Golden pagodas, smiling people, brave monks and sunrise over the temple city of Bagan - Burma is beautiful, touching and one of the most photogenic places on the planet.
1. Give alms to the monks at sunrise
Buddhist monks are an integral part of Burmese society. From their ancient role as educators and spiritual leaders to the inspirational “saffron revolution”, monks are everywhere you turn. Forbidden to earn money, monks rely on food donated each day. Each dawn, hundreds of people line the streets to fill the monks bowls with rice, vegetables and fruit. A beautiful and moving spectacle, giving alms is a “must do” for me on each visit.
2. Visit Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
The 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the symbols of Burma. Despite being on the trail of every visitor to Yangon, it is well worth visiting. The great spire rises above the surrounding city, its thick coating of gold made up of tens of thousands of individual offerings of tissue thin gold leaf. Despite the crowds, you can still find a quiet corner. Savvy guides know the quietest times and will schedule around them.
3. See the sun rise over the temples of Bagan
The temple city of Bagan is justifiably one of the wonders of the world. Sprawling out across a dusty plain, the elegant pagodas are especially beautiful at dusk or dawn. Standing on the same spot as Marco Polo once did, witnessing a sight almost unchanged since his day as the sun rose behind the spires is something I will never forget.
4. Ride in a foot paddled boat on Inle Lake
Inle Lake supports a unique way of life largely unchanged for hundreds of years. From floating vegetable gardens and Buddhist temples to cheroot factories, it offers a glimpse into rural Burma and the lives of thousands of Burmese. Watching a man paddle his boat using only one leg in a sinuous motion is truly remarkable, and dusk on the lake reveals a scene still untouched by the modern world.
Burmese people are amazing. They are gentle but brave, happy in the face of what is often great hardship, and their long, vibrant culture still remains relatively unscathed by the outside 21st century. Make the time to get to know the local people and they will reward you with unfailing hospitality, generosity and inspiration.
Rush Expeditions runs tours to Burma each year. Our next trip is in January 2015, and with $500 off all tours to South East Asia booked before December 31, 2014, there is no better time to experience the "golden land"! Book now!