Yangon is the most exotic of all Southeast Asian cities. A walk down a typical street, the sights show noticeable commercial and traffic signs written mostly in local alphabet, not to mention the appearance of wandering monks in burgundy robes and the gilded pagodas as this is expected in this Buddhist country, and down to the locals keeping up their appearances. According to local legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was built during the time of the Buddha and the area around the pagoda, modern Yangon has been settled since then. The famous cityscapes are Shwedagon Pagoda, colonial era buildings, Bogyoke Market (Scott Market), Kandawgyi Lake, Inya Lake, Sule Pagoda, Botahtaung Pagoda, Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Image, Kabar Aye Pagoda. Yangon is the biggest gateway of Myanmar.
GOLDEN ROCK; Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, over 1100 m above sea-level, is situated about 160 km (a 5 hour drive) from Yangon. It is one of the most visited places in Myanmar. This mystical pagoda stands on a gilded boulder precariously perching on the edge of the cliff and it seems to be standing against the force of gravity. According to legend this boulder was placed here in ancient times by the supernatural King of the Deva, a powerful being in Burmese mythology. Some say it is kept balanced by a delicately placed Buddha’s hair inside the stone. Pilgrims make the 11km climb up the hairpin path from the base of the mountain (Kinpun village) but you can take a one hour drive up in one of the authorized shuttle trucks to a terminus near the top. The trucks are fitted out with bench seats in the open trays, a typically Myanmar adventure.
Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest City, is located 668 km north of Yangon. Established as the royal capital 1857 by King Mindon it remained the site of the nation’s court only until 1885 when the colonizing British exiled the last royal ruler of Myanmar, King Thibaw, to India. Mandalay remains the center of Myanmar culture and traditional arts and crafts. Overlooking the city is the famous Mandalay Hill, a climb of 236 meters, but unless you wish to perform a pilgrimage on foot, which many do by climbing more than 700 steps, you can reach the top and enjoy the spectacular view. Just near the foot of the hill Kyauktawgyi Buddha Image – commissioned from a single block of marble mined nearby in the 19th century. A more revered pagoda – the Mahamuni Pagoda which houses a tall Buddha image encrusted with a two inch thick layer of gold. A visit to the Royal Palace will convey a strong sense of the lifestyle of the last kings of Myanmar. Unfortunately the original palace was destroyed by bombing in World War II and the current life size complex of highly decorated buildings is a replica. Monasteries are the lifeblood of the city and three at least are worth a visit, Golden Palace Monastery, Atumashi Monastery and Shwenandaw Monastery. Mandalay is the center of Myanmar’s traditional arts of teak carving, intricate brass ornamentation, the making of gold leaf, marble sculpting, silk production and luxurious fabric weaving, as well as silver smiting, puppet making and tapestry. Its many artisan workshops are a fascinating attraction. Be prepared to fall in love with exquisite and unique artifacts. Two nights in Mandalay will allow time to enjoy the all major sights. Cruises from Mandalay to Bagan on the Ayeyarwaddy River offer a leisurely but engaging journey through picturesque scenery, past water villages and the sight of many golden stupas glinting in the sun on the nearby hills.
Monywa is situated 136 km north west of Mandalay on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River. It is the major trade center for India and Myanmar through Kalay Myo’s road and Chindwin River. Before reach Monywa, there is the magnificent, Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda, a Buddhist temple with a huge stupa resembling Indonesia’s Borobudur. Bodhi Tataung Pagoda with one thousand Boo Trees and Buddha Images, biggest Standing Buddha Image in the world and a huge Reclining Buddha Image with 95 meter long. Across the Chindwin River and 25 km from west of Monywa, Po Win Taung and Shwe Ba Taung cave pagodas, where the entire mountain was carved into caves niches staircases and Buddha Images, was built between 14th and 18th centuries.
Sagaing is situated 21 km south west of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Sagaing is known as a meditation center and the land of many prominent pagodas, temples and monasteries. Famous sightseeing around Sagaing; Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda and U Min Thonze Pagoda (30 caves pagoda) and Kaunghmudaw Pagoda.
Mingun is located on the western bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, 11 km north of Mandalay. It is famous for many Buddhist shrines, monuments of historical and cultural importance of 18th century. Highlights around Mingun are Mingun Pahtodawgyi (famous unfinished temple), Mingun Bell which is the world’s biggest ringing and Mya Thein Dan Pagoda.
Inwa was formerly known as Ava and it is located 22 km from Mandalay at the confluence of the Ayeyarwaddy and Myit Nge Rivers. It was firstly founded as a capital by King Thado Min Bya in 1364 A.D. Highlights around Inwa; Mahaaungmye Bon Zan Monastery (Me Nu Oak Kyaung), built with brick and stucco by the queen Me Nu in 1818, Nanmyint Tower (historical palace tower), Grand Bargaya Monastery.
Bagan is a plain in the middle of Myanmar, covering a tract of country measuring about 16 square miles along the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The monuments which are now in all stages of decay were erected mostly from the 11th to 13th centuries A.D, when Bagan was the seat of the Myanmar dynasty. The typical Bagan Style temples are bright and airy within, with imposing plan and height. But there are also some temples with intermediate forms. The end of the thirteenth century witnessed the fall of the Bagan dynasty. Thousands of pagodas were despoiled by the invaders and vandals and the king, who fled from the Chinese, is believed to have dismantled a considerable number of the monuments to collect materials for building forts. Since then the great mass of the religious edifices were left to decay and ruin and today we see no more than a hundred splendid monuments which attract and retain attention and since their foundation, have remained places of worship. Besides the scenery of archaeological value, Bagan has a lot of other things to offer such as lacquer ware, local market explore and hot air balloons over Bagan.
