From Shwedagon Pagoda to Inle Lake: Discovering the Charms of Burma (part I)

General information about the geographical, political, and economical situation in Burma

Geographical information: Burma, also known as Myanmar, is located in Southeast Asia and is bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. It has a diverse landscape that includes mountains, forests, beaches, and rivers. The capital city is Naypyidaw, and the largest city is Yangon.

Political information: Burma has had a tumultuous political history and has been under military rule for much of its modern history. However, the country has made significant progress toward democratic reforms in recent years, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) currently holds a majority of seats in the parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a prominent figure in the country's political landscape.

Economic information: Burma is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, but it has experienced significant economic growth in recent years. The country's economy is largely driven by natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals, as well as agriculture. However, the country still faces significant challenges, including a lack of infrastructure and ongoing ethnic conflict in some regions.

The military conflict inside Myanmar

Burma has been in a state of political turmoil for many decades, marked by a complex web of ethnic, political, and economic conflicts. The military junta, which ruled the country with an iron fist for over 50 years, was dissolved in 2011, and a civilian government was established. However, the military still holds significant power in the country, and there have been frequent clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups, particularly in the border regions.

In February 2021, the military staged a coup and took power again, arresting and detaining civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader. This has sparked widespread protests and civil unrest, with the military using violent force to suppress dissent. The situation remains tense, and the international community has condemned the military's actions and called for the restoration of democracy in Burma.

Safety for Foreigners to Travel to Burma

The safety situation in Burma can vary depending on the region and the current political climate. While the country can generally be considered safe for foreign tourists, there are some areas where caution is advised, particularly in regions with ongoing conflict or military activity.

In addition, travelers should be aware of the current political situation in the country and any potential risks or safety concerns related to protests or demonstrations. It is recommended that tourists stay informed about current events and stay away from any areas where protests or political rallies are taking place.

It is also advisable to follow basic safety precautions such as avoiding dark or isolated areas at night, staying aware of your surroundings, and keeping an eye on your belongings. As with any travel destination, it is important to exercise common sense and caution and to be prepared for unexpected situations. It is possible to ensure greater safety for yourself if you turn to the services of local private tour guides in Yangon, who will plan the best route for you, think over logistics, and help in all everyday situations while traveling in Burma.

Tourism in Myanmar

Tourism in Myanmar has been growing steadily in recent years, with the number of international visitors increasing every year. In 2019, the country welcomed over 4 million tourists, with the majority coming from neighboring countries such as Thailand, China, and Malaysia.

The government of Myanmar has been actively promoting tourism as a means of economic development and has been making efforts to improve infrastructure and transportation within the country to make it easier for tourists to travel around. There has also been a focus on sustainable and responsible tourism practices in order to minimize negative impacts on the environment and local communities.

However, tourism in Myanmar has faced challenges in recent years due to the political situation and military conflict. Some travelers may be deterred by the human rights abuses and violence in certain parts of the country, and travel advisories from foreign governments may discourage tourism. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on tourism worldwide, including in Myanmar.

Local private tour guides in Myanmar

Hiring a local private tour guide in Myanmar on the PRIVATE GUIDE WORLD platform on when traveling in Burma has several advantages. Here are some of them:

  • Local Expertise: A private tour guide who is a local resident of Burma has a wealth of knowledge and insights about the country's culture, history, customs, and traditions. They can share with you hidden gems, local secrets, and off-the-beaten-track places that you may not discover on your own.
  • Personalized Experience: A private tour guide can tailor the itinerary to your specific interests, preferences, and travel style. They can also offer suggestions and recommendations on where to go, what to do, and what to eat based on your tastes and preferences.

  • Convenience: A private tour guide can handle all the logistics of your trip, such as transportation, accommodation, meals, and activities, saving you time, effort, and stress. They can also assist you with any language barriers, cultural differences, or unexpected situations that may arise during your trip.
  • Safety and Security: A private tour guide can provide you with insider knowledge and advice on how to stay safe and avoid common tourist scams, as well as help you navigate unfamiliar areas and situations with ease.
  • Support Local Economy: By hiring a local private tour guide, you are supporting the local economy and contributing to sustainable tourism development in Burma. It also gives you the opportunity to learn more about the local culture and way of life directly from the local people.

