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Myanmar (formerly Burma) hosts such a wealth of culture and history all round the country and not only near the rivers. Why not extend your travels by visiting some more rich areas of this welcoming country either before or after your luxury cruise.


Pyin Do Lwin

Pyin Do Lwin & Hsipaw

Take this tour of two of the most important small towns in the Shan Highlands. Pyin Oo Lwin (also known as 'Maymyo', 'town of May') was a former military post and hill station when it became the summer capital for the British in Myanmar, and named after Colonel May. A visit to the Kandawgyi National Gardens, formerly known as the Botanical Gardens, is a must as the climate is ideal and the soil rich making this area one of the most important agricultural regions for flowers, vegetables and coffee production in the country.

Another charming town is Hsipaw which has at its centre one of the best markets in all of Myanmar. A visit is unforgettable as it is here where so many of the ethnic tribes - such as the Shan and Kachins bring their goods to trade.  It is for early risers, though, as the market opens at 3 a.m. and closes early too. Around the town are great hiking and walking trails giving guests the opportunity to see local life at close quarters…and should you be back in town for sunset watch it slowly sink from the top of Five Buddha Hill.


Monywa

Monywa

A thriving commercial centre on the banks of the Chindwin River trading in jaggery and a number of regional crafts including bamboo and textiles - the latter used for rough cotton blankets and the traditional longyi.  However, its major attraction is the glorious Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya temple which dates back to the twelfth century, albeit reconstructed in the first half of the 20th century. Its walls are covered in tiny Buddha images - while nearby is the Bodhi Tataung Laykyun Setkyar the second tallest standing Buddha in the world at 129 metres. This is located in a vast area housing numerous Buddha statues and stupas as well as a 95 metre long reclining Buddha.


Inle Lake

inle lake

A vast freshwater lake, 900 metres above sea level, in the heart of the Shan Plateau, Inle Lake is a magical water wonderland. Surrounded by mountains, edged by floating gardens and plant nurseries and villages on stilts and host to one of the best floating markets in Asia.  Add to that monasteries and stupas, pagodas and paddy fields while a visit to the traditional silk weavers should not be missed.  Here they spin, weave, dye and make garments, textiles and accessories often incorporating a yarn they make from the fibres of the lotus plant, which is unique to this area. The lake is also home to the Inthe people who are famed for their extraordinary leg rowing technique. This allows them to keep their hands free for fishing.  Spend a day on the lake to truly savour its offerings. Thadingyut festival which is one of Myanmar's best known events takes place here every autumn, almost immediately after the three week Phaung Daw U festival.


Kalaw

kalaw

The centre of trekking and hiking heaven lies just west of Inle Lake in the Shan Plateau, and is the gateway for travellers to visit a number of tribal settlements and villages of the Shan, Palaung and Danu people.  Overnight trekkers are invited to spend the night in one of the many monasteries dotted throughout the hills, an authentic experience,  and a privilege for any traveller. Visit the nearby Magwe village where an elephant camp is located. Here you can watch the elephants bathing in the river, feed them their daily bananas and even ride on the back of them. At the camp you can also help the team re-plant regional trees from the nursery.


Pindaya

pindaya

En route to Kalaw stop at Pindaya an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.   It comprises of three caves, of which only one can be entered and which contains more than 8,000 images of the Buddha, many with inscriptions brought by supplicants.  The area, famed for its paper umbrellas and hand rolled cheroots is also host to a market every five days.


Golden Rock

golden rock

A vast granite boulder covered in gold leaf is one of the holiest sites in Myanmar, and is located in the Mon state.  The boulder, which has a little pagoda on its crown, seems perilously close to rolling down the hill on which it is based…but legend states that it is held in place by a single strand of Buddha's hair.  A staircase leads to the pagoda complex where there are several viewing platforms, but for those with no head for  heights there is a lower terrace which provides great views of the rock and pagoda. Pilgrims visit throughout the year bringing offerings of fruits, incense and more gold leaf which they can add to the boulder, however women are not allowed to touch the rock.


