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  • myanmar-pagoda-vertical.jpg - The Great Dagon Pagoda or Golden Pagoda (officially the Shwedagon Zedi Daw) is a dazzling gilded pagoda and stupa 325 feet in height in Yangon.
  • Bagan-Myanmar - Like a vision from another time, the ancient city of Bagan now beckons cruise visitors. Myanmar (formerly Burma) opened up to U.S. investment in 2014, and the 56-passenger AmaPura river cruise ship began sailings there in November 2014.
  • Mandalay-Myanmar - Set sail on AmaWaterways' new luxury cruise ship the AmaPura to see the Golden City of Mandalay, regarded as Myanmar’s cultural heart. Renowned for its master craftsmen and its patronage of the arts, Mandalay was the last royal capital of Burma.
  • Shwedagon-Zedi-Daw-pagoda-Myanmar - The Great Dagon Pagoda or Golden Pagoda — officially the Shwedagon Zedi Daw — is a dazzling gilded pagoda and stupa 325 feet in height in Yangon, Myanmar. See it on a luxury river cruise aboard the AmaPura.
  • U-Bein-Bridge-in-Amarapura-Myanmar - U Bein Bridge spans Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura in Myanmar. The 4,000-foot-long bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. See it on a luxury river cruise aboard the AmaPura.
  • Myanmar-temples-and-hot-air-balloons - Hot air balloons hover above some 3,000 Buddhist temples during a sunrise flight in Bagan, Myanmar. You can now visit Bagan, Yangon, Mandalay and other breathtaking sites aboard AmaWaterways' luxury river cruise ship the AmaPura.
  • inle-lake-sunset.jpg - Sunset over Inle Lake in Myanmar.
  • Myanmar-Bagan-hot-air-balloons.jpg - Hot air balloons soar over Bagan, Myanmar, in the early morning hours.
  • Myanmar-balloon-flame.jpg - A hot air balloon prepares for liftoff in Bagan, Myanmar.
  • Myanmar-balloons.jpg - Hot air balloons sail over Bagan, Myanmar.
  • myanmar-boy-in-robe.jpg - A robe-clad novice walks through a hauntingly beautiful pagoda complex on Inle Lake in Myanmar.
  • myanmar-buddha-statue.jpg - Golden statues and gold leaf decorations adorning temples and pagodas, built to honor the Buddha, can be seen throughout Myanmar.
  • myanmar-buddha-statue2.jpg - Overwhelmingly a Buddhist country, Myanmar has thousands of temples, pagodas and stupas.
  • myanmar-cart-bull.jpg - A bull pulls a cart in Myanmar.
  • Myanmar-colonnade.jpg - A stunning white temple with inscribed Sanskrit texts in Myanmar.
  • myanmar-father-and-son.jpg - A father and son in a marketplace in the village of Myin Mu, Myanmar.
  • myanmar-fisherman-boats.jpg - Ellen Miller on Myanmar: "Every day we spent around Inle Lake, we would hop into a flat-bottom wooden boat with a guide and a driver and cruise along the lake for 5-7 hours, in and out of communities, floating gardens, taking in fisherman, pagodas, etc."
  • myanmar-local-woman-4.jpg - Ellen Miller on Myanmar: "Our time walking in the markets and villages was insightful, and we encountered wonderfully friendly people everywhere."
  • myanmar-mountaintop.jpg - Mt. Popa, a Buddhist monastery, is perched at the summit of Taung Kala in Myanmar. It's a 777-step climb to the top.
  • myanmar-pagoda-in-hillside.jpg - One of the temple complexes along the Irrawaddy River or Ayeyarwady River, Myanmar's main waterway.
  • myanmar-pagoda-vertical.jpg - The Great Dagon Pagoda or Golden Pagoda (officially the Shwedagon Zedi Daw) is a dazzling gilded pagoda and stupa 325 feet in height in Yangon.
  • Irawaddy-River-Myanmar - Myanmar’s main river, the Ayeyarwady (or Irrawaddy) flows for 1,350 miles. Set sail on a voyage of discovery across Myanmar aboard AmaWaterways' luxury river cruise ship the AmaPura.
  • myanmar-palace.jpg - A beautiful covered walkway in a temple complex in Myanmar.
  • Yangon-cityscape-Myanmar -  Yangon (formerly Rangoon, for "End of Strife") is Myanmar's largest city with a population of more than 5 million. See the Garden City of the East on a luxury river cruise aboard the AmaPura.
  • Inle-Lake-Myanmar - Inle Lake is a picturesque fresh-water lake in Myanmar. At the end of your river cruise aboard the AmaPura, consider adding a post-cruise stay of three nights at Inle Lake and one night in Yangon.
  • Bagan-at-daybreak.jpg - Bagan, Myanmar, seen at daybreak from a hot air balloon.
  • inle-lake-fisherman.jpg - A fisherman balances on his boat while fishing on Inle Lake, Myanmar.