The cost of hiring a local tour guide in Burma can vary depending on various factors such as the duration of the tour, the guide's expertise, the number of people in the group, and the type of activities included in the tour. On average, the cost of hiring a private tour guide in Burma can range from $30 to $100 per day. It is recommended to negotiate the cost with the tour guide before starting the tour to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings later. Additionally, it is customary to tip the guide at the end of the tour usually around 10-15% of the total tour cost.

Requirements for a visa for foreign tourists in Burma

Foreign tourists traveling to Burma (Myanmar) are generally required to obtain a visa before their arrival. The specific visa requirements may vary depending on the country of origin, length of stay, and purpose of travel. However, here are some general requirements:

  1. Passport: A valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining is required to apply for a visa.
  2. Visa application form: The visa application form can be downloaded from the website of the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar or obtained from a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
  3. Photo: Two recent passport-sized photos are required for your visa application.
  4. Visa fee: The visa fee varies depending on the type of visa you are applying for and your nationality. The visa fee can be paid by cash, credit card, or bank draft.
  5. Supporting documents: Depending on the purpose of your travel, you may be required to submit additional documents such as a letter of invitation, travel itinerary, hotel reservations, and proof of sufficient funds to support your stay in the country.

It is recommended to contact the nearest Myanmar embassy or consulate in your home country for more detailed and up-to-date visa information and requirements.

Yangon City

Yangon, also known as Rangoon, is the largest city in Myanmar (Burma) and the former capital of the country. It is located in the southern part of Myanmar, on the east bank of the Yangon River, and is home to over 7 million people. Yangon is a city of contrasts, where traditional Burmese culture meets modern development. The city is famous for its golden pagodas, colonial architecture, and bustling markets. The most iconic landmark of Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda, a massive golden stupa that towers over the city and is considered one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world.

In addition to the Shwedagon Pagoda, other popular attractions in Yangon include the Sule Pagoda, Botataung Pagoda, Bogyoke Aung San Market, and the National Museum. Yangon is also a great place to experience traditional Burmese cuisine, with its diverse street food, local teahouses, and upscale restaurants. Overall, Yangon is a fascinating city to explore, with a rich history and culture that offers something for everyone and our experienced local tour guides in Yangon will be pretty helpful.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most iconic and revered landmarks in Myanmar. Located in the heart of Yangon, it is a complex of structures that includes a towering stupa adorned with gold plates and encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. The stupa is believed to enshrine relics of the four previous Buddhas. The Shwedagon Pagoda is a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists from all over the world. It is said to be over 2,500 years old and is considered one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist sites in the world. The main stupa is 99 meters tall and is surrounded by smaller shrines and temples, many of which are decorated with intricate carvings and gold leaf.

Visitors to the Shwedagon Pagoda are required to remove their shoes and socks before entering the main platform. The site is open from sunrise to sunset, and it is recommended to visit during the early morning or late afternoon when the light is soft and the crowds are thinner. It is also recommended to hire a local tour guide to fully appreciate the historical and cultural significance of the site.

Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Temple

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple is a prominent Buddhist temple located in Yangon, Myanmar. The temple is known for its impressive reclining Buddha statue, which is one of the largest in Myanmar. The statue is 66 meters (217 feet) long and 16 meters (52 feet) high and is covered in gold leaf. The temple was originally built in 1907, but the current statue was constructed in the 1960s. The statue depicts the Buddha in the posture of relaxation, with his head resting on his right hand and his left hand stretched out alongside his body. The soles of the statue's feet are engraved with 108 symbols representing the Buddha's characteristics.

The temple also houses several other smaller Buddha images, as well as a large number of paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. Visitors can explore the temple and its grounds, and learn more about Buddhism and its role in Burmese culture. The Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, and admission is free. However, donations are welcome to support the upkeep and maintenance of the temple.

Dhammika Rama Burmese Buddhist Temple

Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple is a well-known Buddhist temple located in Penang, Malaysia, which is a popular destination for tourists. The temple was founded in 1803 by the Burmese community in Penang and is one of the oldest Burmese temples outside Myanmar. The temple is notable for its intricate Burmese architecture, which features colorful and ornate carvings and decorations. It is also home to a large statue of the Buddha, which is the main attraction for visitors.

