1. A country untouched by tourism
Burma is a country still very un-touched by tourism. Years of political disruption meant tourists were long prohibited from visiting the country. However following the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010 (one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, who fought to achieve democracy and human rights in Burma), a quasi-civilian government was sworn in, and the tourism boycott was lifted. We were one of the first UK tour operators to return to Burma in 2011; however it still remains off the well-trodden tourist map - meaning now is a great time to visit. (Closely following the advice of Aung San Suu Kyi, our Burma tours use only privately owned hotels, flights and other services where possible).
2. Fascinating ‘water-world’ life on Inle Lake
Inle Lake, located in the heart of the Shan Plateau, is a beautiful highland lake. Situated 900 metres above sea level, the lake is 22km long and 10km wide, and densely inhabited by many different tribes. A boat trip on the lake is a must-do, visiting workshops along the way to pick up handmade items, from clothing to silverware and jewellery, lacquerware and tobacco. Enjoy wine tasting, floating markets, stilted villages and leg-rowing fishermen.
3. Marvel at the vast temple studded plains of Bagan
The Ancient Kingdom of Bagan is the greatest archaeological treasure of Burma, with over 4000 pagodas and temple ruins located on the plains by Irrawaddy River. Bagan was, during its heyday, one the greatest kingdoms in the World and is truly a magical destination to visit.
4. Cruise along the legendary Irrawaddy River
The Irrawaddy River is the principal river of Burma, running north to south through the centre of the country. As Burma’s most important commercial waterway, the river, measuring 1,350 miles long (2,170 km), forms the historical, cultural, and economic heartland of the country. Since the sixth century, it has been used for trade and transport and today, you’ll still see a considerable amount of (export) goods and traffic moving along river. Try a boat cruise for an unforgettable cultural experience.
5. Watch the sunset in the serene Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon
Gleaming in gold and decorated with diamonds, the huge Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is a spectacular work of Burmese temple architecture and is the country’s holiest Buddhist shrine. Suggested to be around 2,500 years old, the Shwedagon Pagoda remains a symbol of national identity, and can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city. Choose between one of four covered walkways that lead up to the pagoda's platform. Just remember to remove your shoes and socks before you climb the stairs!
6. Hang out with friendly locals
The people of Burma are said to be among the friendliest and most courteous people in the world. Spend time getting to know them, cycling through local villages in Bagan, walking through evening fish markets run by locals in Mandalay, and trekking the tribal highlands to meet the Akha, Lahu and Paluang ethnic minorities.
7. Experience the sunrise with the pilgrims climbing Golden Rock
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (also known as Golden Rock) is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, with its distinctive pagoda (7.3 metres, or 24 ft.) built on top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves. The balancing rock seems to defy gravity, as it appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. The rock and the pagoda can be found at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo - the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma. A glimpse of the gravity defying Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism!
8. Explore the markets of Mandalay
Mandalay offers a truly unique shopping experience. Instead of malls and big shopping centres, Mandalay offers visitors the chance to purchase authentic items from local shops and markets - from gems, jewellery and handicrafts, to precious stones of jade, ruby and sapphire; gold and silver jewellery, and an abundance of souvenirs such as sculptures and Buddha images. An ideal place to pick up gifts for loved ones back home!
9. Take a promenade with the locals along U-Bein Bridge
The U Bein Bridge is one of Burma’s most well-known sights; a beautiful 1.2 kilometre long structure built entirely from teak planks. This wood was salvaged by U Bein, the local mayor, from pieces of the dismantled teak palace at Amarapura when the capital moved to Mandalay. Today, the bridge remains a central part of the local community, with hundreds of locals and saffron-robed monks walking their bicycles home along it, and fishermen going about their daily work. The best time to see the bridge is at sunset.
10. Meet a monk or two
Buddhism is practised by 89% of the population in Burma. It’s the most religious Buddhist country in the world, in terms of the proportion of monks and proportion of income spent on religion. Learn more about this influential religion, and get an insight in to the daily life of a practising monk.
Find out how you could save £100 per person on all of our tours to Burma if you book between 3rd and 9th January 2014.