3 Things to Love About Myanmar
Quick – name five countries in Asia.
Myanmar probably wasn’t first, or even fifth, on your list, but just because it isn’t as well-known as some of its neighbors (China, Malaysia, and Thailand among them), that certainly doesn’t mean it lacks impressive architecture, unique culture, delicious cuisine, or breathtaking landscapes. Here are just three reasons why you shouldn’t overlook this country when planning a trip to Asia.
Shwedagon Pagoda is far and away Myanmar’s most famous attraction. Located atop the 114-acre (46-hectare) Singuttara Hill in the country’s capital of Yangon, the 2,500-year-old pagoda is approximately 325 feet (99 meters) tall, covered in gold, and encrusted with diamonds that make it shimmer in the sunlight and twinkle at night. However, it’s much more than just a pretty sight – it’s also the most religiously symbolic Buddhist shrine in the country. The pagoda houses a number of holy relics, including strands of Buddha’s hair. The relics are all splendidly displayed in golden, bejeweled cases that serve two purposes: keeping them safe while simultaneously honoring their significance.
To reach the platform at the top of the pagoda, you’ll need to take one of the covered walkways accessible at the northern, southern, eastern, and western entrances. The choice is yours! At the southern entrance, you’ll be greeted by statues of two 18-foot-high (5.5-meter) chinthe – mythical beasts that stand guard at many of the country’s shrines. If you elect to climb the eastern stairway, you’ll pass monasteries and vendors selling images of the Buddha, flowers, and other wares to pilgrims and tourists. Those who would rather steer clear of vendors altogether should head for the western entrance. If you’re looking to avoid stairs, however, the western entrance has escalators and the southern and northern options both have elevators.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Myanmar without indulging in the local noodle dishes. Shan State, which borders Thailand, Laos, and China, may make the best – and undeniably the spiciest! – noodles in Myanmar, although people from the other regions would probably disagree. If your travels don’t take you outside of Myanmar’s capital, you can sample the noodles at Shan Noodle Shop near Yangon City Hall. Those who plan to head to Shan State in search of this famous dish should be sure to visit Nyaungshwe Township in the Taunggyi District while they’re in the region. The stunning Inle Lake is situated in this area, and it’s an attraction that’s not to be missed!
Located in the heart of the Shan Plateau, Inle Lake is about 13 miles long and 6 miles wide (21 kilometers long and 9.6 kilometers wide). Every year, the lake hosts a leg rowing festival that celebrates the indigenous Intha population’s unique way of propelling their small, wooden boats. At the center of the festivities is a golden barge holding four Buddhas, but that’s by no means the only sight to see. There are also fireworks, magic shows, a colorful lakeside market and numerous Buddhist shrines and monasteries surrounding the water.
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