So far, you’ve read about Sofia’s adventures in India and Nepal, and seen the beautiful photos she’s taken along the way. This week Sofia’s in Myanmar (formerly Burma) – a country that has captured her attention and imagination since she first arrived. Over to Sofia to share her take on this amazing country. Plus, read on for her top 5 tips for Myanmar.
Myanmar is a country of intrigue. Unexplored, unexploited, ancient temples and hushed secrets of political turmoil. And with tourists only being allowed to travel into the country in recent years, I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving in Myanmar. But what laid ahead of me was a country of great history. Despite all of the challenges Myanmar had faced with internal conflicts, war, and a steep economical demise, the people are kind, warm and modest. They are happy to welcome you, smiling and peacefully quiet.
This attitude stems from their Buddhist values which are most prevalent in their everyday lives. This is perhaps the most interesting thing to see when in Myanmar. Everywhere you go, the red and pink robes of nuns and monks can be seen wandering in the markets and walking the streets. Turn the corner and you’ll see young children being inducted into the monastery on ceremonial processions. Wake up each morning to the chants of prayers and a line of young boys collecting food, holding out silver bowls for rice to feed the monastery. Head to one of the many pagodas and watch the locals bow down to the Buddha.
Travelling through Myanmar, though the landscape may change, one constant is the way in which it’s lands have been adorned with temples – ornate crumbling red brick temples in Old Bagan and tall gold steeples in Yangon. Throughout, you can admire the architecture and detail that has gone into building the pagodas, from the Hsinbyume wedding cake-shaped pagoda in Mingun, to the Pindaya cave temples and the giant stone walls of Kuthodaw in Mandalay.
And once you’re all pagoda’d-out, there is still much to see of local life. So spend some time cruising through Inle Lake and discover small wooden huts on stilts that form the basis of many villages. You can see the traditional leg rowing boats as they collect plants to build the floating gardens. Alternatively, hire a bike and cycle through beautiful Old Bagan. A horizon of temples lies over the desert-like land, transporting you to a different time. Or, hike through the mountains of Kalow and take in the views.
When it comes to the evening, Myanmar is fairly sleepy. As tourism increases, so does the emergence of hipster-style venues. There’s the Rangoon tea house in Burma and The French Touch in Nyaungshwe, where you can eat Myanmar French fusion food and catch an art house documentary or film.
Better yet, the local restaurants offer up BBQ style dining, where you chose your skewers with accompanying rice and veg. Or in the cities, the street food such as Indian chapatti and curries found on 82nd street in Mandalay come highly recommended.
Sofia’s Myanmar Top 5:
Wake up early and watch the sunrise on top of a temple in Old Bagan. Even better, splash out and catch a hot air balloon ride over the hundreds of scattered temples with a glass of champagne in hand!
Take a long boat and explore Inle Lake. Stop off at the silk makers, blacksmiths, silver workshop and floating markets.
Spend a night on a stilt house on the lake at the Bagan-Myaing community lodge. Hire some bikes and visits the local villages. See how the locals really live.
Explore the Pindaya caves, get lost in thousands of Buddhas.
Go to the teak monastery in Mandalay. Walk around and watch the monks meditate. Feel free to sit and practise yourself.
Thank you Sofia! Next time, Sofia’s in the Philippines.