There are still places in the world where each and every one you meet on the streets, be it children, fishermen, monks or merchants, they give you a kind and sincere smile. Myanmar is one of those places.
Yangon, ancient capital of the kingdom, serves as a starting point to travel to the spectacular ancient city of Bagan. This is where the lovely experience of navigating the Ayeyarwady River aboard the Belmond Road to Mandalay begins. This emblematic boat has been operating in Myanmar for almost two decades. Belmond’s extensive experience in the country allowed us to visit the most important places, as well as beautiful hidden gems.
At the beginning of this trip, I wasn’t able to imagine the unique and spectacular experiences that awaited us along the way. Thousands of spectacular temples (more than 2,500 in Bagan, to give an example), local markets, traditions that remain intact, and to top it all off, the incredible hospitality, cuisine and service that we were able to enjoy aboard the Belmond Road to Mandalay.
Right after the end of the rainy season, the country shone in all its splendour, with beautiful landscapes, lots of festivals and different celebrations. Bagan is undoubtedly a must. If you have the time, you should spend some time in the market, which is full of local life, with stalls offering excellent vegetables, fabrics and savvy sellers of longyis (typical, very useful and beautiful attire, used by both men and women).
There are thousands of beautiful temples and stupas throughout Bagan and we discovered them in a very fun way the following day, driving on some nice e-bikes that allowed us to access remote and isolated spots, in the early hours of the morning.
On our first night and thanks to Belmond, we enjoyed a magical and exclusive experience: a beautiful hidden temple, illuminated by hundreds of candles where we were able to give our personal offerings.
Mingun is another essential stop, with interesting archaeological remains.
Our journey on board ended in the charismatic city of Mandalay and we arrived during the main days of offerings to the monks and the less fortunate. People from all parts of the region made a pilgrimage there to contribute what they can and offer it to the poorest monks and families. We lived a really special moment there, an act of true generosity.
In this journey full of contrasts, we also visited one of the most beautiful places in the country, Lake Inle. There, the pace of life is calm, allowing us to enjoy relaxed boat rides. The fishermen surprised us with their paddling skills, inherited from their parents and grandparents. They used their feet not only to row, but also to fish! The lifestyle in the lake is really exciting.
One of the main markets of the lake, in the state of Shan, offered us a unique experience. We were able to witness more than 50 different ethnic groups that come from the mountains and remote villages, to exchange their goods there. With different dialects and typical costumes, it was a really beautiful sight.
Fortunately, the lunar calendar was on our side and we were able to witness one of the most important celebrations at Lake Inle: a procession of boats carrying a Buddha figure from one town to another, all dressed in their best clothes. Our guide found the best location for us to see it. It was the finishing touch for the days at the lake.
The trip came to an end and the last stop was Yangon, a city steeped in history and with a wide variety of colonial buildings that took us back us to its glorious years, when the Sarkies brothers founded the emblematic hotel The Strand. Writers like Kipling used to go to the bar of this hotel, as well as The Savoy.
Myanmar captivated me with the authenticity of its people and its impressive history, archaeological remains and variety of landscapes. It’s a really appealing destination!