Myanmar Tour

Myanmar is probably the least understood and least visited—a fascinating country in South East Asia so far.  An ancient land untouched by the modernization, it is a country where the people still adhere to age-old traditions and customs.   Nowhere in Asia will you find a more mystical and exciting place to explore. The scattered temples in Bagan, the ancient capitals that surround Mandalay, the unique “leg rowing” fishermen of Inle Lake and colonial heritage of Yangon are all must see destinations but for the slightly more adventurous traveller there is so much more.  Without fail, visitors to Myanmar will be amazed by the breathtaking beauty and unfailing show of hospitality by the Burmese.




  • Population: 55.2 million
  • Capital City: Naypyidaw
  • People: Bamar 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
  • Language: Burmese
  • Currency: Kyat (MMK)
  • Time Zone: GMT + 6:30 Hours
  • International Dialing Code: +95

People, Cities & Culture

While many of its neighboring countries have sprinted into the 21st Century, Burma remains pleasantly untainted by the effects of the modern world. After emerging from decades of seclusion and political upheaval, Burma has retained a timelessness that few other Southeast Asian nations have. Insulated from the effects of globalisation, much of Burma – and the people within its borders – maintain lifestyles not so different than those of their ancestors decades ago. This mysterious and alluring penchant for tradition in Burma makes it a fascinating place to witness an Asia that’s long been forgotten.

Most that visit Burma will remark on the beauty of its temples and richness of its history – but the true heart of the country is its people. Steadfastly warm and uncommonly welcoming, the Burmese and local ethnic communities are particularly enthusiastic about sharing their culture with visitors. This culture is also one of the most unique in the region, since Burma’s borders with China, India, Thailand, Laos and Bangladesh lends it a kaleidoscopic blend of cultures. Apart from the dominant Bamar population, too, are a vast collection of ethnic communities and minority groups living in the country.

While its cities are bustling with the same energy common throughout Southeast Asia, Burma has a particularly calm and peaceful energy that’s rare among the rest of the region’s cities. Aging British colonial architecture, dazzling Buddhist pagodas and ancient temples attest to the nation’s past life in these urban areas, and few cities are without agriculture and traditional buffalo ploughs close by. Even within its ancient cities and biggest urban centers, modern Burma remains a vivid reminder of why it is still called the Golden Land of Asia.


Transportation

Taxi’s are the main form of transportation in the major cities of Burma. Negotiate the price in advance with the driver, as meters are uncommon. Cost depends on distance – a trip from Yangon airport to the city center will cost approximately 5000 MMK, while a quick trip through downtown to Shwedagon will cost around 1500 MMK.

While taxis offer a comfortable ride, traffic can be packed and seatbelts in taxis are often hidden, either tucked into the seats or arranged decoratively. Many cars, too, are designed with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the road, which can make for a rather interesting journey.

Trains are also an option for transit, and are inexpensive while still providing an interesting view of the urban areas as well as the countryside. However, the routes are limited, such as the circle train around Yangon which circles the city in 3 hours. Ferries are also a common option for transport in some areas. Visitors pay a higher ticket price, but are also provided with more comfortable seating options.

Travel by motorbike is popular with locals in some urban and remote areas. They are not, however, recommended by Buffalo Tours as they are neither safe nor regulated. Please note that travel by motorbike is usually not covered by insurance. Check the fine print of your travel insurance policy before hopping on.


WHEN TO VISIT BURMA

Weather

Myanmar weather

Burma has a tropical Monsoon climate with three seasons: hot, rainy and cool. The hot season begins in March with temperatures climbing up to 36 °C plus humidex. This weather is perfect for a beach break along the southern coast, as well as a good time to venture to cooler northern regions

June ushers in the rainy season, which cools down temperatures slightly, but it is unadvisable to travel to Ngapali Beach as many resorts and hotels close during this period. Instead, head to the central areas which are the driest – Mandalay is a great destination during this season.

In terms of exploring Burma, the best time to visit is usually from November until February when the cool season begins. Temperatures are milder and more pleasant, although a bit further north in areas like Mandalay, it can reach as low as 10 °C. This season is perfect for discovering the temple-dotted plains of Bagan!

Please note: The weather can be unpredictable in Asia and we suggest you carry an umbrella or raincoat with you no matter which season you choose to travel..


Festivals and National Holidays

Burma has a large number of festivals and public holidays, either religious or politically significant. Many festivals are based upon the lunar calendar, and therefore, the date changes each year. Thingyan is the largest festival, preceding the Myanmar New Year. This five-day new years’ celebration begins in mid April, and is also known as the Water Festival. Water symbolises the cleansing of the past year’s sins, and is traditionally practiced by sprinkling it upon others. Nowadays, it’s become more of a water fight, as fire hoses, buckets, water balloons and water pistols shower the crowds!

