Myanmar has not been a popular tourist destination until recently because during the military rule, it was largely inaccessible to foreigners. Now that Myanmar is opening up to the rest of the world, what are good reasons to go and visit Myanmar? After all, there are other Southeast Asian destinations with cheaper budget.
Below are our top reasons why you should visit Myanmar.
Myanmar opened up much later than other Southeast Asian countries. While large cities in neighboring countries have rapidly been modernized and had countless skyscrapers built, Myanmar's development has been relatively delayed.
Now the economy is starting to pick up pace, but Myanmar still has an old-world charm, with its ancient religious relics and historical architecture.
As you walk down the streets of Yangon, you will see colonial architecture left from the British colonial period. Several of these buildings are well maintained and definitely worth a visit.
Two of the main ones are the High Court Building, which was built in 1914, and the Strand Hotel, which was built in 1896 and is now still functioning as a luxury hotel.
Some say that if you want to get the feel of a Southeast Asian country 30 or 40 years back, you can visit Myanmar and experience its old-world charm.
Myanmar is also an ideal destination for visitors interested to experience a Buddhist atmosphere, as the Buddhist faith permeates into every aspect of their lives and made its mark on Myanmar's history and landscape.
In Myanmar you will have the opportunity to visit countless temples and pagodas with different architectural styles and backgrounds. A few of the main ones are:
- Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon)
- Shwenandaw Monastery (Mandalay)
- Mahamuni Pagoda (Mandalay)
- Ananda Temple (Bagan)
- Indein Stupa Complex (Inle Lake)
- Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock Pagoda (Mon)
Myanmar has a diverse and varied culture, which is reflected in Myanmar's performing arts. One of them is the Burmese puppet show. While you can find puppet shows in other parts of the world as well, each uniquely represents their own culture. The Burmese puppetry involves a set of 27 traditional character figures.
There is also a large variety of traditional dances. Some resemble Indian dances, some originate from the Burmese royal courts from several centuries ago, some belong to the ethnic minority of Myanmar.
Many of the traditional performances, including puppet shows, are accompanied by Hsaing Waing, which is the Burmese traditional ensemble. It consists of a group of people sitting on the floor, playing various instruments, including drums and gongs.
You can also experience Burmese culture through their festivals. Many Burmese festivals are to do with their practice of Buddhism. The most popular festival amongst visitors is the Water Festival, celebrated just before the Burmese New Year, during which people splash water on each other as a symbol for washing away bad luck. Other festivals include:
- Ananda Temple Festival
- Thadingyut Light Festival
- Hot Air Balloon Festival
More than just exotic culture, Myanmar also has gorgeous landscapes, from pristine beaches and majestic rivers to tranquil lakes and ancient plains.
Ngapali beach is a tranquil white sand beach, one of the most popular beaches for foreign visitors. Unlike many other tourist beaches, it has no noisy bar streets and no vendors chasing you to sell things. Many activities are offered such as snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, boat fishing, bike riding, and even golf.
There are other less known beautiful beach destinations as well, for a thorough guide, click here.
Lakes and rivers
Inle Lake is Myanmar's second largest lake, popular for its beautiful landscape as well as the unique culture of its people. On Inle Lake you can see the leg-rowing fishermen, rowing their boats with one leg on the paddle and the other leg on the boat. You can also see their floating vegetable gardens and houses on stilts.
Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady) River is one of Asia's mightiest rivers, flowing from north to south Myanmar, emptying through the Irrawaddy Delta into the sea. It has been used for trade and transport from as early as the sixth century until today.
If you are planning to travel from Mandalay to Bagan, cruising overnight down the Irrawaddy River is an excellent option; you will see the sun set over the river.
Bagan was the capital of the Pagan kingdom from 9th to 13th century. During its glorious years, the dynasty built over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries. Now, the sight of over 2,200 remains are marveled at by thousands of tourists from all over the world.
Myanmar is a haven for photographers seeking to capture stunning photographs. Whether scenic panoramas of Myanmar's majestic temples, or casual portraits of local people, you will surely not run out of images to capture.
Here are some of the iconic images of Myanmar:
- Sun setting behind the silhouette of U-Bein Bridge
- Hot air balloons hovering above thousands of temples on the plains of Bagan
- The dazzling Shwedagon Pagoda against the blue sky
- Smiling Burmese children with patterns of Thanaka (the yellowish-white paste) on their faces
- Burmese people wearing Longyi
- The big golden rock on the edge of a cliff (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda)
- Fishermen on the Inle Lake rowing their boat with one leg
- Buddhist monks with brown robes in a line, holding their alms bowls
Moreover, Myanmar also offers a handful of memorable and unique experiences such as:
Floating on a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan
Viewing the sun set over the Bagan landscape while riding a hot air balloon is a must-do activity while visiting Myanmar. The silhouette of thousands of temples against the misty red sky is one of Myanmar's most iconic scenery.
Climbing Mount Popa
Mount Popa in Bagan is a uniquely shaped mountain with a Buddhist monastery at the summit. From there you can see a lush green panorama all around. To reach the top, you need to climb 777 steps.
As it is considered a religious site, visitors have to wear modest clothing and are required to take off shoes. During the climb, there will be many monkeys, but do not get too friendly with them as they can get aggressive.
Myanmar is a good place to have a culinary adventure, since its food is rich and diverse but not yet wel- known internationally. Myanmar food has been influenced by its neighboring countries such as India, China, and Thailand. However, there are also characteristics which are uniquely Burmese, for example the use of Ngapi, which is fermented fish or shrimp.
While there are many Burmese dishes to try, two of the most iconic are:
Mohinga is Myanmar's national dish consisting of rice noodles with fish broth, lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, the pith of a banana tree stalk and some lentils or vegetables. Variations of the dish can be found across the country. It is not a heavy dish and is commonly eaten for breakfast.
Laphet Thote is a tea leaf salad. In most parts of the world, tea leaves are not eaten, but in Myanmar tea leaves are fermented to make tea leaf salad and are very commonly eaten.
There is a popular saying: "Of all the fruit, mango is the best; of all the meat, pork is the best; and of all the leaves, lahpet is the best".
The dish can be served as snack or after a meal. It has a stimulating effect and hence is popular for students preparing for exams and people who need to keep watch overnight. It is also believed to have medicinal properties for the digestive system.
One of the things that will surely make your trip memorable is your encounter with the Burmese people. Burmese people are known for their genuine smile, and are in general very welcoming and hospitable, especially towards tourists.
Although Myanmar has had a bitter past with a lot of internal conflicts, you will find that the Burmese people remain an exceptionally friendly people. They are keen to show off their culture and country as long as they see that you are being respectful.
They also like to practice English with foreigners. This is your great opportunity to interact with them!
Less crowded destination
If your idea of adventure doesn't include flocking with swarms of tourists, Myanmar is your ideal destination. Previously untouched, it's only in the beginning stages of developing their tourism industry. You won't find international franchise brands as readily there. In fact, Mc Donald's has yet to enter Myanmar.
While Myanmar is still a less-visited destination, compared to its neighboring Southeast Asian countries, the numbers of tourists are increasing rapidly. It is only a matter of time before it will become main-stream as well.
So, now is a good time to visit Myanmar!
You might like to read
Top 8 Things to Do in Myanmar
Best Time to Visit Myanmar
Plan a First-time Trip to Myanmar
Top 9 Attractions in Bagan
Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights
Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Myanmar. Our knowledgeable staff will assist you in selecting destinations, accommodation and activities that best suit your requirements.
Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!
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