Once in a lifetime

Magical Myanmar for the Traveler

Breathtaking world wonders wait in time-warped Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma, this almost forgotten ancient corner of Southeast Asia yields a concentration of Buddhist pagodas and monasteries festooned with maroon robed monks and delightful nuns in pink. There are artisanal villages still navigated by ox and horse carts and there are genuinely warm and welcoming people who have remained largely uncorrupted by mass tourism and fervent capitalism - for the time being.
The future is now for Myanmar - a country that has emerged after a long hibernation under a military dictatorship, and is now on the tenuous path to democracy and full of exuberance. Myanmar's "new-ness" is in part why it has become the destination du jour: attracting everybody from Barrack Obama to international capitalists after a piece of the pie, to travellers and adventurers far and wide eager to discover new lands.

Myanmar is re-discovering itself and changing fast, speeding to catch up to the 21st century. For tourists this is both good and cause for concern. The great charm of the country, or good deal of it, rests in its old world appeal. Modernization has its price, and while the influx of capital means better infrastructure in the works, it also means higher prices. Hotel prices have in two years tripled in many cases, and price hikes will not stop until enough new hotels come online.

What travellers should be aware of, is that most all U.S. and Euro travel agencies have NO presence in Myanmar, and hire the services of local Myanmar agencies to run their tours, while handing a significant mark-up to YOU, their loyal clients.

The best option is to find a Western run agency with offices in Myanmar and a professional travel network throughout the country. Not only will this save the traveller the cost of the mark-up, but will avail them of insider deals that agencies outside Myanmar simply are not in a position to negotiate.
Using a strictly Myanmar travel agency is also problematic, as Burmese English can be difficult to comprehend and too often things are lost in translation. In addition, few have advanced websites or can offer the ability to pay online.

Unique Burma Travel - What is Myanmar's Great Allure?

Perhaps it's starts in the imagination, with great literature. From George Scott's "The Burman" to Rudyard Kipling's "Mandalay" to George Orwell's "Burmese Days" to modern classics like "The Piano Tuner" and "The Trouser People", the country entices the imagination like no other.
Often referred to as the Golden Land for its tens of thousands of golden pagodas, Myanmar was a place of lore and mystery long before western writers grabbed hold. One prime example is the 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, which covered in 60 tons of gold and dominates the city skyline.
Beautiful Bagan was the world center of Theravadan Buddhism for a thousand years, at its height boasting some 13,000 temples and pagodas. Today over 2,000 pagodas and temples remain, and rival Cambodia's Angkor Wat in ambition and architectural brilliance, and Peru's Machu Picchu for 'wow' factor. Only without the massive crowds!

Bagan is a surreal experience, especially in the rising morning mists. Take a hot air balloon ride over the temples and have a picnic lunch at a secluded temple, then cruise down the legendary Irrawaddy River for another temple experience altogether.

Lake Inle is famous for its floating gardens and pagodas, as well as its Intha fishermen, who row their boats with one leg and fish by dropping conical baskets into the lake's shallow waters.
Mandalay, though a dusty trading center at first blush, is home to a marvellous array of ancient sites and modern cottage industries.

Myanmar river cruises range from 1 to 11 days, and extend all the north to near the Chinese border, and east to India. They can be had on the cheap, or in the lap of luxury harkening back to the old British Colonial days.

I could go on an on with fascination places to see and things to do, but the real magic of Myanmar lies in its People. They are warm and welcoming and full of fun, and in general you fall in love with them very quickly. And contrary to common belief, Burma is one of the safest places in the world to travel!
So why not liberate yourself from your mobile phone and the internet and discover a culture where holy men are more revered than rock stars. Drift down in an old river steamer, stake out a slice of beach on the blissful Bay of Bengal, or trek through pine forests to ethnic villages scattered across the Shan Hills.
Dig into the myriad dishes of the local cuisine, from a hearty bowl of Mohinga noodles for breakfast to the fermented tea-leaf mixture that's a popular finish to a Burmese meal. Burmese food done well is unique and wonderful.

Have cocktails at the posh Strand hotel where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book Jagger swaggered, or enjoy canap├ęs and tea sweetened with condensed milk at teahouses while shooting the breeze with locals.

Keep in mind that the long-suffering people are everything the regime was not. Gentle, humorous, engaging, considerate, inquisitive and passionate, they want to play a part in the world, and to know what you make of their world.

Yes this is Myanmar and it is magical - come with your mind open, and you'll leave with your heart full.
Bennett Stevens is the co-founder of Luminous Journeys, a joint U.S. / Myanmar venture dedicated solely to authentic travel and learning experiences in Myanmar.
"With the country opening up my Burmese partner and I saw a rare opportunity to combine skills and backgrounds to help foster a conscientious approach to Myanmar tourism, virtually from the ground up."

From Iconic Myanmar in style to premiere photo tours to adventure travel, river cruises, tropical beaches & elephant safaris, Luminous Journeys has you covered. Nobody Does Burma Better. http://www.luminousjourneys.net/iconic-myanmar-tour-mandalay/