Mrauk U

mrauk u & rachine State

On the borders of Bangladesh, in the hills of the Rakhine State, is the village of Mrauk U, which was once the capital of a sizeable empire and is now an archaeological site of some 700 ancient temples.  Until recently this part of Myanmar was off-limits to tourists and even though it welcomes them now, few outsiders have ever seen it, although some 400 years ago it traded with French, Dutch and Portuguese merchants while providing shelter for escaping Mughal princes and Bengali traders.  Travel to the village by small boats along the backwaters from Sittwe, before visiting some of the most important pagodas by either horse-drawn cart or bicycle; these include the Shittaung Paya, the Dukkanthein Paya and Kothaung Payas. And what is extraordinary is that though they sit there in their timeless idyll, life goes on around them with the villagers and farmers working the land and the fields.  A visit to this almost forgotten land makes for an unforgettable experience.


Yangon

Yangon

The former capital is a glorious melange of magnificent temples and shrines, colonial architecture, a thriving port and a host of colourful markets.  It is the gateway for most visitors to Myanmar and a wonderful introduction to this almost forgotten country.  Take a walking tour down to the esplanade to see some of the finest examples of gracious colonial mansions before taking in the elegance of the Strand and Pansoden Street. Take time to enjoy the bustle and colour of the various food markets - the fruit and flowers, the Chinese area, the second hand bookstalls, but most of all visit the most important religious monuments in the world - the Shwedagon Pagoda.  This is not only the most important Buddhist shrine in the country but also the most awe-inspiring. It can be seen throughout the city, sheathed in gold and topped by a crown of 2,317 rubies, 5,448 diamonds with a huge 76 carat diamond at the top.  For something slightly less daunting the reclining Buddha at nearby Chaukhtatgyi Paya has a glorious diamond encrusted crown and a small shrine to Ma Thay, a holy man with the power to stop rain and bring sailors home safely from sea.

For a totally different experience of this city head for Bogyoke Market with its 2,000 shops. Once known as Scott markets it's a spellbinding place to spend a morning. There are local handicrafts - lacquerware, Shan bags and slippers as well as t-shirts, scarves and longyi not to mention the pearls and gems for which Myanmar is renowned.  The National Museum offers a rich tour of the country's past while the city streets offer a rich experience of the people and life of Yangon.


Ngapali

Ngapali

When the time comes to relax and consider all the wonders of Myanmar you have seen and visited, there is no better place than Ngapali.  Not only does it have the best beach in Myanmar at Sandoway, it is also a place full of gentle people, wonderful restaurants and almost constant sunshine.  Located Rakhine, the westernmost state of Myanmar, where the Arakan Mountains come down to the turquoise waters of the Bay of Bengal it provides the perfect way to end your holiday.

 


Kengtung

Kengtung

Kengtung is a stunning place of many colorful ethnic tribes. Situated in the Eastern Shan State. There are many villages around Kengtung of various ethnic tribes which are only discernable by their differing colorful costumes.

About an hour from Kengtung, there is a stunning and ancient monastery, dating from the 13th Century which is surely one of the most beautiful examples of an early Buddhist monastery in Myanmar. Beautiful original carvings, statues and columns make this the most beautiful monastery in Burma. If you are lucky you will be able to have your fortune told by the local Astrologer monk who lives up here alone.

Kengtung's central daily market offers products from China & Thailand and also it has local traditional clothing, antique coins and other implements for sale making good souvenirs.


Mawlamyaing

mawlamyine

The charming town of Mawlamyaing is the capital of Mon State and is located at the bank of beautiful Thanlwin River. Here you can visit Kyaikthanlan Pagoda, U Zena Pagoda and the Cave of Kawgoon.

Close to Mawlamyine is the town of Kyaikmayaw, a picturesque town consisting mostly of wooden homes with thatched palm roofs. Kyaikmayaw is also home to Limestone caves as well as teh fous Kyaikmayaw Pagoda, built by Queen Shin Saw Pu in 1455.