Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country stuck in time, where people still dress in traditional costumes, observe ancient customs, and treat strangers with a gentle kindness that is a rarity in today’s fast-paced world. Until recently, Myanmar was cut off from the rest of the world due to sanctions imposed against its repressive regime. Now, a new government has ushered in a spirit of reform, and visitors are free to visit and fall in love with its extensive history, kind people, deep spirituality, and fascinating topography. With its treasure-trove of ancient Bagan temples and fascinating wildlife, Myanmar could be your Shangri-La.
The best way to experiene the daily rythyms here is on a cruise of the legendary Irrawaddy River, the country’s most important commercial waterway. When you do so with Vantage you will travel aboard a brand-new all-suite luxury vessel, the RV Irrawaddy Explorer, relishing the uptmost in comfort and style.Take advantage of an unobstructed view to take photos of exotic plants and wildlife, or merely watch the stunning landscape go by.
Now one of Myanmar’s most popular destinations, the vast plains of Bagan was once home to 13,000 temples and pagodas. Though only 4,000 still remain, they are still stupendous to behold, and many are in the process of being restored to their former 11th-century glory.
With its 360-degree view of the temples and surrounding area, Shwesandaw Paya is the most famous pagoda in Myanmar. Climbing this pagoda requires some stamina and care because the stairs are quite steep, but once you reach the top, you’ll experience the same vantage point that the early monks did hundreds of years ago.
Schwezigon Paya, a shimmering gold pagoda, is the main religious site in Bagan, while Ananda Phaya is the most revered and best preserved. As you enter the structure, you are greeted by 9-foot-tall golden Buddhas who offer good fortune to all who approach. The Sulamani Pahto dates back to the 12th century and contains several well-preserved drawings on its walls. You can still get close enough to see these frescoes, which are covered in Burmese script and drawings of Buddha and elephants. This attraction is worth the visit alone. Not many visitors have had the privilege of seeing these ancient walls, so you could be part of a select group of people who have had the opportunity to view these relics.
Yangon and Mandalay
In the town of Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) is Shwedagon Paya, whose original temple structure was built in the 6th century by monks; however, it has grown many times since then. If you are lucky enough to visit this temple at sunset, watch as it takes on a new face when the sun casts shadows over the glowing building. This is the perfect place to find your Zen.
With 1.5 million people, Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and was the last royal capital of Burma. Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Road to Mandalay, written in 1890, recounts his adventures in the city including encounters with flying fish and statues of Buddha. Perhaps this region will inspire your inner poet as well.
Topography and Wildlife
As you travel through Myanmar, you’ll pass towering mountains and lush lowlands covered in a subtropical evergreen rain forest. Every turn you take brings you face to face with beauty unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Playful Irrawaddy dolphins and menacing saltwater crocodiles will flank your boat while you travel down the river. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to spot a host of other animals such as spot-billed pelicans, tigers, Burmese pythons, sand plovers, leopards, and sea turtles.
As you make your way to shore, be sure not to miss out on the local markets. Wind your way through the various stalls and peruse the fruits, vegetables, and fish for sale. Along with a friend or two, shop for keepsakes to keep your memories of this area fresh for years to come. Or, bring home some spices so you can recreate the exotic meals you’ve experienced during your time abroad.
Take advantage of this unique opportunity to tour a country that has been largely inaccessible to the rest of the world. Its history, wildlife, and architectural structures are something to behold. Pack your bags and enjoy an all-encompassing river cruise to bring you through a country with a wealth of attractions ripe for exploration.