Inle Lake is famous for its unique Leg Rowers, floating villages and colorful markets held once in five days at village around the Inle Lake in interesting being full of pageantry and colorful splendor. Here, villages are built on stills over the lake waters and boats are the sole means of transport. Inle Lake is located in the Shan State and nestled amidst hazy blue mountains about 30 km to the south of Taunggyi. This vast beautiful picturesque lake 900 meter above sea-level, it is one of the main tourist attraction in Myanmar.
Mrauk – U was once the capital of the powerful Rakhine Kings the archaeological remains in Rakhine (Arakan), as we now see them, date chiefly from the 15th and 16th centuries. It stands at Aung Dat creak about 50 miles (80 Km) from the mouth of Kaladan River where modern capital Sittwe lies. One can get to Mrauk- U by a government ferry boat or by hiring a chartered boat which will take 5 to 6 hours voyage from Sittwe. Andaw Thein Pagoda, (meaning the tooth relic of Buddha) was built by King Min Hla Raza in 1,521 to enshrine a tooth relic brought from Sri Lanka by King Minbin. The pagoda is situated near the Shitthaung Temple. Like other pagodas and temples it is on a small hillock. The shrine is a hollow octagonal structure made of pure sand stone blocks. There are two internal concentric passages and a prayer hall on the east. Fifteen small circular pagodas, built of bricks stand on the platforms of south, north and west. This eight sided temple has small windows like the Shitthaung Temple which admit light and ventilation. In the innermost core, an eight-sided pillar supports the roof. We can still observe its unique stone carvings and floral designs. Shitthaung Pagoda or “temple of the 80,000 Buddhas” is located about half a mile to the north of the palace site. It was constructed in commemoration of the successful defense against Portuguese attack in 1,535 by King Minbin, one of the most powerful Kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty. The most impressive feature of the massive Shitthaung Temple is that it houses 80,000 Buddhas Images. Its interior walls are engraved with over 1,000 Buddhist figures. The skill and art displayed in its construction and ornamentation seen today are remarkable. We can observe the unique maze-like layout plan of the temple. Due to this curious plan of the temple, some foreigners remarked that the Temple was built alike a fortress. It was constructed like rock cave tunnel by using 6 feet thick solid sand stones. Amazingly, the stones were connected with stone brackets using no mortar at all. Koethaung Pagoda Standing on a plain of rice fields is the Koethaung Pagoda; the name means 90,000 and probably signified the number of Buddha images it was supposed to contain. It was built by King Min Taikkha, the son of King Min Bin who built the Shitthaung or temple of 80,000 images, so the son exceeded the father by 10,000! It is the biggest pagoda in the Mrauk-U area. Like the Shitthaung, this pagoda is also a massive fortress-like structure built with stone walls and terraces. There are 108 smaller pagodas surrounding it, all made of sandstone. With a winding corridor it is like a cave tunnel which you have to traverse until you reach the central chamber. The inner gallery has collapsed and is no longer accessible. There is an octagonal pagoda in the middle surrounded by over one hundred smaller pagodas. Unlike some of the other temples, not only sandstone, but bricks were also used in this pagoda. Dukkanthein standing on a hillock 100 metres to the north west of Shitthaung Temple was constructed by King Min Phalaung in 1,571. It was once used as an Ordination Hall but now it is one of the well-known pagodas in Mrauk U. Dukkanthein includes simple dome-shaped stupas, which stand atop receding terraces over a large sanctuary and two stone stairways on the east and south. There is a long vaulted passageway, which leads to the central shrine. There we can observe two cloisters which house 146 niches with Buddha Images and sandstone relief depicting 64 different types of ancient hairstyles. Before visiting any other place in Mrauk U, priority should be given to the ruins of the inner palace city where the Royal palace once stood magnificently. The palace is surrounded by three wall encirclement. When Mong Saw Mon started buildings the palace, underground canals were first dug, then stone walls were erected and finally the three hills were leveled down. Some of the canals that carried off the water to the Thinghanadi creek to the south of the palace can still be found. The area of the whole palace was 1.2 square miles and the walls were originally made of brick. King Mong Ba Gree reinforced the palace walls with a new structure of stone in 1,531. The high of the walls to day averages 12ft and thickness runs about 7ft. Three sites of the palace are guarded with moats. Pitakataik which lies close to Htupayon Pagoda and south of Shinkite wall was built by King Mong Phalaung. It was square in plan with an entrance passage to the east like others pagoda in Mrauk U. Built entirely with stone; the outer walls are decorated with ornate floral and geometric design. It is said that there were 33 Pitakataiks, built in Mrauk U. The little library or Pitaka-taik, the Repository for the Buddhist scriptures was built in 1591 also by King Min Phalaung. It measures only 14 feet from east to west, 10 feet from north to south and is only 9 feet in height. Built entirely of stone there are lovely designs on the outer walls making it look like a tiny jeweled casket shaped like a blooming lotus.
Myeik is located on the southern part of the Myanmar and composted of cover 800 islands. Visit some island like Zat Det Nge Island to see sea gypsies, Poni Island for snorkel, 115 Island for swimming and walking, Lampi Island for kayak.
Taunggyi is the capital of Shan State in Eastern Myanmar. It is home of a large number of traditional ethnic tribes. Taunggyi is famous for Fire Balloon Festival which held each year. Taunggyi is a pine hill station which provides a cool break from the heat of the plains. Taunggyi is 1500 m above sea level.