World Journeys Countries

Rudyard Kipling’s often quoted line “This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about”, is as accurate today as when it was written. Most who visit Myanmar today agree that the sense of other worldliness stays with them long after their trip is over. Mystical Myanmar, the smiling gentleness of the people, the golden domes of pagodas as monks shuffle silently past, dressed in simple earth-toned robes. The atmosphere is magical. The best vantage point from which to glimpse the country is a journey on an intimate river cruise aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay. Cruise gently to the heart of a little known land, where pagodas and ancient palaces line a mighty river untouched by the passage of time. This realm of Buddhist spirituality embraces a wealth of beguiling,and truly unique sights, scents and sounds.

Many people around the world do object to travelling to Myanmar due to the policies and history of the government. As we use a responsibly minded tour operator they aim to concentrate the tours which they operate in Myanmar in the hands of privately run, local businesses. Where feasible, they select quality hotels and airlines which are not government owned, nor associated with owners who are connected to the government. They employ local drivers and guides directly so that there is no need to book through a government agency. The tourism sector now employs approx 300,000 Burmese nationals, not including spin off businesses such as trishaw drivers, restaurants and local artisans who also enjoy the benefits of increased travel. Admittedly, it is impossible to visit without some money going to the government. There are visa fees, airport departure tax and tax on some land services which does feed back to the government, however, this is a relatively insignificant amount as it forms less than 1% of their total GDP. Our tour operator believe that the benefits of the above arguments far outweigh the small revenue which the government receives and support travelling to Myanmar.

• Golden Pagoda of Shwedagon
• Inle Lake
• Mandalay
• Mt Popa
• Plain of Bagan

Myanmar has three distinctive seasons. Hot (March to May – average temp 25-38 degrees, Rainy (June to October – average temp 23-33 degrees) and Cool (November to February – average temp 18-24 degrees). The Northern Highlands tend to be cooler while the delta area can be warm and muggy. During the rainy season, many days dawn clear and bright while the landscape is green and lush. It can even get down to near freezing at night around Inle Lake.

Known in British colonial times as Burma, this country is an enigma. Gracious and friendly people are controlled by a government not famous for their humanity. My thoughts before visiting were mixed. Should I support such a regime by spending time there? Once I arrived I was so glad I decided to go as it became clear that by being there I was able to provide work and much needed foreign exchange to the local people. Some of the city names like Rangoon (Yangon) and Mandalay make one think of Kipling. They are a blend of old British colonial charm in the architecture and layout and modern Asian centres. Wandering the broad tree lined avenues in Yangon and taking tea in one of the cafes in the Scott Market district is fun. The food is brilliant and the Buddhist culture rich throughout the country.

In Mandalay make sure you visit the Royal Palace which is surrounded by a moat. Probably my favourite experience in Myanmar however was a tossup. Bagan, with temples dotted across a broad plain for as far as the eye can see is a remarkable sight and the lovely lake at Inle is a gem. The various villages around the lake have colourful market days throughout the week selling all manner of local produce. To wander among the bartering and transactions taking place in these markets offers a timeless scene in a beautiful setting. Eating and drinking out are very cheap here. But remember that credit cards are not much use. Carry US Dollars cash with you and you will be amazed at how far it will take you and what you can buy in terms of local handicraft, some of the weavings are especially good. Precious stones are an excellent purchase in Myanmar. If you are looking for an experience that will surprise you for all the right reasons, visit Myanmar.

Currency Myanmar kyat (take US$)

Language Burmese

Why we love it ‘Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire.’ Well yes, OK, fanciful enough for Rudyard Kipling but he was right – not only of Shwedagon, the golden pagoda in Yangon but really he is describing Myanmar itself. Four thousand pagodas and stupas built on the Plain of Bagan with the temple mountain Mt Popa at its edge, the languid flow of the Irrawaddy River, romantic imagery conjured by the mere name – Mandalay and the industrious Intha people who live on floating islands anchored by bamboo poles on Inle Lake combine to create an experience that is wholly unique and memorable. Myanmar will remain with you long after you have left.

Weather Myanmar has three distinctive seasons: hot (March to May), rainy (June to October) and cool (November to February). The northern highlands tend to be cooler while the delta area can be warm and muggy. You should note that even during the rainy season, many days dawn clear and bright while the landscape is green and lush.

Social customs & quirks Despite the steady onslaught of the modern world, lifestyles and activities for the different ethnic groups in Myanmar have been preserved much as they have for centuries. Many rituals are unique to these gentle, religious people including Shin Pyu which allows a young boy to experience a monastic lifestyle, albeit temporarily. This religious practice is virtually non-existent elsewhere in the world.

Festivals & events As with most Asian cultures, festivals are an important part of life in Myanmar. The New Year Water festival has been celebrated in the second week of April for over 500 years and is oddly marked by people throwing water at each other – supposedly in a ritualistic cleansing of all sin. The locals find this a very uplifting time as they feel spiritually and physically purified for the coming year. Another unusual part of the festival is the purchase of live fish or cows which are then released into sanctuaries, rivers or lakes. This follows Theravada Buddhist beliefs that forbid killing any living creature (so no swatting at mosquitoes)and you should also be prepared to get wet as visitors are enthusiastically splashed as well as the locals. Diwali is a popular festival, as is the Regatta Festival in late September, Thadingyut at the end of the rainy season sees houses and streets brilliantly illuminated with thousands of lights and it is a time for paying homage to your teachers and elders. Tazaungdine (offering of monks robes) follows almost immediately after as well as the release of fire balloons into the sky and pagoda festivals occur regularly throughout the year.

Health* If coming from an infected area, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required. Malarial prevention is recommended for visitors to rural areas. Please contact your health practitioner for full and current details.

Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.

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 Ayeyarwady Adventure
Price fromUSD$2,415 SELECT

Myanmar 8 Days / 7 Nights
Belmond Road to Mandalay luxury cruise

Cruise along the mighty Ayeyarwady River on board the luxurious Belmond Road to Mandalay river cruiser. Experience the enchanting sights, scents and sounds of...

A World Apart
Price from$5,503 SELECT

Myanmar 11 Days / 10 Nights Roundtrip Yangon
An unforgettable journey seeing the highlights of Myanmar

'This is Burma. It is quite unlike any place you know about' wrote Kipling. More than a century later these words still ring true...

The Chindwin Explorer
Price from$6,239 SELECT

Myanmar 12 Days / 11 Nights Mandalay to Yangon

The Chindwin River is the largest tributary of the Ayeyarwady, along which you will find flourishing teak forests and villages that have seen few...