Myanmar (Burma): Where Buddhist temples & British architecture meet

The vibe

The former Burma, Myanmar sits at the crossroads of many cultures despite its relative political isolation. Located on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea with Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north and Laos and Thailand to the east, Myanmar (pronounced Me-Yen-Mar) presents visitors with a dizzying array of Buddhist temples and ethnic diversity with a British colonial past mixed in for good measure.

River cruising to see towns and cities along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River is the most convenient way to see Myanmar, unless you want to opt for a rugged journey riding the old British rail system or taking the crowded buses. 

There’s plenty to see and do in Myanmar: touring Mandalay and its royal palace, exploring colonial Yangon (the former Rangoon) with its British architecture and many pagodas, visiting Bagan with its seemingly endless multitude of pagodas and discovering the floating villages of Inle Lake and the northeastern part of the country, which is part of the mysterious Golden Triangle with its hill tribes. In the southeast, the Myanmar coast is sprinkled with off-shore islands and the beach at Kawthaung is a popular seaside area.

Cruise ships that call on Yangon

River cruise ships that call on Yangon

Top reasons to go

  • Floating villages on Inle Lake.
  • Mandalay's royal palace.
  • Stunning mixture of Buddhist temples, British architecture and pagodas.
Hot air balloons hover above some 3,000 Buddhist temples during a sunrise flight in Bagan, Myanmar. You can now visit Bagan, Yangon, Mandalay and other breathtaking sites aboard AmaWaterways' luxury river cruise ship the AmaPura.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysHot air balloons hover above some 3,000 Buddhist temples during a sunrise flight in Bagan, Myanmar. You can now visit Bagan, Yangon, Mandalay and other breathtaking sites aboard AmaWaterways' luxury river cruise ship the AmaPura.

Top things to see & do in Myanmar

Myanmar, which was ruled as a division of India by the British, is heavily influenced by Indian culture in the style of its stupas and temples. Buddhism is both the dominant religion and the all-pervasive cultural force in the country.

Sightseeing in Yangon

Walking around Yangon brings you back to the time of 19th century British colonial rule. Sparkling-clean parks and temples stand side by side to decayed colonial-style buildings and deep potholes. Its cultural and religious attractions, like the Shwedagon Pagoda, add to the city's feel of exoticism, as do the smiles of the locals. Every street corner brings something new — and a short ferry over the river even gives you a glimpse of rural life in the country. Cities of cultural and historical interest close to Yangon are Bago with its Buddhist sights, the delta town of Twante known for its pottery and the pilgrimage site of Kyaiktiyo with its gold-gilded rock balancing precariously over a cliff.

Bagan

The former city of Bagan is a true gem, and gives a glimpse of what life in the 11th and 12th centuries here must have been like. Marco Polo described it as the "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes." It is the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. Mrauk U is another one of those mysterious places — a sleepy village today, its crumbling pagodas and temples remind of the early modern period, when it was the capital city of an empire involved in extensive maritime trade with Portuguese, Dutch, French and Arab traders.

Inle Lake is a picturesque fresh-water lake in Myanmar. At the end of your river cruise aboard the AmaPura, consider adding a post-cruise stay of three nights at Inle Lake and one night in Yangon.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysInle Lake is a picturesque fresh-water lake in Myanmar. At the end of your river cruise aboard the AmaPura, consider adding a post-cruise stay of three nights at Inle Lake and one night in Yangon.