Thadingyut, or the Festival of Lights, takes place towards the end of October and is the second biggest festival of the year. Held at the end of Buddhist lent, locals light up their homes with lanterns and candles to symbolically welcome Buddha’s descent from heaven. For three days, the streets fill with food stalls and performances of dance and music. Some regions set off fire crackers and balloons as well.

A second festival of lights occurs in November to celebrate the end of the rainy season, Tazaungdaing. This day is celebrated at major temples where robe weaving competitions are common, as makers work through the night creating specialty yellow robes. While being a country-wide festival, in certain regions like Inle Lake and the Shan state, hot air balloons filled with candles are released into the air to drive away evil spirits.

Other important holidays include:

  • Independence Day, 4 January
  • Union Day, 12 February
  • Magha Puja, 27 March

WHERE TO TRAVEL IN BURMA

Yangon

No longer the capital, this distinctive city is still a must-see in Burma. With fading colonial architecture, vibrant streets, historical sites, temples and mosques, Yangon offers a spectacular taste of urban life in otherwise sleepy Burma. This bustling city is bursting with local culture, from the hoards of newspaper stands, tea shops, betel leaf vendors and friendly curious locals dressed in longyi.


Inle Lake

At around 900m above sea level, Inle Lake is the second largest lake in the country are around 22 kilometres in length. Aside from the breathtaking landscape of surrounding mountains, it is also home to many ethnic groups including the predominate Intha. Living in the surrounding hillsides and floating villages, the Intha are best known for their unique rowing technique with a single foot pushing the boat oar – a practice that’s become one of the most sought-after photo opportunities on the lake.


Mandalay

The last royal capital of Mandalay lies in the shadow of Mandalay Hill. With the reconstructed Royal palace at its centre surrounded by a large moat, it is encompassed by the ancient capitals of Amarapura, Sagaing and the ‘leaning tower of Ava’ in Inwa. Close by are the Pyu ancient cities, partially excavated archaeological remains of the Pyu kingdom dating from as early as 200 BCE. Mandalay, however, is a more modern city constructed in the 19th century, and was completely made of teak structures before its partial demolition during the second World War – making it a fascinating destination for history buffs.


Bagan

One of the most breathtaking sights is sunset over the thousands of ancient pagodas of Bagan. Located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Bagan offers a glimpse into the ancient world of the once bustling Silk Road between India and China under the Kingdom of Pagan. During the Kingdom’s height, Bagan housed over than 10,000 religious structures, but now only 2,200 remain. Here, explore the vast expanse of 9th to 13th Century stupas and admire the faded frescoes held within.


THINGS TO DO IN BURMA

Hike Up to Golden Rock

Overlooking the small town of Kyaikhto, approximately 200km east of Yangon, you will find a gold leaf covered granite boulder perched on the edge of a mountain. Golden Rock, or Kyaiktio Pagoda, is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site situated at 1100m above sea level. Catch a ride or hike up to the rock that is legened to be over 2,500 years old and suspended on a single hair of Buddha. Seeming to defy gravity as it sits suspended on the edge, and is one of the most important Buddhist sites of the country.


Cool off on the Coast

Escape the heat of Yangon on a short journey to the serene coast of Burma. With over two thousand kilometers of coastline and some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia, it’s a great place to relax in crystal waters and calm beaches. Many beaches stretch along the Bay of Bengal which remains undiscovered by tourists and unspoiled by local authority. Venture to Ngapali, considered the most well-known beach in Burma, and unwind for a spell.


Float above Bagan

Discover the mystical majesty of Bagan from the clouds, drifting over the ancient kingdom in a hot air balloon. One of the most distinctive and beautiful sites of Southeast Asia, float above thousands of ancient temples peppering the dry plains as far as the eye can see.


Trek in Kalaw

Experience the wildlife and wilderness in the Shan Hills of Burma, as you trek through this serene landscape. Stretch your legs and head off into the countryside passing through small villages and farms along the way. Meet the locals over lunch and a cup of tea, and stay overnight in a village. Trek down through the narrow valley into the jungle and experience the raw nature of Burma.


Cruise Inle Lake

Experience the diverse and vibrant local life of Inle Lake, where inhabitants maintain centuries old traditions. Drift by the floating villages, temples and gardens, as you pedal along this immense lake. See the traditional blacksmiths working silver all, learn how to roll a cheroot cigar, one of the local delicacies of Burma. Rolled with a cheroot leaf and tobacco, these cigars also contain a variety of local herbs and spices and are an aromatic experience. Even non-smokers will be affixed watching women systematically roll hundreds with ease.


U-Bein Bridge

Take a walk across U-Bein bridge, the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world. A short trip from Mandalay, U-Bein spans over a kilometer across the shallow waters of Taungthaman Lake. Be sure to stroll over during sunset and admire the stupas scattered across the hills of Sagaing.




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