After international sanctions were lifted in 2012, Myanmar has been put to the top of travel destination lists and it has quickly become the hot new place to visit. Closed off to the world for centuries, this is a fascinating country which is as warm and welcoming as the ruling military junta were harsh and oppressive. Megan McCormick dives in to the heart of the country to get the low down.
Schwedagon Pagoda with MeganMegan starts her journey in Yangon where she explores the juxtaposition of modern life and Myanmar’s colonial past, so prominent throughout the country that some people still refer to it as Burma.
She finds out more from Yangon Heritage Trust founder, Thant Myint-U. Before she leaves this city, she can’t resist the pull of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in the country.
Flying to the centre of the country, she visits popular Inle Lake where she discovers just how diverse the country really is. Contrary to popular belief, the Padaung women Megan meets don’t seem to mind at all that they are being paid to draw in the tourists… provided foreigners actually respect their choice.
Next, she heads north to the town of Hsipaw where she visits a Shan Palace and uncovers a tribal rivalry dating back centuries. Chatting to the current resident, Fern, she realises that people still bear scars from the recent dictatorship.
Megan takes a bumpy train journey to Mandalay, stopping briefly at the British hill station of Pyin-oo-Lwin. In Mandalay she discovers a city devastated by WW2 and reinvented by the Chinese. Getting to the cultural heart of this city, Megan visits the golden Mahamuni Buddha, tries her hand at the dying art of puppetry and opts for evening entertainment in the form of the Moustache Brothers, only to realise that the recent politics of this country pervades everything, even comedy.
Mindat-Munn-women-with-Megan-McCormickLeaving Mandalay Megan heads far from the main tourist destinations and into the Chin State where she meets the tattooed Chin women.
A tradition dating back to at least the 8th century, these women once tattooed intricate designs on their faces as protection. Now they see it as a form of beauty.
Land sprinkled with thousands of temples and stupas is Megan’s next stop on her journey. Bagan was once capital of the Kingdom that fully integrated Buddhism into the country.
Myanmar now has the highest proportion of Buddhist monks in any Buddhist country. Megan meets her guide Min Min and they explore this incredible landscape by horse & carriage.
Megan heads to the Rakhine State for her final stop. After a brief stop in the town of Thandwe she takes a boat to the ultimate beach destination, Ngapali Beach.