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7 Reasons To Go To Myanmar Now

For decades, Myanmar has isolated itself from western eyes. The junta-controlled country began to open to tourism in 1996, but its use of forced labor and the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi led to international economic sanctions and an unofficial tourism boycott.
Now though, things are changing for the better.  Aung San Suu Kyi is free, the country’s opening up to the west, and an official visit by Hilary Clinton recognizes the Junta’s efforts to bring Myanmar — often called Burma — into the modern world.  Myanmar is finally ready for its moment in the spotlight – and it can be an ideal destination for your next travel plan.

Here are eight reasons why you should visit Burma now.

1. Because It Is Off The Beaten Path
Decades of tourism development in Asia has made it harder and harder to feel a thrill of exploration. In Burma, that thrill comes back with a vengeance. As you explore, you’ll find that the path is yours to forge. Without a major tourism industry, everything feels exciting and new, and the only time you’ll see another tourist is at your hostel. It’s easy to feel as if you’re the first tourist the country has ever seen, and that’s a feeling you won’t soon forget. 
You Can Learn To Do This
2. Bagan’s Temples Are Beautiful
Bagan, a centuries old religious capital of ancient empires and home to bygone emperors, is a 26 square mile plain of over 4000 temples. To really understand its vastness, you need to hop on a hot air balloon, available only between October and March every year, and float with the breeze across the plain. Outside of balloon season, a view across Bagan is a short pre-sunrise horse and cart journey away to Shwesandaw Paya – the ironically named “Sunset Pagoda.”. Waiting for you at the top is an uninterrupted vista, with temples big and small stretching to the horizon, all being gently tickled awake by the warm light of the rising sun. 
 
 Ancient Time of Bagan
3. Mandalay Is Full Of Life
Mandalay. Its heavily romanticized name conjures an ethereal sense of calm, romance, and serenity, but the reality couldn’t be more different. It’s a city of wild disarray. Diesel fumes fill the air and old colonial buildings line the bustling streets. All around, decades of paint peel from walls, turning the city into a giant patchwork of colour. Off of the main streets is where you’ll see life. Down one street, people playing Chinlone – Burma’s national sport. Down another, vast abandoned shopping malls, remnants of a tourism boom that never came. Down a third, a sea of street food, snacks, and market stalls. There’s no predicting what’s round the corner and you’ll find yourself wandering for hours in a fascinated stupor.
 
 Mandalay
4. You Won’t Get Overcharged
With almost 90% of people identifying as Buddhist in Burma, the country is extremely devout. Perhaps because of strong Buddhist beliefs in fairness to all people, the idea of a “tourist price” is relatively rare. Ask any local how much a journey should cost, and nine times out of 10, that is the first price offered by a driver. In souvenir markets where price gouging is expected, starting prices are surprisingly reasonable, stall owners are keen to bargain, and tend to avoid the strong arm bargaining tactics used elsewhere in Asia. 
 
5. You Can Learn To Do This
 
If you’ve seen photos of Burma, chances are you’ll have seen an image of an Intha leg rower – a usually a man or boy – with his leg wrapped around a paddle and steering a boat laden with fishing nets on Inle lake. When you come across a leg rower on your tour of the lake, watch as they use both hands to untangle nets or prepare bait, while steering and powering themselves along using their leg. No straps, no motor, just balance and practice. They move so quickly and so efficiently you can’t help but wonder why leg rowing didn’t catch on elsewhere. 

6. The Silk Is Homemade
The stilt village of In Phaw Khone in the middle of Inle Lake is the only place in the world where people spin thread from lotus root fibres. Standing in the workshop, you can watch craftsmen expertly turn lengths of sticky brown root into some of the most valuable and sacred fibres on earth. It is a painstaking process, taking over two months of labour to produce just one kilo of fibre. That rare fibre is then used to create reams of fabric and robes, generally given as gifts of devotion to Burma’s monks. Of course, lotus fibre fabric and clothes are available for sale but because of the amount of labour involved and the rarity of the raw materials, they don’t come cheap. 

 
7. Shwedagon Paya Glitters
At over 2500 years old, Shwedgaon Paya is the oldest buddhist pagoda in the world. Inside it rest relics of the last four buddhas: Kakusandha’s staff, Konagamana’s water filter, a fragment of Kassapa’s robe, and a few strands of Gautama’s hair. These elements make Shwedagon Paya the most sacred site in Burma, a place that all Burmese Buddhists dream of visiting once in their lifetime. Step inside and the first thing you’ll see is gold. Everywhere. Every spire, every rooftop, every detail is covered in gold. It glitters in the morning light, glows as if lit by an inner fire during the day and absorbs the deep red of the sky at sunset. It is at once raucous and serene. In its many individual temples, groups and individuals kneel in silent prayer. In the main area, children dressed in ceremonial fineries with faces ornately painted, are held on the shoulders of their fathers. Behind them follow a long line of family, friends, and musicians, all part of a child’s ordination into the monkhood. A dream come true for many Burmese.
 Myanmar_shwedagon_pagoda
 
 Source: sisterstoursvn
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