legend, prevents the rock from tumbling down the hill.
Spend some time in Mandalay. Compared with the ancient treasures surrounding the city, Mandalay is a veritable whippersnapper at just 150 years old. Founded as capital of the Burmese empire in 1861, Mandalay saw the swansong of the last kings of Burma. The centre of arts and crafts in Myanmar, the city is home to the the golden Buddha of Mahamuni Paya, but the real attractions lie beyond town in the nearby ancient cities, Amarapura with its old wooden bridge, Ava full with charms and the peaceful Sagaing.
And, then there is Yangon. Called Rangoon prior to 1989, the city is the social, economic and cultural capital of the country and home to the dazzling Shwedagon Paya where all that glitters is gold. Enjoy Yangon’s vibrant and colourful streets, its hectic open-air markets and some of the friendliest people anywhere. The Shwedagon Pagoda, the centrepiece of the city, is a gleaming golden stupa visible from everywhere in Yangon. Downtown Yangon is a warren of historic streets with some of the best British colonial-era architecture in the region. In fact, a walk along the Strand or Pansodan Street is like strolling down Pall Mall without the paint job.
You know what? If you want to Go East to discover Myanmar (or, Burma) just call Lighthouse on (0) 9818905024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll set up a most wonderful experience for you.