Original Southeast Asia: Myanmar not only offers grandiose landscapes, but also ancient temples and colonial buildings. Why is it worth a visit now?
It is certainly not a tourist paradise yet, because Myanmar has still not fully settled down. After decades of military dictatorship, the small state between Thailand, China and Bangladesh is only slowly getting used to its new openness.
Myanmar rewards its visitors with a unique and original Asian landscape: a wonderful island world opens up in the west, the Shan highlands rise in the east. In the north, the impressive mountain Hkakabo Razi with the foothills of the Himalayas sets its limit, in the south the Andaman Sea of the Indian Ocean. In between: primeval forests and rice fields.
Almost 90 percent of the Burmese practice Buddhism. So it is not surprising that the most beautiful buildings in the country are mostly old temples.
But it is precisely this religious group, known to be so peaceable, that is accused in Myanmar of persecuting Muslims. Unrest and even armed rebel groups are still on the move in some areas of the country, the Foreign Office provides information on the security situation .
But precisely because Myanmar – or as it is often called: Burma – is not yet so developed for tourism, a trip there is worthwhile for the adventurous and those seeking peace and quiet. It really still forms part of the “Lonely Planet”.
Here are some, but by no means all, of the sights and activities in Myanmar.
The landmark of Myanmar. No wonder. Because this magnificent golden building overlooks the largest city in the country. Decorated on the outside with around 60 tons of gold leaf and crowned with a 76-carat diamond at the top, the Shwedagon Pagoda symbolises the pure teachings of the Buddha. The original building may even be older than Buddha. It should already be 2,500 years old.
Shwedagon is not a soulless tourist attraction. It is still an important place of pilgrimage for the faithful who celebrate ceremonies around the building.
In the east of Myanmar lies the Shan Plateau and on top of it the Inle Lake. It forms the centre of life for the locals there and feeds them. There are stake villages with markets and temples on the shores of Inle Lake. The fishermen go out in their canoes and sink their fish traps. Standing on one leg, they hold the oar with the other leg – any tourist would immediately fall into the water. But the lake doesn’t just offer fish. It is also known for its floating fields and gardens, which are cultivated by the local population here.
The hub for hikers: Hsipaw, Shan State
A country as beautiful as Myanmar can of course also be explored on foot. A well-known starting point for short and long hikes is Hsipaw. From here the paths lead to small villages in the surrounding area.
But the place Hsipaw itself has a lot to offer – for example, a large number of temples.
The city of temples: Bagan, Mandalay Division
Here you can’t see the land for all the temples. In the old royal city of Bagan in the middle of Myanmar, around 3,000 sacred buildings stand on a barren landscape. Mostly built of brick, the temples date from the 12th and 13th centuries AD. You can make it your life’s work to visit them all. But there is another better way to visit the temples: from above, with a hot air balloon.
The old capital: Mawlamyaing, Mon State
The British colonial rulers once had their seat of government here: Mawlamyaing, then still Moulmein, is now the third largest city in Myanmar with around 300,000 inhabitants. The streets are still lined with colonial buildings and that is exactly what makes the place so charming.
Mawlamyaing is also a suitable starting point. Because around the city there are caves, tropical islands and the unique Mon culture to discover.