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Formerly known as Rangoon, and perhaps surprisingly, not the capital city, which is Naypyidaw, this is the commercial centre of the country. Historically, it is noted for a number of famous religious sites, not least of which is the country’s treasure – the golden and imposing Shwedagon Pagoda. During the colonial era, the British made Rangoon their administrative capital and many of those magnificent buildings and big colonial houses still remain.
Yangon is a mosaic of bustling streets and narrow alleys filled with shops, markets and tea houses, where the aroma of spices and freshly-cooked food wafts through the air.
Htauk Kyant War cemetery, built in 1951, is a memorial cemetery of Allied soldiers who died in the Burma during World War II. The cemetery's beautifully kept compound has 27,000 tombstones of fallen Commonwealth and Allied soldiers.
There is something intrinsically romantic about the name, Mandalay. It was the capital of Myanmar before the colonial era and culturally, this is the most important city in the country and the principle centre for the study of Buddhism with the highest concentrations of monks found here. All boys must become a novice, even if just for a week. You can see over 1,200 monks in one early morning procession at Maha Gandaryon monastery. There are more historical sites and monasteries in the vicinity than anywhere else in the country.
The city is also the main centre of arts and crafts with workshops producing puppets, tapestries, wood and marble carvings, gold leaf, bronze casting and silk weaving. The best and most intricately woven silks are made here and the best Jade in the world comes from Mandalay. At the end of a day sightseeing, a visit to Mandalay Hill to watch the sunset offers magnificent views over the city and the Ayeyarwady River, as it meanders through the countryside beyond. On another day visit the 150 year old U Bein teak bridge built in 1851 for an amazing sunset.
Nestled amongst the green mountain ranges of the Shan Plateau with scenic high hills providing the perfect backdrop, the 21 mile long lake is a wildlife sanctuary and a photographer’s dream. A place to witness a unique way of living where the Intha people row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar! They live in villages built on stilts over the water, grow vegetables (they grow 80% of the country’s tomatoes here!) on floating gardens and travel by boat everywhere!
During October, the Phanungdaw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the biggest attractions. It lasts for 18 days with boat processions carrying gold Buddhas around the villages on the lake. They even make wine here!>
A former British hill station with many colonial buildings including the “post office”. Lying around one hour drive from Heho, it is renowned for its hill tribes and for trekking in the mountains and pine forests, which offer an opportunity to enjoy the cooler air.
Renowned as the best beach in the country and that is just what you get. Unlike other beach destinations, there are no noisy beachside bars and no crowds. All that is on offer is unspoiled beauty, peace and white sand lapped by deep blue water stretching as far as the eye can see.
This is one of the richest and most awe-inspiring archaeological sites in Asia and one of the most visited places in the country. On a par with the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, there are over 3,000 ancient temples and pagodas, built between the 11th and 13th centuries, on a site spread over an area of 15 square miles. One of the finest and best preserved is the Temple of Ananda, which was built by King Kyansittha to present the teachings of Buddha. Shwezigon Pagoda’s ancient dome is covered in gold making it one of the most stunning pagoda spires in the country. You can hire a horse and cart to leisurely take you around.
An hour’s drive south east of Bagan stopping off at one of the many sugar palms along the side of road, lies the national park of Mount Popa. The extinct volcano rises to over 5,000 feet with the flat top offering panoramic views over the surrounding mountains. The summit, reached by over 777 steps, attracts pilgrims to worship at the shrines and pagodas. Visit the lively and colourful local markets and craft shops for Bagan’s speciality – lacquer ware.