Inle Lake

Myanmar has its fair share of natural attractions. Inle Lake is where the backpacker community resides, and you can do some birdwatching. A trip to Myanmar is not complete without a boat trip on the lake. It has a unique vibe with tribes living in stilt houses and paddling their traditional wooden boats with one leg. The country's long southwestern coastline also has a few beaches, such as Chaung Tha and Ngapali.

Shopping

  • Antiques: Myanmar is probably the last unspoiled market for antiques and, with a good eye, it is easy to pick up bargains there. Old Raj coins are the most popular (and have little value except as souvenirs), but everything ranging from Ming porcelain to Portuguese furniture (in Moulmein) can be found. 
  • Gemstones: Myanmar is a significant source of jade, rubies, and sapphire (the granting of a licence to the French over the ruby mines in Mogok was one of the causes leading to the Third Burmese War) and these can be obtained at a fraction of what it would cost in the West. Be warned, however, that there are a lot of fakes for sale amid the genuine stuff. Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon has many licensed shops and is generally a safe place for the purchase of these stones. 
  • Lacquer ware: A popular purchase, which is made into bowls, cups, vases, tables and various items, and is available almost anywhere. The traditional centre of lacquer ware production is Bagan in central Myanmar. Beware of fraudulent lacquer ware, though, which is poorly made, but looks authentic. (As a general rule, the stiffer the lacquer, the poorer the quality; the more you can bend and twist it, the finer the quality.) 
  • Tapestries: Known as kalaga, or shwe chi doe. There is a long tradition of weaving tapestries in Burma. These are decorated with gold and silver thread and sequins and usually depict tales from the Buddhist scriptures (the jatakas) or other non-secular objects from Burmese Buddhism (mythical animals, the hintha, and the kalong are also popular subjects). The tapestry tradition is dying out but many are made for tourists and are available in Mandalay and Yangon. 
  • Textiles: Textiles in Myanmar are stunning. Each region and each ethnic group has its own style. Chin fabrics are particularly stunning. They are handwoven in intricate geometric patterns, often in deep reds and mossy greens and white. 
Set sail on AmaWaterways' new luxury cruise ship the AmaPura to see the Golden City of Mandalay, regarded as Myanmar’s cultural heart.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysSet sail on AmaWaterways' new luxury cruise ship the AmaPura to see the Golden City of Mandalay, regarded as Myanmar’s cultural heart.

Dining 

Rice is the staple of Burmese cuisine, which is heavily influenced by China and India. While dishes change from region to region, much of it is spicy throughout. Along the sea, fish dishes predominate and inland, poultry and meat. Many of the sauces and spices are reminiscent of Thai cuisine. There are many up-market restaurants to choose from in Yangon and Mandalay.

Best time to go

Myanmar has three distinct seasons: a hot season from March to April and a rainy season from May to October; the best time to travel is the coolest period from November to February. Most visitors fly into Yangon from either Bangkok or Singapore. Because of poor roads and government regulations, getting around in Myanmar is difficult if you try to go off the beaten path. The government restricts people from visiting certain areas.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. 

Language: Burmese is the official language.

Currency: Myanmar is still predominantly a cash economy, largely due to the lack of ATMs. The local currency is the kyat. 

Safety: Myanmar is extremely safe for tourists, and it is generally safe to walk on the streets alone at night. Do note that tap water in Myanmar is not safe to drink; ice in drinks should be avoided as well. Bottled water is readily available at many tourist sites.

Wikivoyage contributed to this guide.

Your take

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Overheard

“Unlike other popular Asian tourist destinations such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, which have increasingly become theme-park-like experiences leeched of authenticity, in Myanmar it is still possible for visitors to become lost in a culturally varied and vibrant indigenous society that has yet to become a commercially mummified simulacrum of its former self.”

New York Times

“I've come to The Morning Star Tea House [in Yangon] for a couple of reasons. Reason one: the must-have, bone-deep, old-school favorite around here, La Pet Tok, the salad of fermented tea leaves. I know. That does not sound good. But you'd be wrong to think that.”

Anthony Bourdain

“Mornings in Myanmar often find bewitching mists hovering in the valleys and around the hills.”

Travel + Leisure

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