Myanmar is a country rich in history, culture, custom and tradition. It also has a number of tourist attractions, with many more unknown and yet undiscovered tourist attractions. Many of Myanmar’s popular tourist attractions are famous all over the world. The following is a brief description of some of Myanmar’s popular and famous tourist attractions.
Shwedagon Pagoda – Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Myanmar, Shwedagon is synonymous with Myanmar. Considered to be the oldest pagoda on Earth, it is the centre of Buddhism in Myanmar. The pagoda is believed to be covered in 30 tons of gold (some say 60 tons, no body knows the exact amount), with a large number of jewels buried inside the pagoda. There is also a collection of best Myanmar arts and crafts in Shwedagon as most of the shrines are decorated in best Myanmar sculptures and wood curving.
Bagan – Land of thousand pagodas. With more than 2,000 ancient pagodas scattered over and around the ancient capital of Myanmar, Bagan is perhaps the most visited place in Myanmar, and the reason most visitors come to Myanmar. It is the capital of the first Myanmar empire, and was believed to have been built in 9th century AD although Myanmar royal chronicles say it is built around 1st century AD. It became a very prosperous city and established itself as a capital of Myanmar during King Anawrahta (Anurudha) in 11th century AD. It stayed as the capital for more than 200 years until its destruction by Mongol invaders in 13th century AD. Many bagan kings, queens, princes and princes, nobles and ordinary citizens had built thousands of large and small pagodas, beautifully decorated in arts and mural paintings. Many of these magnificent pagodas and temples can still be seen in their glory. Recently, effort has been made to restore and rebuilt the ruined pagoda ans temples, but the new rebuilt structures are no where near the original ones, drawing a lot of criticism on the restoration works. You can see the best architecture and arts of ancient Myanmar which was never matched again in Myanmar history.
Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda – The Golden Rock, as it is known to foreigners, is a large natural rock, covered in gold, which stabilizes itself on the edge of a natural rock pillar. Legend was that a powerful hermit thousands of years ago put this rock on the pillar before his death, so that his followers could worship the rock in his place after his death. Nobody knows if the legend is true or not, but Kyaikhtiyo remains one of most sacred places in Myanmar. Many Buddhists, not only Burmese, but also Chinese, Thais, Laos and many other foreigners, believe the Rock holds magical power. Although the Rock lies at the edge of the rocky pillar, it does not fall down. It is claimed to be rockable from side to side a few centimeters. A small pagoda was built on top of the Rock. The Golden Rock of Kyaikhtiyo is open to visitors during the dry season, mainly during the cool season. It can be reached from Yangon (Rangoon) by bus or by car.
Mandalay – Being the last capital of Burmese kings, it is understandably the cultural capital of Myanmar. It was built by King Mindon of Konboun Dynesty in 1859 AD, and was ruled by two kings until its fall under British rule in 1885 (officially in 1st january 1886), during the reign of King Thibaw, the last king of Burma. Although no longer the capital of Myanmar, it is the second largest city in Myanmar, and still considered teh cultural center of Myanmar. Despite its dwindling number, hundreds of Myanmar traditional artists, sculptors, liquor ware artists, bronzesmiths and tapestry artists still live and work in Mandalay, practising their family trade, producing the best of Myanmar arts and crafts. Mahamuni, the most sacred Buddha Image in Myanmar is in Mandalay, as well as the famous stone inscription of Tri-pitaka at the base of Mandalay Hill.
Inle lake (Inlay) – A Sea in the mountains. A huge lake over Shan State Highland, it is the home to thousands of Inthas. Living in houses built over water, they live and die by the Lake. The lake is especially famous for its images of Inthas rowing boats with their feet. You can hire a boat and travel around the lake, visiting many villages in the lake as well as to the famous floating market (the real floating market for the real Inthas) and floating Phaungdawoo Pagoda. The pagoda festival is held once a year in end of September or early October with famous boat race of Inthas.
There are a number of tourist attractions other than the above list, but the above places will make the first time visitors happy.
If you are planning a trip to Myanmar (Burma), the guide book from lonely planet is a very helpful guide. It has detailed descriptions of places in Myanmar, as well as tips and advice on travelling, staying and eating. The lonely planet guidebook was run out of stocks in Bangkok since early this year (2009) and still out of stock in bookstores in Bangkok the last time I checked (September 2009). However, you can still buy the Myanmar (Burma) (Country Guide) from Lonely Planet at Amazon online.