Burma - Mountains, Beaches & Stupas
Famous for its many temples Bagan in the Mandalay region of Burma, is an ancient city located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River in the country's central dry zone. During the summer months temperatures soar here. Back in the 9th Century Bagan was the Capital of the Kingdom of Pagan. From the 11-13th Centuries more than 10,000 Buddhist religious sites were built in the Bagan plains and today the remains of more than 2,000 of these historic temples and pagodas survive. This is the largest and most concentrated area of Buddhist sites in the world and of great historical and archaeological interest.
A spectacular and romantic way to enjoy the views of Bagan is to take a hot air balloon trip at dawn and enjoy the sunrise. It's best to visit the temples during the morning before the heat of the day sets in. An afternoon siesta will prepare you for your evening visit to the small night market where there are local goods on sale and live music and entertainment.
Inle Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake 900 m above sea level in the Shan state of Myanmar. It is a stretch of water 22km long and 10 km wide and the second largest lake in Myanmar. Many minorities live in the area, directly on and around the lake you will encounter the Intha people. The Intha fishermen are known for their unique leg rowing. They stand at the stern of the boat on one leg and wrap the other leg around the oar. This practise developed because of the density of reeds and plants in the lake. The Intha women roll cigars and weave. 'Intha'means 'children of the lake'.
The area is a wildlife sanctuary and thousands of waterbirds migrate here or use the waters as a breeding area. Some are rare species you are unlikely to find elsewhere. December and January are the best times for bird watching. On the North Bank of Inle Lake is the town of Nyang Shwe. Two main attractions in Nyang Shwe are the Cultural Museum and the Royal Palace of Sahn Saw Bwar. A bridge crossing takes you to a magnificent stupa completely clad in mirror tiles and 3 km outside of town you can visit the Red Mountain Winery and enjoy beautiful sunset views.
There is also a market in the town every 5 days where women from local hill tribes of the Inle region come to sell crafts and produce. Most of the communities are devout Buddhists who live in simple wooden or woven bamboo houses on stilts.
Set in tranquil rural Burma, Ngapali Beach, fringed by coconut palm trees extends for 3km of white sand coastline along the turquoise waters of the Bay of Bengal. Untainted by modern development, Burma's popular coastal resort is another highlight on the redspokes cycle tour. People come here to relax, swim, snorkel and fish in beautiful surroundings. Situated 7km from the ancient sea port town of Thandwe, Ngapali comprises a series of stretches of sand between which you will find small fishing communities where fish, shrimp and coconut hang out to dry in the sun.
There are opportunities for pony rides along the beach. The area can be explored on foot, by bicycle or you can take a ride in a trishaw pedalled by local villagers, and see local markets where crafts, weaving and pottery are sold. Motorised fishing boats offer trips around the local islands including a black sand islet. Away from the coast you can walk in the hills with lake and reservoir areas, the habitat for local wildlife.
You will have ample opportunities to sample freshly caught seafood in the local restaurants.
Yangon also referred to as Rangoon (meaning "End of Strife") is a former capital of Myanmar (Burma) and the principal city of the Yangon region. Yangon grew from the small 11th C fishing village: Dagon in the area directly around the Shwedagon Pagoda. According to legend the Pagoda itself was built during the time of the Buddha. Today it is the country's largest city with a population of over five million. Yangon is a mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences. British colonial occupation led to the development of parks, lakes and buildings in addition to the traditional wooden architecture, in an area known as "the garden city of the East". In addition to this are modern high rise developments and shanty town quarters.
Bogyoke Aung San covered Market (Scott Market) is a huge indoor area where can find a variety of traditional handicrafts and souvenirs.
Yangon's circular train is a 'sight' in itself. Buy your ticket at the office on platform 7 in the Central Railway Station or at any circular train station. Choose a clockwise or anti clockwise journey. Prepare for three hours on a hard wooden seat, whilst the locals will be a curiosity to you and you to them cherry sellers will step on and off the moving train with a bowl of cherries on their head to tempt you with their fruit.