Myanmar (Burma): Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Myanmar is a country still waiting to be discovered. Not many countries in the world can pride themselves in having the combination of intact nature, important religious sites, and rich history, like Myanmar can. It is home to some well-known sites, such as its ancient city of Bago (Pegu), now known for being a center of Buddhists’ pilgrimage in Myanmar and home to the biggest pagoda in Southeast Asia, the Shwemawdaw Pagoda. Many other cities in Myanmar contain religious monuments and temples; Mandalay, for instance, is surrounded by the ancient capitals of Myanmar, or Burma: Sagaing, Inwa (Ava), Monywa, and many others.
Temples and religious edifices are not all Myanmar has to offer. On the contrary, the country is equally as attractive because of its intact nature. The best example for might be the Myeik (Merqui) Archipelago, consisting of more than 800 islands, many of which are still unexplored and uninhabited. The Archipelago is very isolated and yet to be explored, a real haven for adventurers looking for perhaps the last unspoiled place in the world. Even now, it can only be accessed by boats and with a special government-issued permit.
British colonial rule in Myanmar, then Burma, has left many monuments throughout the country. The city of Pyinmana, now a township of the country’s capital Naypyidaw, is one of the most important historic places for Burmese people. It is considered to be the center of their fight for independence from the British, with plenty of monuments to commemorate it.
Getting around Myanmar
Myanmar was, until recently, very isolated. In the past few years, much has been done to make it more accessible to foreign visitors. New airports are being built in major cities, and the ones already existing are being modernized. The number one airport in the country is still Yangon International Airport, which services flights from every bigger city in Asia and from which flights departure to every city with an airport in the country. The new capital, Naypyidaw, has a brand new international airport, which also services flights to every bigger city in Myanmar.
Motorbike taxis, tuk tuks, and trishaws are very popular in Myanmar. They are pretty reliable, numerous, and very cheap. There is no fixed price, so one might even negotiate to drive around a city in tuk tuk, for instance, for as low as $2 for the entire day.
Public transportation system is not well developed in Myanmar, and the roads are nothing to brag about. Of course, this is being changed rapidly, especially with the inauguration of the new city of Naypyidaw, which can be accessed via a 20-lane expressway. Bus lines do exist in bigger cities, excluding the new capital, and tickets are very cheap, but it can get crowded and hard to communicate with drivers, most of which don’t speak English. So, the recommendation is to travel through Myanmar by other means, such as motorbike taxis, which are also cheap and negotiable.
The railway network covers a big part of the country, but is outdated, and traveling by train might prove to be a bit anguishing. Plus side is that trains pass through every important city in the country, and tickets don’t cost much.
Regions of Myanmar
Yangon Region is located east of the Ayeyarwaddy Delta area with Andaman Sea on the south-east. The biggest and most famous city in the region is of course, the ex-capital Yangon. The city is best known for its colonial architecture, containing the highest number of colonial buildings in the entire continent. The city is also to home to a big number of pagodas and temples, most notably the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred in Myanmar.
Located in the center of the country, the Mandalay Region in Central Myanmar is very important for the country’s history. The capital Naypyidaw and historic city of Pyinmana are situated in the south part of the region. Besides the country’s current capital, Central Myanmar is also home to former capitals; Bagan, Ava, Amarapura, and Mandalay. All of these cities are important historic sites. Situated in north-western part of Myanmar, the Sagaing Region is most famous for its history and over 500 pagodas located in the region. Popular sites are Ava Bridge, Mingun Bell, the largest in the world, as well as the country’s old capital Monywa. The most important pagodas in the region include the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda, Bodhi Tataung, Mingun Pagoda, etc. Sagaing Hill is the mediation center of Myanmar, and Hpo Win Daung and Shwe Ba Taung Caves are pilgrimage sites for the Burmese Buddhists.
Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) Region
The Ayeyarwaddy Region occupies the delta region of the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. The region is rife in lakes, and sea-side resorts and beaches on the Andaman Sea.
The most important region for the Burmese Buddhists. The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, or the Golden Rock, is a gilded boulder located near the town of Kyaikhto in the Bago Region. The pagoda is specific for being built on the boulder, some 1200 meters above sea level. The popular touristic attraction is widely regarded as one of the new wonders of the world. The region's most notable site is the ancient city of Pyay, an ancient Pyu capital. The ancient city of Sri Ksetra located in the region is enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Baw Baw Gyi Pagoda, which is considered the oldest Buddhist monument in Myanmar is located in the ancient city. Shwemawdaw Pagoda, Shwe Tha Lyaung Reclining Buddha, Mya Tha Lyaung Reclining Buddha, are only a few of the great number of temples and religious edifices located in the region.
The southernmost region in Myanmar, known for the unexplored and unique nature. The Myeik, or Merqui Archipelago is the pearl of the Southeast Asia. Uninhabited, unspoiled, breathtaking beaches and islands of the Archipelago are still very much mysterious for foreign tourists. They are being preserved by forbidding access to the Archipelago to tourists without a special permission and a domestic guide. The city of Kawthaung is located on the Thailand border, a river-cross away from the Thai city of Ranong. The city is a crossing point for thousands of tourists looking for Thai visa.
Accommodation in Myanmar is very versatile, ranging from backpackers’ cottages to budget hotels and 5-star luxury resorts. With rapidly developing tourism, rates are pretty cheap, and quality of accommodation surprisingly high. With the country opening up to the world, and new roads being built, Myanmar will definitely be destination of choice for many tourists in the near future.
Anyone visiting Myanmar is in for a mix of history, religion and unspoiled nature.