What do you call it?
Myanmar; Burma; No, to be politically correct, its called Myanmar. But then again no one is going to know what I am talking about so i’ll just call it Burma. Ok, fine, out of respect to the people and to keep up with the times with what the country is trying to do after its recent unpleasant history with the current leader, Aung San Suu Kyi – its Myanmar!
A little history lesson
So now that I know exactly what country I am visiting, its time to understand what cities to go to and what is there to see in Myanmar. Myanmar is one of those recently politically democratic reformed countries, in which tourism is just now starting to play a major economic role. Its a very poor country with extreme classism separation. The poor is very, very poor and the rich show off their wealth with their fancy cars.
Where to go & What to see
Yangon, is one of the busiest, densely populated cities of Myanmar, as it use to be the capital of Burma and was once called Rangoon. Today, the new capital is Naypyidaw and is just north of the old capital. Everyone goes to Yangon to visit the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa.
Its selfie time with the locals
As an Afro-Latina walking through the streets of Yangon, Bagan, Nyaung Shwe and Ngapali, I felt pretty safe. The people of Myanmar don’t get many folks of color, so there were a lot of gawkers, especially among the kids. Then people started asking for a selfies with me, which of course, I gladly said “Yes!” because I also wanted a selfie with them, right?! I even had one group of folks stop their car and jump out just so they all could take their photo with me. Lol! I felt like a celebrity at this point! 🙂 Frankly, I didn’t mind the attention because you just have to understand where they are coming from; understand their history; understand their situations.
In 7 days…
After 24 hours in Yangon, I flew the next morning to Bagan, (pronounce Ba-gin), where there are thousands of ancient Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries from the Pagan Kingdom period (9th-13th century) to visit. You’ll need about 48 hours (one recommended place to stay is The Hotel @ the Tharabar Gate) to see the many ancient ruins that equal in attraction to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Just hire a tuk tuk for the day to get you through Old Bagan and New Bagan. And don’t forget to watch the sunset from atop one of these ancient buddhist temples. Its a glorious site to see!
Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, located in Nyaung Shwe. It is a must see as it showcases those famous fishermen in the skinny boats with large fishing nets – a truly picturesque moment! You can rent a boat for a day (hint: make sure to negotiate your price) and speed down the lake to see the sunrise, the early morning market, the pagoda, the long skinny next women, the cat monastery, the water garden, and so many other funny things you haven’t even thought about until I told you right now!
Also, in the city of Nyaung Shwe, you can also rent and ride a bike, 30 mins each way, to the local winery, Red Mountain Winery in time to watch the sunset while trying not to taste the not-so-tasty wines. (You don’t go there for the wine, you go there for the sunset view only!)
I ended my amazing trip to Myanmar with another quick morning flight to one of the most underrated places and beaches on earth – Ngapali Beach in Thandwe! This hidden gem is by far one of the best kept secrets showcasing hotels and resorts steps away from the beach overlooking the Bay of the Bengal. Spend a night or two at the Amata Spa & Resort. There is free shuttle pick-up from the airport, which is only 15-20mins away. Upon arriving, I received a refreshing, cold, cucumber scented hand towel to clean my hands before sipping on a glass of lemongrass juice. (Bourgie, right?!) While waiting for my room to be ready, I enjoyed lunch overlooking the beautiful ocean waves from the Bay of Bengal that connects India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. After getting settled, in my room, I explored the beach and found a restaurant called Pleasant View Islet (PVI) on a sandbar islet where you had to cross over the water to get there! Super cool! Eh?
Each city and village had its own distinct flavor of Myanmar, but what I truly got from this beautiful country were all the smiling faces and positive energy from the people of Myanmar!
For further information…
If you are ever looking for a secret destination in this small world, Myanmar (Burma) is where its at! For more detailed information on flights, airports, places to stay, places to eat, feel free to contact me here!