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Perhaps unsurprising, given its thousands of shimmering pagodas, Myanmar is often called “the golden land”. This moniker is not only limited to grand stupas covered in gold leaf by Buddhist devotees; it also refers to the rich experiences visitors enjoy, the generosity of spirit and extraordinary warmth of the Myanmar people. Moreover, it points to the nation’s wealth of cultural heritage, largely untapped, like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Such is Myanmar’s beauty and exoticism that 1898 Rudyard Kipling wrote in his “Letter from the East” (using its former designation), “This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.”
The city of Yangon was founded by King Alaungphaya in the 18th century. Formerly the administrative capital of the country, the metropolis remains the top commercial hub in Myanmar, with the port and the international airport as its main point of entry. The national pride of Yangon is the world famous Shwedagon Pagoda, said to be one of the oldest in Asia. Besides the many pagodas, the National Museum and Bogyoke Market also enable visitors to come closer to embracing the Myanmar cultureYangon has a wonderful array of colonial-era buildings to explore. The best way to discover them, and the downtown area (especially Chinatown) is on foot.
Mandalay was the last royal city before Myanmar was colonized by Britain in 1885. The whole magnificent palace complex was devastated during World War II. That said, the moat, palace walls with city gates and wooden pavilions give an imposing and evocative impression of the royal era. Within the palace grounds, there is a museum and replica model of Mandalay Palace. Still considered the center of Burmese culture, Mandalay is the economic hub of Upper Myanmar and this thriving city is the second largest in the country. Mandalay’s intimate proximity to the Ayeyarwady River means a visit the city isn’t complete without spending some time on the water.
It is one of the prettiest places in Myanmar, it is also one of the most untouched beaches in the world, with miles of pure white sands skirting the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean.