Wednesday, 4th February 2015
5 reasons to make Burma your next travel destination
Burma is an incredible country, which is just opening up to tourism, making now a brilliant time to visit. But if you don't know much about the nation or simply need more convincing, read on for the top five arguments to enjoy a trip this stunning part of South East Asia now.
1. Coastal paradises
You may have heard about the temples of Burma, but what of its beaches and islands? These elements seem to be left out of many a commentary on the newly opened state, but this doesn't make them any less worth visiting. In fact, with these stretches of sand getting less attention, you are more likely to have paradise to yourself.
The Mergui archipelago is made up of more than 800 islands in southern Burma where unspoilt beaches can be found. A rich diversity of flora and fauna can be seen here, with the Salon sea gypsies the only permanent human inhabitants.
The Burmese people have a talent for hospitality and one that is not tainted by an over-familiarity with tourists. They tend to be kind and polite and always willing to engage in conversation, practising their English and offering up cups of tea. Whether you are put up in a homestay or pass by families on the road as you cycle, a friendly smile is always forthcoming.
In recent years there has been a proliferation of Vietnamese restaurants cropping up outside of the country, but the same cannot be said for Burmese food. This is mainly due to the fact that Burma has been cut off from the world, but now that its doors have been opened, expect foodies to start enthusing about its cuisine.
With influences from Thailand, China and India all reflected in its culinary traditions, Burma is home to some tasty dishes. Fresh seafood and locally grown fruit and vegetables feature highly, as well as rice noodles and chillies. Be sure to try kat kyi hnyat while visiting the country - this dish is best when eaten by the coast and incorporates seafood and meat with bean sprouts and noodles.
With more than 4,000 temples in Bagan alone, it is not surprising that religious sites are high up on the list of things to see in Burma. While this plain is certainly fantastic, there are other places in the country that are worth visiting for their temples too. For example, in Yangon you cannot help but notice the shimmering Shwedagon Pagoda up on a hill overlooking the city.
Alternatively, head to Mount Kyaiktiyo to see the Golden Rock Pagoda defying gravity balanced on the cliff's edge or Mount Popa, where 37 Buddhist spirits known as nats are worshipped. The temple ruins at Mrauk Au are also well worth a visit and so few people visit that you can enjoy the relatively tranquillity of this sacred site.
5. Subterranean worlds
Burma is not just interesting above ground, but also below it, with networks of caves to be found dotted about the country. Many of these are accessible and some have even been filled with images of the Buddha and other offerings. While these are not always featured in books about the country, a good guide should be able to tell you of any local caves worth visiting.