The southeast Asian country of Burma is filled with the purity of a time gone by, the ways of life and tradition preserved as an oasis of calm whilst the rest of the world continues at its crazy pace.
Correctly known as Myanmar, Burma is filled with natural beauty and charm that is little advertised; pine clad hills and blissful beaches on the Bay of Bengal make this destination a slice of paradise just waiting to be explored.
The doors of Burma were closed to tourism for many years; a recent change in policy welcoming those that wish to respect this distant land, the turmoil of the past with its oppressive regime is largely over, although this is still by no means a forward thinking country. Burma is unique, and for those with an adventurous spirit, is quite like nowhere else on earth – if you want to visit somewhere that stands out from the crowd then look no further, this is the destination of a lifetime.
Hotels are being renovated throughout Burma to cope with the expected influx of visitors, most however still remain at a lower standard than in other Asian countries – this should be kept in mind when booking as those rated with higher stars may not be quite as expected; the prices are also out of line with the neighbouring nations and may appear high, even for quite basic accommodation.
The most sensible way to overcome this is to either book via a tour operator who may have preferential rates, or as an independent traveller to book in advance using available comparison tools.
Traditionally the only place to eat out in Myanmar would be at one of the hotels, standards were generally low and prices high, the influx of tourists has changed this and small independent restaurants have sprung up, mainly run by people who are genuinely passionate about the great local cuisine – this along with great street food served in the local markets gives a true picture of the great flavoured cuisine to be had, away from the watered down versions served by the tourist hotels.
>Most visitors to Myanmar make the decision to tour the country, these tours generally take in some familiar names including Rangoon and Mandalay, these names may conjure up romantic images, but the modern equivalents are more interesting than historic; Mandalay particularly has a huge modern Chinese population who have embraced noisy traffic and brightly lit neon signs – that isn’t to say that the old Mandalay has completely gone, but you have to scratch fairly deep before you find the teak homes and Temples of classic literature.
The spiritual side of Myanmar is well represented in Bagan, this historic city lying on the banks of the Irrawaddy River was once the ancient capital, what remains today is over 2000 temples, some of which, are once again used by the Burmese as places of worship. This is a trip best taken by water – although the riverboats are discouraged from docking too near to the old city most tour companies will provide transport to the archaeological site.
Myanmar has three seasons, the best of which is the cool dry season which lasts from November until February, by March the temperature has begun to become unbearable and May sees the start of the lengthy rainy season
As a spiritual land Myanmar has many festivals most of which relate to the lunar calendar, the full moon is of particular significance, and a visit during one will almost guarantee your chances of seeing one of the countries traditional celebrations.