Imagine awe-inspiring tall golden stupas, ancient ruins, luscious jungles, soft-sandy beach resorts, countless monks, rustic villages and big cities with bigger personalities, one of the destinations that comes to mind is the Asian country of Myanmar (Burma).
This South-east Asian country lies on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea coast with Bangladesh and India bordering it to the west, China to the north and Laos & Thailand to the east. Though the culture seems significantly influenced by Buddhism, one can still view traces of Indian and Chinese culture meshed in local architecture and food habits.
One of the most popular attractions in Myanmar is Bagan - an archaeological zone with thousands of pagodas housed near the banks of the Ayeyarwady River. Back in the day, it used to house around 13,000 temples. Even today, several thousand temples, pagodas and stupas remain, including the famed Ananda temple with its shimmering gold spires.
Be sure to visit the Golden Rock, a renowned Buddhist pilgrimage site. It is a small pagoda, erected on the top of a granite boulder coated with gold leaves, pasted on by devotees. The balancing rock appears to defy gravity, as it always seemingly appears to be on the threshold of rolling down the hills.
The Shwedagon Pagoda (or Great Dagon Pagoda) is renowned to be the most holy site in Buddhism in Myanmar since it is home to a strand of Buddha's hair and other religious relics. This ancient pagoda is housed on Singuttara Hill in Yangon, the biggest city in Myanmar. It is encompassed in gold leaf and the stupa is coated in 4,531 diamonds.
For some peace and serenity, sit by the vast Inle Lake - one of the leading tourist attractions in Myanmar. A day trip to this lake can be taken in a long, narrow boat. Some of the highlights of this trip includes marvelling at the local stilt homes, visits to small workshops in stilt villages, looking at many pagodas and exploring the market.
Beach-a-holics would enjoy chilling and lounging about in the premier resort town of Myanmar - Ngapali. With its pristine white sandy beaches meshing with sparkling deep-blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, it is nothing short of a visual treat. Be sure to visit the historic Shwenandaw Monastery is a historic Buddhist monastery in the city of Mandalay city. Referred to as the Golden Palace, at one point of time, the building used to be encompassed in gold but the gold is now mostly inside. The exterior is coated with ornate teak carvings representing Buddhist myths.
When it comes to shopping, be sure to be on the look-out for souvenirs such as jewellery, handicrafts, Buddha figurines, tapestries, lacquer-ware with the Bagan style specially popular with tourists. As for cuisine, don't forget to dig into few of their local delicacies such as Lethok son - spicy vegetarian rice salad and Mohinga - Burmese fish soup with noodles, the national dish.
The stay options in Myanmar are abundant with the best luxury hotels, swanky apartments and cheap accommodations. The tourists will decide which kind they prefer based on their taste and requirements.
Myanmar is a tropical country and experiences three distinct seasons - winter, summer and monsoons. Summers are hot and humid, so it makes sense to visit during the winter season - from November to February when the temperatures are pleasant.