The Golden Land
Myanmar, known locally as ‘Suvannabumi’, meaning the Golden Land, is one of the world’s best kept secrets. It is a dazzling utopia of natural beauty dotted with glittering pagodas just waiting to be explored. Unlike its popular south-east Asian neighbours, enigmatic Myanmar, the former Burma is still not firmly established on the tourist trail making it a fascinating insight to ancient Asian culture. Covered with lush forest and dramatic mountains with majestic temples springing up seemingly everywhere, Myanmar is the gateway to exploring the beautifully unspoilt side of south-east Asia.
Myanmar at a glance
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What to Expect
Culture and Traditions
Myanmar is a myriad of beguiling cultures and traditions that make it so unique, from puppet shows to festivals there is something to entice everybody. One eye-catching local tradition is the bright yellow paste called ‘Thanaka’ that women paint on their faces to protect them from the sun. Despite its practical purpose the beautiful patterns and designs add colour and beauty to daily life. Fortunately, western fashion is yet to make its influx in Myanmar, everywhere both genders wear skirt-like ‘longyis’, men’s styles being neutral and simplistic whereas women’s embrace many exquisite colours and styles. The Burmese calendar has twelve months filled with twelve corresponding festivals bringing all round colour and excitement to the nation with the most popular being the ‘Paya Pwe’, the pagoda festival. Chewing the betel nut is a popular habit of many local people, so don’t be alarmed to see mouths and teeth often stained in blood red juices!
Weather and Climate
Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate which features three distinguished seasons. The hot season is in full swing from March to May and temperatures soar to the mid 40’s! During this arid period the majority of the country can become dusty and hazy, to the point that it can even obscure the wonderful views! The pent up heat finally gives in towards the end of May making room for the much anticipated rainy season. Rain falls heavily from this point until the middle of October, nourishing the land and nurturing the crops. Following the rain comes the cool season which lasts until February, this is the best time to visit the country as temperatures remain comfortable and the weather is sunny and mostly dry.
Despite being the lesser known, diamond shaped Myanmar is the largest mainland country of south-east Asia. It shares its land borders with China and Laos in the north, Thailand in the north and south-east and India and Bangladesh in the west. Myanmar is mountainous and forest-clad, its natural and unspoiled beauty making it a labyrinth of wonders for the intrepid traveller. The mountainous north holds three stunning mountain ranges, the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma and the Shan Plateau. The Northern most territory of Kachin State is home to the wondrous Hkakabo-Razi, the highest mountain in South-East Asia. The Irrawady, translating in Sanskrit to ‘Elephant River’ reigns over the country and is the largest in the area. Most Burmese people live in the fertile lowland area of the Irrawady basin, a world renowned rice growing region.
One of the most magical moments imaginable is watching the sun rise above the temple kingdom of beautiful Bagan. The incredible complex technically known as The Bagan Archaeological Area stands on the banks of the Irrawady river close to Mandalay and beholds over 2000 temples stretching across 26 square miles. Days can be spent exploring the exquisite temples dotted amongst endless plains, whilst gazing out across the stupa studied sky-line.
Proudly emerging 99 metres above the capital city of Yangon stands the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda known as ‘the crown of Burma’. Its glistening gold rooftop studded with precious stones illuminates the city and can be seen for miles around. Eight of Buddha’s hairs are contained within the walls of the ‘Shwe Dragon’ adding to the prestige of Myanmar’s unrivalled symbol of national identity.
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is precariously balanced on top of a golf leaf coated boulder at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. Legend conveys that the rock is actually balancing on one of Buddha’s hairs which explains why it seems to be defying gravity instead of rolling down into the valley. Visitors to the pagoda are allowed to paste gold leaf onto the rock and are then blessed with wealth and acknowledgement of their goodness.