The temple complex includes several smaller temples and shrines, as well as a meditation hall where visitors can participate in guided meditation sessions. The temple grounds are peaceful and well-maintained, and there are several areas where visitors can sit and reflect. The temple hosts several important festivals throughout the year, including the Burmese New Year and the full moon day of Thadingyut. During these festivals, the temple is decorated with lights and colorful decorations, and visitors can participate in traditional Burmese rituals and ceremonies.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering the temple, as is customary in Buddhist temples. The temple is open to visitors every day from 6 am to 6 pm, and admission is free.

Kyaik Htee Yoe Pagoda

Kyaik Htee Yoe Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock Pagoda, is a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists in Myanmar. It is located in Mon State, on top of a granite boulder that is covered in gold leaf and precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. Legend has it that the boulder was placed on the cliff by a hermit who received it as a gift from the Buddha himself. The rock is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha's hair.

The pagoda is reached by a steep climb up a winding road, followed by a walk up a series of steps. Many pilgrims choose to hire porters to carry them up the steep incline in sedan chairs. The pagoda itself is a stunning sight, covered in gold leaf and surrounded by smaller shrines and temples. The view from the top is also breathtaking, with sweeping vistas of the surrounding countryside.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering the pagoda complex. It is also important to respect local customs and traditions, including making offerings and avoiding pointing the soles of your feet at the pagoda or its images.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda

Shwemawdaw Pagoda is a prominent Buddhist temple located in the city of Bago in Myanmar. It is considered one of the most significant religious sites in the country and is believed to have been built over 1,000 years ago during the Mon dynasty. The pagoda stands at a height of 114 meters (374 feet), making it one of the tallest pagodas in Myanmar. It is also decorated with a golden spire that is said to be adorned with over 6,000 diamonds and other precious gems.

The Shwemawdaw Pagoda has a rich history and has been damaged and rebuilt multiple times over the centuries. The most recent reconstruction took place in the 1950s after the pagoda was damaged by an earthquake. Visitors to the pagoda can explore the surrounding grounds, which are filled with smaller shrines, temples, and statues. They can also climb the pagoda to take in panoramic views of the surrounding area. The Shwemawdaw Pagoda is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists, and many locals and tourists visit the pagoda during important religious festivals.

Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace

Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace, also known as Kanbawzathadi Palace, is a historic site located in Bago, a city in the central region of Myanmar (Burma). It was the palace of King Bayinnaung, who ruled over the Toungoo Dynasty in the 16th century. The palace was built in 1556 and was the seat of the royal court until the dynasty collapsed in the 18th century. It was destroyed during the Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 but later restored in the 1990s with the help of the Myanmar government and UNESCO.

Today, visitors can explore the reconstructed palace and see the elaborate architectural design and decorations, including the intricate wood carvings, colorful paintings, and intricate tapestries. The palace also houses a museum that showcases various artifacts and objects related to the history of the Toungoo Dynasty. Visitors can also take part in cultural shows and performances, such as traditional dance and music, which are often held on the palace grounds. The palace is open to visitors daily, and there is a small admission fee to enter.

Floating Village on Inle Lake

The floating village on Inle Lake, located in the Shan State of Myanmar, is a unique and fascinating destination for visitors to Burma. Here are some interesting facts about this incredible place:

  • The floating village is home to over 70,000 people who live in stilt houses, floating gardens, and other structures built on the lake.
  • Inle Lake is the second-largest lake in Myanmar, and the floating village covers a large portion of it.
  • The people who live in the floating village are primarily Intha, an ethnic group native to the region.
  • One of the most unique features of the floating village is the way the Intha people row their boats with one leg. They use a technique called "leg-rowing," where they stand at the back of their boats and wrap one leg around an oar, which they use to paddle.

  • The floating gardens on the lake are also a major attraction. These gardens are made up of floating mats of soil, which are anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles. The Intha people grow a variety of crops, including tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers, in these gardens.
  • In addition to the stilt houses, floating gardens, and leg-rowing boats, there are also a number of floating markets on the lake. These markets are great places to buy locally-made handicrafts, fresh produce, and other goods.

  • The floating village has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, with visitors coming from all over the world to see the unique way of life on the lake.
  • However, the influx of tourists has also brought some challenges for the Intha people, including environmental degradation and cultural change. Some efforts are being made to address these issues, such as promoting sustainable tourism and preserving traditional practices.

