Myanmar takes the Asian travel spotlight
A new star arises with exquisite offerings
By Eliza Najar
Asia is the perpetual favourite with travellers because of its relatively budget-friendly options, great food and things to do! Whether you are a backpacker riding the rails cross-country, or a luxury seeker looking for your next exquisite fix, Asia rises magnificently to the occasion! Add unique delectable food and breath-taking views to the mix and you have a recipe for satisfying wanderlust; certainly, this has been Asia’s offering for decades!
Enter then a new player to this amalgamation of nations ripe for tourism – Myanmar. A seasoned traveller may have heard of this once mighty nation nestled in between giants China and India, whilst the rest of us may have seen enough films to recognise that this is the nation of 2011 biopic The Lady! The country has emerged on the tourism route with a steady offering of untouched jungles, pristine beaches and a destination for spiritual awakening with its reverent stupas.
Travellers to Asia would be pleased to know that Myanmar boasts one of the lowest tourist crime rates in the world. This should assure visitors that you can enjoy much of what Myanmar has to offer without worrying about it being unsafe. The locals are friendly and the locals in the hospitality industry speak English with some of them fluent in French, German, Korean and Japanese.
What is Myanmar offering the crown of jewel of travel that is Asia?
To start with there’s the country’s deeply rooted Buddhist beliefs, which is manifested across the breadth and length of the land in literally tens of thousands of pagodas. Take a hot-air balloon ride across Bagan and you will be greeted by holy and spiritual sight of hundreds of stupas reaching for the skies. Spectacular to say the least.
Then there’s Mandalay. A city on a hill, Mandalay lies witness to the unceremonious exile of the last King of Burma to India. History books will talk about how the British, like it did much of South East Asia, felled the mighty nation so as to gain access to its rich resources! Today, visitors to the city will be enthralled by The Glass Palace, that once held rubies, jade and sapphires of this blessed land within its walls, as it was so majestically described in the book of the same name by Amitav Ghosh.
Being a country that has had limited interactions with the rest of the world, much of Myanmar’s way of life is unique and untapped, leaving so much to be discovered and experienced. For example, the unique life of communities of Inle Lake, who are a displaced people who have learned to make riparian living work. This massive lake is covered with floating vegetable gardens that contribute 65% of the country’s tomatoes, a wondrous sight! These gardens are wondrous to say the least. Inle Lake is the epitome of Myanmar, where in a tough situation, the people of this country have banded together and created a meaningful life.
The country is the largest of the mainland Southeast Asian nations and it has an uninterrupted coastline of 1,930km along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. It is a mammoth of a nation with incredible stories and history. Any which way you go in Myanmar you will find something culturally special as it is a nation of 135 tribes with each their own unique traditions and celebrations with little or no influence from neighbouring countries. From the famous ‘long neck’ Kayan women – brass coils worn around the neck, to the Pa’O tribe with their colourful headgear worn with such pride! What wonders to uncover and embrace for any traveller to the country!
For those who love the open seas, there’s myriad islands to uncover as they lay atop clear deep blue waters, dotting the seas with white sand beaches. For those who want to delve into the waters of the Andaman Sea, there’s some astounding dive sites. In fact, it is said that Myanmar’s dive sites are still being discovered. Imagine that! New pockets of dive-worthy destinations join the list monthly! The majority of the dive sites are to the south of Myanmar in the Myeik Archipelago, which is slowing making its way onto the must-dive sites of the world. With pristine clear waters and an abundance of flora and fauna, there is much to see and experience even for the seasoned diver! Who knows, you may discover some yet unnamed species of fish and have your name immortalised in the annals of biology!
There you have it! Myanmar should make it onto your bucket list of travel destinations simply because it’s a land of discovery – hidden gems and unexplored terrain – perfect for the traveller wanting to indulge and explore all that Asia has to offer!