Myanmar: Burma Reborn
If ‘Myanmar’ doesn’t ring a bell with you, it’s okay – you probably knew it as Burma growing up.
Burma has been going through a lot of changes in recent years, far beyond just changing its name to Myanmar (officially the Union of Myanmar) in 1989. For years it was closed to visitors, as it struggled to achieve true independence from its British colonial past, while simultaneously dealing with internal conflicts between its military/government and some of its 135 ethnic groups.
But out of all this struggle, a new Myanmar is emerging, and if you’re smart, you’ll get there to discover it and all its beauty before the rest of the world does.
This country’s gifts are many: whether it’s the incredible archaeological ruins of Bagan’s 11th and 12th century temples and pagodas scattered over a 104-square km plain that looks like something out of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, the glittering 2600-year old Shwedagon Pagoda in downtown Yangon, or ‘lake living’ taken to an extreme by the water-dwellers of Inle Lake, Myanmar’s riches rival anything on UNESCO’S famous list.
Want vine-strangled ruins? Visit Inn Dein with over 1050 stupas in various states of disrepair and restoration near Inle Lake. Want incalculable wealth in the form of gold-plated Buddhist shrines and pilgrimage sites? Visit Golden Rock, where gold leaf is literally piled inch-thick onto the surface of the sacred rock as a gesture of devotion by its visitors. Want high-altitude vistas and spectacular geography that will test your trekking stamina? Take a hike into the northern part of the country where you can explore the eastern end of the Himalayas.
But beyond its geographic or cultural treasures, it will be the beautiful people who call this country home that impress you the most. Always ready with a smile, generous (beyond their means, even), the people of Myanmar couldn’t be more welcoming to the visitors who are just now starting to appreciate their country’s treasures.
If you’re just hearing about this destination for the first time, you’re not alone, and it won’t be long before the tourism industry that is just taking off in Myanmar catches up with the rest of its Southeast Asian neighbours. Go there before that happens – you won’t be disappointed.
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