Surprising Myanmar (Burma)
Despite being one of the few countries left that still see a limited number of outside visitors, it's popularity continues to grow.
It has now hit the top of the list on the most popular trips among Imaginative Traveller customers. It's not surprising considering the depth and variety of new experiences to be found.
A few highlights of Myanmar include:
Shwedagon Pagoda In Yangon.
This monolithic Buddhist site is covered in gold leaf and is topped with thousands of diamonds and precious stones. The shrine stands 99 metres high and is visible from most of the city. Legend has it that there are 8 hairs from Buddha contained within the complex, which makes it an even more revered place.
Spreading out across the horizon are the peaks of 4,500 brick and gilded ancient temples. Dotting the skyline in many shapes and forms some say they compare in splendour to the majestic Angkor kingdom. Theravada Buddhism was introduced by the former kings of Pagan (Bagan) in the mid 11th century, which spurred on the swift building of a swathe of temples to worship their gods, be they Buddhist, Hindu or Nat, over the ensuing 200 years.
There is plenty to see and do in Mandalay. Travel by river to the World Archaeological site of Mingun, with the world's largest uncracked bell and glistening white stupa; or jump on a trishaw and enjoy the short ride around or check out the city taking a van or a truck (local transport) visiting the cottage industry making gold leaf and the sacred Buddha image of Mahamuni Paya along the way. Covered in a massive 6 inch layer of gold leaf it is said to be more than 2000 years old and bears a perfect likeness to the Lord Buddha. The intricately carved teak monastery, Shwe In Bin Kyaung, is only a short driveaway. Perhaps for a change of pace, opt to see a puppetry or dance performance at the Mandalay Marionettes or Mintha Theatre.
Setting off across the mountains and plateau crammed with farms you can make a stop at the caves of Pindaya. As one of the 'Golden Caves' in Shan state, pilgrims flock to worship the 8000 or so Buddha images which adorn the caverns, tunnels and meditation chambers of this huge limestone cave. Venture into the labyrinth of tunnels with our guide to gain a better insight into its history.