The once-isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar didn’t always go by its current name. In 1989, the name “Myanmar” replaced the more commonly known “Burma” by order of the government, and this fascinating nation is now commonly referenced by either of these monikers. It is truly a land of 2 names.
After decades of isolation, Myanmar has now opened their ports to tourism, allowing the curious and adventurous alike to visit a country virtually unchanged by Western influence. A feast for the senses, Myanmar prides itself on ancient temples, unspoiled rainforests and the charm of the people who have inhabited this great land for thousands of years. Sitting on the Andaman Sea, Myanmar has several ports of entry. However, the most popular way to visit is on a river cruise.
Why a river cruise? Imagine winding your way through dense rainforests with a new and amazing discovery waiting around each bend. Visualize silently sailing up a tropical river, and seeing an ancient Buddhist temple appear through the mist.
A Viking river cruise, one of the first lines to serve this emerging tourist destination, starts in the busy international port of Bangkok, Thailand. Here you’ll get the chance to shake off your flight and explore some of Thailand’s most wondrous sites, like the Grand Palace (residence of the Emperor), jewel markets and the famous floating market. Next, you are whisked away to Yangon (Rangoon), the former capital of Myanmar, for the starting point of your river voyage into the interior of the country.
Before sailing on, you’ll see some of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating temples, such as Shwedagon Pagoda, where Buddhist monks move about this storied stupa thought to be over 2,500 years old. Your voyage continues up the Irrawaddy River to Pyay to see an archeological site marking the center of the Pyu civilization and Thayetmyo, famous for the British colonial post that was once there. You’ll also visit Minhla and enjoy views from Gwechaung Hill before sailing to the fascinating cities of Magway, Bagan, Yandabo andAmarapura, which holds claim to the world’s longest teak bridge.
Your cruise ends in Myanmar’s most central city, Mandalay, where you can visit Mahamuni Pagoda and its famous gold-leaf statue of the Buddha. Along the way, you’ll experience all aspects of life in Myanmar, taste local cuisine prepared by master chefs onboard and learn about the rich history and culture of this magical and largely undiscovered part of Asia.
Myanmar, or “Burma,” as many still call it, is the perfect destination for someone looking for an enriching and unique pin to put on their map. Years of isolation have preserved one of the most unique and historically rich cultures in Asia. Now, thanks to the popularity of river cruising, you can see this wondrous place yourself.
By Karolina Shenton, The Cruise Web
Karolina Shenton has been in the travel industry for over a decade as The Cruise Web’s marketing and operations manager. In her free time she climbs Mount Kilimanjaro, dives with hammerhead sharks around Cocos Island or cruises with her family.
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