Overall, the floating village on Inle Lake is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Burma, with its fascinating culture, stunning scenery, and unique way of life. It will be a good idea to find a local personal tour guide in Myanmar to explore life on Inle Lake.

Long neck women and Kayan Tribe in Burma on Inle Lake

The Kayan tribe, also known as the Padaung tribe, is an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. The women of this tribe are known for their distinctive practice of wearing brass neck coils from a young age. This practice gives the illusion of having an elongated neck, which is considered a sign of beauty and status within the tribe.

The Kayan tribe has a long and complex history, and the origins of the neck coils are not entirely clear. Some suggest that the coils were originally worn as a form of protection from tiger attacks, while others believe that they were meant to make women less attractive to slave traders.

Today, many Kayan women still wear coils, although the tradition is increasingly controversial. Some argue that it perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes and objectification, while others argue that it is an important cultural tradition that should be preserved. Visitors to Inle Lake can often visit Kayan villages and interact with the women who wear the neck coils. It is important to approach these visits with respect and sensitivity and to be mindful of the potential implications of tourism on the Kayan way of life.

Ancient Mandalay

Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar and a significant cultural and economic center in the northern part of the country. The city has many historical sites that attract tourists from all over the world. Here are some of the most notable historical sites in Mandalay:

  • Mandalay Palace: The palace was the residence of the last Burmese monarchy, and it was built in the mid-19th century. The palace complex includes many buildings, including the throne hall, royal mint, and watchtower.
  • Mahamuni Buddha Temple: This temple is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. The temple houses a 13-foot-tall seated Buddha image that is covered in gold leaf.
  • Kuthodaw Pagoda: This pagoda is also known as "The World's Largest Book." It contains 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist scriptures, which are all housed in small white stupas.
  • Shwenandaw Monastery: This monastery is known for its intricate teak carvings, which depict scenes from Buddhist mythology. It was originally part of the Mandalay Palace complex but was moved to its current location in the late 19th century.

  • Atumashi Monastery: This monastery is another example of Burmese teak architecture, and it was built in the late 19th century. The monastery was damaged during World War II but has been partially restored.
  • Sandamuni Pagoda: This pagoda is famous for its 1,774 white stupas, each containing a marble slab with Buddhist scriptures. It is also home to a large iron Buddha image that was cast in the late 1800s.
  • Mingun Pagoda: Located on the Irrawaddy River, this pagoda was intended to be the largest in the world, but construction was halted after the death of King Bodawpaya in 1819. The incomplete pagoda still stands today and is an impressive sight.

These historical sites in Mandalay offer a glimpse into Myanmar's rich cultural and religious heritage and are a must-visit for any traveler interested in history and architecture, and local private tour guides in Mandalay will be very informative.

Kyauktawgyi Pagoda

Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, also known as the Great Marble Image, is a Buddhist pagoda located in Mandalay, Myanmar. The pagoda was built by King Mindon Min in the mid-19th century and completed by his son, King Thibaw, in 1878. It is located near Mandalay Hill and is one of the major tourist attractions in the city. The main attraction of the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda is the giant Buddha image made from a single block of white marble. The statue is over 26 feet tall and weighs around 600 tons. It is housed in a large hall with ornate gold and red decorations. The statue was sculpted over a period of 10 years and completed in 1865.

The pagoda complex also includes several smaller Buddha images and a meditation hall for visitors. The area around the pagoda is a popular spot for locals to come and relax, and it can be quite crowded during festivals and special events. Visitors are expected to remove their shoes before entering the temple and should dress modestly out of respect for the religious site.

Mandalay Palace

Mandalay Palace is a historical site in Mandalay, Burma. It was the royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy, which ruled until the country was conquered by the British in the late 19th century. The palace complex covers an area of 413 acres and includes several buildings, including the royal residence, throne halls, audience halls, and a watchtower.

The palace was built by King Mindon in the mid-19th century, who moved the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay. It was completed in 1859 and was the primary residence of the royal family until the British took control of Burma in 1885. During World War II, much of the palace was destroyed by bombing, but some structures have since been reconstructed. Today, the palace is a popular tourist attraction in Mandalay, with visitors able to explore the grounds and visit several of the buildings. The palace complex also houses a museum, which features exhibits on Burmese history and culture, as well as artifacts and artwork from the royal era.

Read the continuation of our tour in Burma here - A private tour of the Burmese mystery - the unveiling of the Golden Land! (part II)


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