Making My Way Through Myanmar

May 19, 2019 Avatar Susanne Hamer Susanne Hamer
Myanmar in Southeast Asia was a destination I wanted to go back to since my last visit there over 30 years ago. I arrived in Bangkok through Eva Air after initially leaving from Los Angeles and transferring in Taipei. After staying overnight at a hotel near the airport, I took a short one-hour flight to Yangon in the morning and was met by a tour representative who escorted me to where I was staying for the night.

The property was lovely and surrounded by gardens, lily ponds, a croquet lawn, and a pool. It has been kept in the original style, and the new wings are modeled after the original building, making it a true oasis in a very busy city.

In the evening, we visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, one it the most impressive Buddhist religious sites in Myanmar and Asia.

The next morning, we took a short one-hour flight to Bagan, home of over 2,000 pagodas, and some date as far as the 11th century. This was the highlight of my last trip, and I was relieved to see that not much had changed, especially in and around the walled city where the pagodas are situated.

After a short drive, we arrived at the dock for our four-day Belmond river cruise.

We had lunch on board, and, in the afternoon, we visited the Ananda temple, which was built in the 11th century and contained four original gilded Buddha statues. Each one was over 30 feet tall! Bagan is also home to Myanmar’s lacquerware workshops; it’s a very ancient art where all the pieces are made by hand and take weeks to produce.

Early next morning, we left by horse and cart for a sunrise ride through old Bagan, ancient pagodas, and temples.

Over the next few days, we sailed down the Irrawaddy River and stopped at local villages and temples. We visited different religious sites as well as local markets. We cruised along the river with a final stop in Mandalay, an ancient trading city between India and China that is still prosperous today and the second-largest city in Myanmar, and visited local arts and crafts workshops such as woodcraft, silk weaving, and bronze casting, in which everything is done by hand.

Mandalay is also home to the largest community of Buddhist monks and nuns with hundreds of monasteries.

After our river cruise came to an end, we took a short flight to Heho Inle Lake. I did not know what to expect; all I knew was that it was the most prosperous state in Myanmar as well as the agricultural center of the area. The lake is surrounded by mountains, and they call it the Switzerland of Myanmar.

I was amazed that everything is built on stilts and whole communities live on the water. Agriculture is done hydroponically, and fishermen steer their boats with one foot. It’s home to many different hill tribes as well as a local tribe where the ladies wear neck rings as a symbol of beauty.

This trip was an amazing experience from beginning to end.
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Susanne Hamer, one of our Los Angeles based travel agents, is an expert on all things Myanmar.