A comprehensive list of what things to do in Burma, where you can find the answer of why your next trip should be Burma, when is the best time to visit, how to get in and get around, and what places to visit in Burma.
Burma which has been subject to a long period of inaccessibility is waking up from the dark days of its past and has reopened its doors to the outside world. This unspoiled country has become the most attractive destination offering visitors stunning sceneries, amazing variety of ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds, and the unique hospitality of the Burma people.
Burma, a country full of charm, is a veritable gem with its golden pagodas and temples, its ancient capitals, its unique archaeological heritage on the banks of the Irrawaddy, its picturesque Inle Lake, its pristine beaches and its lovely countryside. While walking amongst the little visited villages and discovering the rural way of life and cultural traditions of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, you will think that you are still living in the past.
When visiting Burma, you will have a most authentic travel experience, an air of exoticism which you will not find in any other Asian country.
When to go to Burma?
Burma’s climate can be described as tropical monsoon climate which has three main seasons: the hot season (March to April), the monsoon (May to September) and the cool season (October to February).
Hot season: March and April are considered as being the hottest and driest months of the year; temperature can exceed 43°C. It is not the ideal time to visit the country.
During the monsoon, between May and October, heavy rain often appears but just for a few hours. The average temperature is between 25°-30°C. Should you travel to Burma at that period of time, you will enjoy lush sceneries with beautiful green fields. If you can put up with the rain, you will find it easier and cheaper to book accommodation at that period since it will be less crowded.
Overall, the best time to visit is during the cool season, between November and March when it is sunny, dry, and cooler, with average temperature about 21-27°. However, this is the peak tourist season. Advanced booking is then recommended as some flights get easily full even in the low season and there is a shortage of accommodation.
Getting to Burma
It is getting easier and easier to get into and out of the country. There are three international airports: Yangon International Airport (RGN) in Yangon, which is the main entry point for most travelers, Mandalay International Airport (MDL) in Mandalay and Naypyidaw International Airport (NYT) in Naypyidaw.
You will have to transit through another airport in South East Asia region, such as Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Hanoi (Vietnam). In high season flights fill up fast; it’s recommended to book them as soon as possible.
Should you have to take a taxi from the airport to the center of Yangon it takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
Getting around Burma
Burma offers you many ways to get around: airplane, cars, bus, trains, boats.
To enjoy the best experience it would ideal to combine different means of transportation depending on your interest and health.
The Burma roads have improved, but it still takes long time to travel. This makes flying by far the most comfortable option for travelling long distances. Domestic flights are available to the major tourist destinations, namely Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle and Heho.
Traveling by train may not be as fast as traveling by bus, or as cheap, but it can be a great experience to add to your adventures in Burma. This kind of travel is ideal for learning out about varied Burmese cultures, seeing the country and getting to know people.
For more romantic and scenic ways, riverboat is the best option for those who want to enjoy and relax among natural scenery.
Buses are mostly operated by private companies; they are faster and cheaper than trains to get from city to city.
Large towns in Burma offer a variety of city buses, bicycle rickshaws or trishaws, vintage taxis, three-wheelers (tuk-tuks), tiny four-wheeled 'blue taxi' and pick-up trucks.
In Bagan horse carts are widely used for tourists. In rural areas, oxen or buffaloes are used to pull the carts.
What to see in Burma?
Burma is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world and temples play an important role in the life of most Burmese people. Visitors are firstly attracted by the richness of the religious architecture which embraces many structures. Visiting temples, pagodas, or monateries is one of the most popular things to do in Burma, prepare to be dazzled by the famous monument covered in gold leaf.
The first destination, no doubt, is Yangon, former capital of Burma, well-known for the Schwedagon Pagoda. It is the most revered and stunning pagoda of the country and an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Mandalay is an ancient city known for hosting beautiful Buddhist temples, visited by thousands of pilgrims. The Mahamuni pagoda houses one of the most precious Buddha statues of all of Burma, while the Kuthodaw Pagoda contains the largest book in the world. The monastery of Shwenandaw is known for its beautiful carvings in teak wood that are laminated in gold.
Mandalay Hill is dotted with pagodas and Buddhist temples. From the top of the hill you will have great views of Mandalay and the Irrawaddy river. The ancient cities of Amarapura, Inwa, Sagaing and Migun around Mandalay house a great number of interesting sites and monuments.
An important Buddhist pilgrimage site is the Golden Rock in Kyaikhtiyo, a massive boulder on the edge of a cliff with a pagoda on top of it enshrining a hair of Buddha. The huge rock that appears to be gold is actually a granite boulder that is cover with gold leaf. It is hanging over a steep cliff and looks like it can fall down in the valley at any moment.
Bagan, with its thousands of temples and pagodas, is one of best places to visit in Burma. The site of Bagan shows the development in architecture over the course of several centuries. While some of the temples have beautiful murals and frescoes, others have magnificent Buddha images.
Apart from those sites, there are some lesser-known Buddhist sites such as Mrauk U, Mawlamyine and Mount Popa.
If you feel like traveling back in time, don’t miss Mrauk U, a beautiful archaeological site in the Rakhine state, dotted with hundreds of temples and pagodas. It is an ideal destination for getting off the beaten path. In Mawlamyine, with the Win Sein Taw Ya, you will discover the world’s largest reclining Buddha, along with the country’s most venerable mosques and of course all Kipling’s picturesque old pagodas. Mount Popa, known as the home of the Nats, is an extinct volcano where you will find the sacred Popa Taung Kalat monastery perched on a huge rocky outcrop. It’s one of the most important sites in Burma for Nat pilgrimage.
Burma is not only a pilgrimage land, it is also famed for its dramatic landscapes and amazing biodiversity, ranging from Inle Lake, mountains of Kalaw and Keng Tung, karst mountains of Hpa An to pristine beaches namely Ngapali, Ngwe Saung and the diversified eco-system national parks such as Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary.
One of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in Burma is Inle Lake known for its unique “leg rowers” so called because of their style of rowing, and for its floating gardens. The Intha’s live in wooden houses built on stilts. You will savor the atmosphere in this magical place.
Kalaw, a colonial hill station, offers breathtaking scenery and fantastic trekking opportunities. A drop in local tribe villages after trekking will give you the chance to meet with the ethnic people and familiarize with their typical peaceful daily life. It’s an incredible way to acquire impressive experiences.
Another great place for scenic treks is Hpa An, the capital of Kayin state. The town is surrounded by karst mountains and is famous for its ancient Buddhist caves, the beauty of the surrounding hills, and its hospitable people.
Ngapali is Burma’s premier beach destination. Located on the Bay of Bengal, its main feature is an idyllic stretch of white sand and swaying palms, with a number of resorts spread out next to fishing villages. One of the delights of Ngapali is its delicious fresh seafood with king prawns, lobster, barracuda, etc.
Burma is also for its famous handicrafts like sculpture, statuary, gold gilding, lacquer and gemstones processing. Don’t hesitate to visit some craft villages in Yangon, Mandalay and Inle where textile products and cigars are made.
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