Burma: THE Destination of 2013
If you’ve ever wanted to glimpse the Far East as it once was, Burma is the place. Just when it was coming up on adventure travellers’ radar a decade ago, visiting the country came to be frowned upon. But now you can travel safely and with a clear conscience. In 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi called for a boycott on travel to the country when her (elected) NLD party was denied the right to govern. Since then the Burmese have held fair elections in 2010, Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest, and by all accounts the Burmese military is loosening its hold on the country. Your visit would inject some much-needed cash and show the Burmese you encounter that open and democratic societies are the norm.
The ancient capital
Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) is the country’s biggest city and was the capital from 1885, when the British conquered the north and the kingdom of Mandalay, until recently when the military government moved the capital to Naypyidaw. In Yangon the gold-covered Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the skyline, the most religious site in Myanmar. It is said to contain relics from the past four Buddhas, including eight hairs of the historical Gautama Buddha. it glitters with gold, sparkles with 5500 diamonds and hundreds of other precious gems, sitting grandly like a beacon of the East.
The lost city
If you’re impressed by Shwedagon Pagoda, the ancient city of Bagan will thrill you. Between the 11th and 13th Centuries the denizens of the Kingdom of Pagan — a major kingdom whose power extended through much of present-day Burma — built over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries on the Bagan plains. More that 2,200 still survive, poking up out of the tree cover, complete with a range of mountains in the background accentuating the flatness of the plains. It’s the archetypical lost city, and truly an amazing sight to behold.
Southeast of Bagan lies Mount Popa, a volcano rearing up out of the plains to an elevation of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). The mountain is home to monasteries and stupas, including the Popa Taungkalat monastery perched atop a vertical outcropping — a bit like France’s Mont Saint Michel, but less accessible. The monastery includes a shrine to the 37 Great Nats (spirits), almost all of whom were people that met violent deaths, according to Buddhist teachings.
Many nations in one
Like any country, Burma has its regions. Like northern Thailand, Burma is pockmarked with different ethnic groups, each with their own traditions. Distinctive groups include the Chin, whose women traditionally had their faces entirely tattooed to prevent them from being stolen by Burmese kings, and later as a mark of beauty; the Shan, an agrarian people who emigrated from China in the 12th Century and the Karen, Theravada Buddhists in the south-eastern part of the country that have warred on and off with federal Burma since 1949. Each of these groups has many subgroups. In total there are 135 distinct ethnic groups in Burma, the largest of which is the dominant Bamar, constituting two thirds of the population. Learning to identify tell the Bamar apart from smaller ethnic groups, and to tell more and more of them apart, is a fascinating exercise that adds a new dimension to your travels.
If we’ve got you thinking of Burmese days, may we suggest Burma Unveiled, a great all-round introduction to Burma, Mystical Myanmar, a more luxurious experience including quite distinctive accommodations, and Burma by Bike, our most up-close-and-personal journey through this enchanted land. Click here for a complete selection of Burmese itineraries available at Adventure Center.
Natural wonders, historic sites, markets and festivals, food and drink–you can truly experience different cultures — from Burma and beyond! The world’s best travel experiences are all here. We have over 4000 small group trips or our experienced adventure travel specialists can build one just for you. This is all we’ve done since 1972. Adventure Center. We’re here to get you there.
Our adventure travel specialists in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton would love to help you; call us toll-free 866.338.8735 or find us at adventurecenter.com for more information.