Yangon ( Rangoon )
Yangon lies in the fertile delta country of southern Myanmar on the wide Yangon
River about 30 Km ( 19 Miles) from the sea. Although the population around 4 million, the city seems so full of trees and shade. If you can close your eyes to the decay of the old colonial architecture downtown, you’ll probably agree that this is one of the most charming cities in Asia.
Yangon is home to the gold-plated Shwedagon Paya, which dominates the city from its hilltop site. Legend has it that the original stupa was built to enshrine eight of Buddha’s hairs. The Shwedagon was called ‘ a beautiful winking wonder’ by kipling and it truly is a magical place. Other sights include the colonial architecture of the legendary Strand Hotel, the colossal reclining Buddha in Chaukhtatgyi Paya, city centre beautiful pagoda Sula Paya and the peaceful Kandawgyi and Inya Lakes. Myanmar’s version of the trishaw (sai kaa) is good for short trips.
This sprawling cultural centre is the most Burman of Myanmar’s cities. It was the
Last capital of Myanmar before the British took over and is the country’s second-largest city. Highlights of Mandalay include Shwenandaw Kyaung, the sole remaining building of the once extravagant moated palace, Mandalay Hill with its spiraling stairways, temples and sweeping views and the ancient Rakhine Buddha image at Mahamuni Paya. Bustling markets with produce and handicrafts from all over Upper Myanmar are another feature of Mandalay. There are four’desterted cities’nearby: Amarapura, Ava Sagaing, and Mingun. Mingun is only accessible by river, and the boat ride from Mandalay is a treat.
This bewildering, deserted city of fabulous pagodas and temples on the baks of the Ayeyarwaddy river is one of the wonders of asia. Bagan’s period of grandeur stretched from the 11th to the 13th centuries, and an enormous number of magnificent buildings were constructed here. The city was sacked by Kublai Khan in 1287 and never rebuilt. There are some 5000 temples, the most interesting of which are Ananda, Shwezigon, Gubyuk Gyi, Htilominlo.
Bago and Kyaukhtiyo ( Golden Rock )
During the Mon dynasty, Bago was fabulous city, a major seaport and capital of lower Myanmar. The city was destroyed by the Myanmar inn1757 but partially restored in the early 19th century. When the Bago River changed its course and cut the city off from the sea, Bago failed to return to its previous grandeur. Sights include the Shwemawdaw Pagoda which dominates the town, the town, the Hintha Gone Pagoda and the 55m (180ft) long, reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha.
One of the most interesting, formerly off limits , trips is to the incredible balancing boulder stupa at Kyaiktiyo.
Off the beaten Track
Pathein ( Bassein ) / Nwesaung and Chaung Tha Beach
Located in the Ayeyarwady deltal about 190km (118m) west of Yangon, this premier port city is noted for its handicrafts ( pottery and hand-painted umbrellas ) and the Shwemokhtaw Pagoda ( which was built by the three lovers of a Muslim princess ). We can go by car or flight.
Mawlamyine ( Moulmein)
If you’re wondering what Yangon and Mandalay looked and felt like at the start of the decade, come to Mawlamyine where the atmosphere of post-colonial decay is still palpable. Once a major teak port, this tropical, hillside town south of Thaton is now known for its scenic surrounds, elephant labour and beautiful pagodas, Thanbyuzayat, 60km (37m) to the south, has an Allied cemetery – the resting place of prisoners who died building the infamous ‘death railway’ during WWII. Mawlamyine is the only place in Myanmar that Rudyard Kipling, authour of the famous Road to Mandalay, actually visited.
Pyay ( Prome )
The town of Pyay is close to the few remaining ruins of the ancient Pyu capital of Thayekhittaya ( Sri Kshetra ). The remote site, with its pagodas, ruined wills, quait railway station and small museum, has been the centre of the most intensive archaeological work carried out in Myanmar this century. Other Pyu cities can be seen at Halin and Beikthano. The hilltop Shwesandaw Pagoda and enormous seated Buddha are Pyay’s main points of interest. The nearby Gautama Hill contains countless Buddha images in niches.
Pyay is about 300Km (186mi) noth-west of Yangon via a decent sealed road. The trip by boat from Bagan is pleasant, but you are advised to take your own supplies of food and water.
Mrauk U ( Myohaung)
Hidden in the encroaching jungle, in hill country close to the Bangladesh border.Mrauk U is reached only by riverboat-well off the beaten track!It is noteworthy for its Arakanese art and architecture, and its Buddhist temple ruins. Important ruins include the 80,000 Pagoda (so named because of the 80,000 Buddah images found there) and an ordination hall. Mrauk U is accessible from Sittwe in westem Myanmar.
Tucked away in a far easten comer of the Shan State is the sleepy but historic centre for the state’sKhün culture. Built around a small lake like and dotted with aging Buddhist temples and crumbling british colonial architecture, Kengtung is probably the most scenic town in the Shan State. Its opening to foreigners in 1993 came as a complete surprise considering that this is one of the most remote inhabited mountain valleys in Myanmar. Access is difficult and restricted to flights from Myanmar’s interior or a rough overland trip fromTachilek. Apart from the temples and monasteries in the area, it’s fun to check out the water buffalo market on the westen outskirts of town. Held daily, it’s like a used-car lot, with pedlars extolling the virtues of their animals while buyers point out their flaws. Finally a price is agreed upon, money changes hands and the new owners walk off leading their buffaloes by the nose.