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Exploring Myanmar

by Jade Spadina from Australia

Myanmar is a land of traditions, friendly people and beautiful landscapes. Being cut off from the world for a number of decades, it has not be influenced by modernisation and extreme tourism. It is one of the few places I’ve visited where I felt as though I had an authentic experience, gaining an insight into the culture of the country and the lives of its people.

Pagoda
Pagoda by Jade Spadina

Yangon

We commenced our travels in Myanmar with a day in Yangon. A must see in Yangon is the imposing Shwedagon Pagoda. You can spend a good hour or so here wandering through the complex, marvelling at the beautiful golden stupas, exploring numerous small temples, and seeing buddhist monks in prayer. It isn’t difficult to find the pagoda, as the main stupa dominates the city skyline.

26th-St-Market
26th St Market by Jade Spadina

If you like markets, particularly fresh food markets, you must spend a morning at 26th Street Market. The fresh produce is beautifully displayed and the people are extremely friendly. It’s interesting to see how the local people purchase their fresh produce and watching their interactions between each other. As well as watching the venders tactfully move their goods, as delivery vehicles make their way through the narrow street.

Inle-Lake
Inle Lake by Jade Spadina

Inle Lake

Our next stop was Inle Lake. We had less than two weeks in Myanmar and wanted to make the most of our time, so flew between places we visited. We found the flights fantastic, and were much better than spending hours on the poorly maintained roads. When staying at Inle Lake, I highly recommend staying in one of the hotels located right on the lake, rather than in Nyaungshwe. Although you are limited for dining options for breakfast and dinner, having to stay at your hotel as boats aren’t allow to cross the lake in darkness, the experience is magical.

When crossing from Nyaungshwe to your hotel, you will find a number of boats waiting for clients. We arranged for our boat driver to meet us at our hotel every morning for the three nights we were there to take us out on the lake.

Pa-O-Woman
Pa-O Woman by Jade Spadina

One of the highlights of our days on the lake were the local markets. Every morning there is a market at one of the towns along the lake, where tribal people from nearby villages come to sell their produce and handmade goods. The markets are not as pretty as those at 26th Street in Yangon, but it is interesting to see the tribal people. We saw a number of Pa-O women with their friendly faces and colourful headscarfs.

Another highlight was definitely the floating gardens. These lush green gardens float on the surface of the lake. The contrast between the rich emerald green vegetation and the crystal sapphire water is beautiful. When floating pass the gardens, you can see a number of people tending their crops and weaving gracefully between the plots in their canoe-like boats.

Bagan-complex
Bagan Complex by Jade Spadina

Bagan
Our third stop in Myanmar was the impressive temple complex of Bagan. This was one of the main drawcards for visiting Myanmar and it didn’t disappoint. Although most of the temples have been restored, albeit not very well, the place is still stunning and definitely worth visiting. I’d highly recommend hiring a pushbike while you’re in Bagan to explore the Archaeological Zone, as you’ll see a lot more by bike rather than on foot.

Baloon-ride
Baloon ride over Bagan by Jade Spadina

Here are a few tips and must dos while in Bagan:
Accommodation: We stayed at Hotel Tharabar Gate in Old Bagan. It was the most expensive hotel we stayed in whilst in Myanmar, but it was beautiful and worth the extra dollars. And it was located inside the archaeological zone, making everything easy to access.

Do: I highly recommend taking a hot air balloon ride with Balloons Over Bagan. The landscape, which is dotted with over 2000 temples and pagodas, is a breathtaking sight from the sky and beautiful to see at sunrise. I had previously done a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey. Bagan was not as impressive, but wasn’t far off at all.

Buy: Head to the village of Myin Ka Bar, located on the road between Old Bagan and New Bagan, and purchase a piece of lacquerwear. We ummed and ahhed for a while about purchasing a piece, but I’m glad we did. Spend a bit of time talking to the shop owners to get an idea about what you want and how to judge the quality of a piece

Ngapali-beach
Ngapali Beach by Jade Spadina

Ngapali Beach
Our final stop in Myanmar was a few days of relaxation at Ngapali Beach. The beaches in Myanmar are not like those in other parts of southeast Asia, as there are hardly any tourists in sight. The main part of Ngapali Beach has a number of low rise hotels, but there isn’t a sense that the area is a tourist resort. We stayed in a small bay, just north of the main beach, at a guesthouse called Yoma Cherry Lodge. It was one of the nicest places I have stayed to date. Efficiently run by an English woman called Sue, we felt right at home, relaxing in the tropical gardens and enjoying a cocktail on the terrace as we watched the sunset.

Floating-gardens
Ngapali Beach by Jade Spadina

Like many beachside locations, there isn’t a great deal to do at Ngapali Beach, except relaxing by the beach, going for morning walks and eating beautiful seafood dinners at one of the few restaurants located right on the beach. But that’s the beauty of it.

We had a wonderful time exploring Myanmar and would definitely recommend it for those who like travelling off the beaten track. I would hurry though, as I can see Myanmar becoming another Thailand or Cambodia, as the country catches up with the rest of south-east Asia.

If you want to read more of Jade Spadina go to “Been There, Snapped This”
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