Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a gem in Southeast Asia’s crown. Recent political opening has paved the way for increased tourism, and we were lucky to visit before too much has changed. In a country where cell-phone usage was rare as of two years ago, it’s still a very authentic Asian experience, and a place where locals enjoy interacting with visitors: we are as much a novelty to them as they are to us.
Our travels with our local partner Destination Asia, included Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, Mandalay, its second largest and a monastic center, Bagan, home to more than 9000 Buddhist temples, and Inle Lake, one of the more unique ecosystems we’ve ever encountered.
Flying on Emirates via Dubai, we arrived in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) full of anticipation. Bustling, home to 5 million residents, this is a city on the move. Looking at the skyline, new high rises are evident, so now its colonial buildings are interspersed with some modernity. It’s a key Buddhist pilgrimage destination as thousands make their way daily to the Shwedagon Pagoda complex, a truly impressive sight, as much for its bejeweled pagodas as for the devotion shown by the faithful. Fun fact: No one here has any idea what “Crab Rangoon” is; clearly it’s a western invention!