Myanmar remains a hidden gem among South East Asia’s more popular and well-known destinations to visit, boasting virtually untouched beaches, stunning natural scenery and some of the world’s oldest and most sacred Buddhist temples. Myanmar is also part of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of South East Asia, making it easier to add Thailand and other nearby destinations to your travel itinerary.
Cathay Pacific shares the 10 most convincing reasons why every intrepid South African should include Myanmar in their future travel plans.
1. See some of the world’s most beautiful temples.
Myanmar is often referred to as the ‘Land of Pagodas’, and with good reason. There are at least 4,000 of these sacred Buddhist temples scattered across Myanmar, including the iconic 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, also known as the Great Dragon Pagoda, located in Yangon, the country’s largest city. Shwedagon has become a popular tourist destination, famous for its magnificent solid gold stupas covered in glittering diamonds.
2. Discover unspoiled, barely-touched beaches.
Having only recently opened its doors for tourism, Myanmar boasts some of the world’s most serene beaches, free from man-made structures and commercial activity. Sun-seekers can escape to Myanmar’s beautiful Ngapali beach (pronounced Napally), named after Naples in Italy for white sandy beaches lined with palm trees and clear blue waters. Another choice is Ngwe Saung beach, which offers its very own slice of heaven.
3. Grab a beer for a kiss...
For travellers who look forward to winding down with a cold one after a long day of exploring, Myanmar’s many open-air beer stations and restaurants are a must see. It’s essential to make three short kissing sounds in the air to get the waiter’s attention at pubs and beer stations – so don’t think the locals are flirting with you if you hear it! While Myanmar Beer is by far the most popular of local brews on offer, many visitors have also raved about the Dagon and Mandalay beers too.
4. … Or enjoy a hot cup of sweet tea.
Tea-drinking is a sort of national pastime in Myanmar, and its tea houses are a special treat for people who enjoy a midday cuppa while watching live European football, which is also quite popular among the people of Myanmar. The tea itself is traditionally quite milky, with condensed milk added for extra sweetness, but whether you’re a tea-drinker or not, paying a visit to one of Myanmar’s tea houses is a charming experience you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
5. Tuck into a bowl of Mohinga, the breakfast of champions.
Considered a national dish and firm favourite among the people of Myanmar, Mohinga is a rice noodle and fish soup mainly served at the start of each day. The dish is sweet, sour and slightly salty all at the same time, containing a lengthy list of ingredients that includes banana stem, tamarind and various types of fish. While it may seem like an odd combination to the unfamiliar palate, it’s still a dish every newcomer to Myanmar should try at least once.
6. Hitch a ride on a river boat.
The Irrawaddy River is the country’s largest river and is a commercial and spiritual hub of activity. The best way to experience this majestic and historic river is to book your place on a cruise – choose to experience the Irrawaddy River on board a modern and luxurious cruise liner, or the 200-year old solid teak wood boats also in operation. Either way, you’ll have a stunning vantage point of the locals performing daily prayers along the river banks as well as the breath-taking scenery that Myanmar has on offer.
7. Visit the Sacred Golden Rock.
At the summit of Myanmar’s 1,100-metre tall Mount Kyaiktiyo sits the world-famous Golden Rock, a massive boulder covered in gold leaf, which seems to defy gravity. People come from all over the world to worship and add gold leaf to the Rock’s already glittering surface, while others simply visit the site to admire its magnificence. The Golden Rock is said to have been placed on a hair of the Buddha, which is what makes it a holy site for Buddhists. Enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view of greenery and horizon as far as the eye can see from this vantage point.
8. Walk across a 200-year-old teak bridge.
A trip to Myanmar is never complete without visiting the U-Bein bridge, located in the leafy ‘royal capital’ of Amarapura. Spanning just over a kilometre, U-Bein is the world’s longest footbridge and an increasingly popular tourist destination. Take a stroll along the weathered but sturdy teak-wood planks during sunset, when the most Instagram-worthy views are on display.
9. Check out the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.
Bangkok, Thailand, is just a short flight from Yangon International Airport, making it the perfect opportunity for intrepid travellers to get out and see as much as possible while visiting South East Asia. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must-see for anyone who loves a good bargain, and offers 15,000 stalls filled with just about everything any avid shopper dreams of – from cheap electronics to authentic textiles and clothes.
10. Go on a Cambodian-style pub crawl.
While Myanmar offers exceptional views of nature and unique cultural experiences, no one would blame you for wanting to let your hair down a bit. Getting to Cambodia is quick and painless – simply book a flight from Yangon to Siem Reap International Airport. Take a tuk-tuk or hop on public transport and head to the Angkor Night Market, where you can enjoy a few drinks, local delicacies and maybe even a live music performance, if you’re lucky.