Travelers with a passion for Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas should have a field day in Bagan, since it contains more of these than any other place in the world. The most popular destination in Myanmar, Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire from the 9th to the 13th centuries. The site that Marco Polo once described as the “gilded city” was home to around Buddhist 13,000 temples in its 11th-century heyday. Thousands of temples, stupas and pagodas remain, including the famous Ananda temple with its sparkling gold spires.
Golden Rock, or Kyaiktiyo Zedi as it is known locally, is a totally awesome sight: a pagoda (zedi) sitting atop a huge boulder that appears as if it’s about to fall off the edge of a cliff. Both are covered in golf leaf. The locals believe the boulder, which sits 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level, is held in place through a miracle of Buddha; the pagoda is said to contain a strand of his hair. Visiting here is a pilgrimage for Myanmar Buddhists. Golden Rock is about a five-hour drive from Yangon, and also involves a long walk. A staircase leads to the pagoda complex that houses several viewing platforms and Buddha shrines.
Vast and serene Inle Lake is one of the top tourist attractions in Myanmar. Besides its considerable natural beauty the lake also attracts tourists for the stilt houses of the Intha, the descendants of Mon people from the far southeast. A typical day-trip on the lake, taken in a long, narrow boat with a noisy outboard motor, will stick to the northern reaches of Inle Lake. These trips also include visits to small workshops in stilt villages, several pagodas and probably a market. Travelers are also likely to see fishermen propelling their boats using a distinctive leg-rowing technique, and other Intha residents of the lake tending to fruit and vegetables on floating gardens.
Shwenandaw Monastery is an historic Buddhist monastery in the city of Mandalay. Known as the Golden Palace, this important building is located in central Myanmar. It was originally part of the Mandalay Palace complex as the royal apartment of a king, but his son moved it outside the palace after his death believing it was haunted by the king’s spirit. It later became a monastery. At one time, the building was covered in gold but the gold is mostly inside now. The exterior is covered with ornate teak carvings representing Buddhist myths. Ornate carvings made from other materials such as stone can be found throughout the structure.
Mrauk U is an important archeological town. It was originally thought to be a fortress because of the thick walls, but the walls were made to protect temples from the fierce winds, not invaders. Stone temples can be found throughout the area. The medieval town was once an important Arakan capital and was an important trading city. Getting to this remote location involves a four- to seven-hour boat ride up a tributary of the Kaladan River. Travelers may want to bring rain gear at the region gets almost 1.2 meter (4 feet) of rain annually.
Ngapali combines two worlds in this Southeast Asian country. It is Myanmar’s premier resort town, with white sand beaches lining the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal and luxury hotels. It is a great spot to chill out and just relax. Contrast this with its fishing village atmosphere with local restaurants serving the day’s catch and ox-carts doubling as taxis. Locals believe the town is named after Napoli (Naples) in Italy. Most people visit Ngapali November to March; the rest of the year it is a sleepy little beach town.
The Shwedagon or Greater Dragon Pagoda is considered the most sacred site in Buddhism in Myanmar because it contains a strand of Buddha’s hair and other religious relics. The 2,500-year-old pagoda is located on Singuttara Hill in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. Over the centuries, the pagoda has grown from 8 meters to 99 meters (26 feet to 366 feet). The origins of Shwedagon are lost in antiquity but it is estimated that the Pagoda was first built by the Mon during the Bagan period, sometime between the 6th and 10th century AD. It is covered in gold leaf; the stupa is covered in 4,531 diamonds. Numerous temples, statues and stupas can be found at this unforgettable site. Pagoda visitors are expected to follow a dress code (trousers preferred, T-shirts with elbow-length sleeves) and enter the temple barefooted.
Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya on the site of a small arrangement called Dagon when he occupied Lower Myanmar in 1755. The name Yangon means “End of fighting” which was anglicized as Yangon by the British. The present day Yangon covers 400 sq km and has a population of over 4 million. Capital and main gateway to Myanmar, An Asian tropical city still true to its former colonial origins. Ever green and cool with plentiful tropical trees, sunny parks and beautiful lakes, Yangon has named “The Garden City of the East”. With a combination of new and old, Myanmar’s capital possesses a peaceful atmosphere with colonial boulevards and tranquil lakes. With a population of over 4 million, this charming town is transformed into a thriving city by night, with bustling streets filled with stalls overflowing with everything from food to crafts to cigars. The main attraction of Yangon is the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda. The Shwedagon pagoda has been built more than 2500 years ago, is a much-revered shrine whose cultural splendour never fails to enchant. Towering 100 metres above the green cityscape of Yangon, the Shwedagon is a landmark visible from afar. Famous for the unique and glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, temples, markets and impressive colonial-era buildings. Other tourist attraction include: the 70-metre long reclining Buddha of Chauk-Htat-gyi Pagoda, Kaba Aye (World Peace) Pagoda and Maha Pasana Cave ; giant Images of Buddha’s Earlier Lives at Mai-la-mu Pagoda; Mahawizaya Pagoda; National Museum; Bogyoke Aung San Park and Kandawgyi Lake; Peoples’ Square and Peoples’ Park; and Zoological Garden.