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Myanmar Ambassador Program Specialist
Mya Thein Tan Pagoda, Myanmar
In September 2019, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a Familiarization (FAM) trip to Myanmar (Burma). I was completely blown away by the natural beauty, culture, people and incredible temples and pagodas offered across Myanmar.
During the 9 night, 10-day journey, we explored Yangon, the old capitol, Bagan, the ancient city of 4,400 temples, Mandalay, the old kingdom's capitol, and Inle Lake, where 80,000 people live in houses built in the middle of a huge freshwater lake.
Our group of 36 travelers from 11 countries started as friends and finished as family. Traveling with an escorted group was incredibly easy. Just show up and you're whisked along, having every detail planned and taken care of. We also had expert, local guides travel with us in each region who had all of the knowledge of the area and the sites we visited.
In Yangon, we toured the Colonial historic downtown, visited the Shwedagon Pagoda (which is over 2,400 years old), enjoyed traditional Burmese cuisine and learned a lot about Myanmar’s rich, complex history.
Next, we flew on a short 45 minute flight to Bagan, an archaeological zone with limited development home to over 4,400 ancient temples and pagodas. Our guide, Nyi Nyi, was very entertaining and knowledgeable. We saw centuries old sandstone paintings in the Buddhist temples, watched the sun set over a pre-historic horizon, took a cruise on the Irawaddy River, and visited a lacquerware workshop where we learned the process of creating beautiful products from all natural sources.
After the mesmerizing experiences in Bagan, we wondered how it could get better. Our next stop was Mandalay, the subject of poems and memoirs from the colonial days of Burma. In Mandalay, there is an ancient walled city in the center, housing the former King’s palace which today houses a military garrison. We visited Kuthodaw Pagoda, the largest book in the world due to it’s 744 enshrined stone tablets reading the 3 Buddhist holy texts. We rode delivery trucks up to the summit of Mandalay hill for an incredible sunset, and we visited the town of Mingun, home to the 50 ton Mingun Bell and Mya Thein Tan Pagoda (pictured), which resembles a giant white wedding cake.
Once again, mesmerized by the amazing culture and experiences, we departed to Inle Lake. A welcome drop in temperature at 3,200 feet above sea level, Inle Lake is home to 80 villages all built ON the water. The homes are either on stilts or tiny islets which were all built by hand by the Shan people of the area. Every boat, house, fishing net, piece of clothing and food is grown, produced and made by hand from the lake. To say it was a wanderlust experience is an understatement. We visited a weaving shop where handmade items are crafted from silk and lotus reed (a product found nowhere else in the world). We also visited a nunnery, a silversmith and a wood working shop where they build the famous long skinny boats which can cross the shallow waters of the lake.
Upon our return to Yangon before the flight home, the new family of 36 sang songs from our hometown and graciously thanked our hosts from Myanmar Shalom Travels. They crafted a 5-star experience none of us will ever forget and the magic of Myanmar lives on through our photos and stories. My heart will always have a piece of Myanmar and I hope some day to return to this incredible place.
If I've captured your imagination, let me plan your next trip to Asia and incorporate (or exclusively explore) Myanmar. I touched on the 4 most popular destinations in the country, but we only scratched the surface. Myanmar has over 1,000 km of beaches and hundreds of islands offshore. Situated between Thailand and Sri Lanka, the tropical beaches are untouched and pristine. The famous Golden Rock in Northern Myanmar is close to one of the last White Elephant populations in the world. Myanmar has tons to offer, whether you like 5-star luxury or backpacking, there’s something for everyone. Reach out today and you’ll hear the passion in my voice for this incredible destination.
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