Myanmar Places and Sights
Yangon is also known as Rangoon which literally means “End of Strife” and is a blend of the two words yan and koun which mean "enemies" and "run out of" respectively. Yangon is located at lower Burma (Myanmar) at the junction of the Yangon and Bago Rivers. Yangon is the country's largest city and also used to be the capital. Yangon was founded by King Alaungpaya in 1755; he established Yangon in a small settlement named Dagon when he conquered the lower part of Myanmar and gave the name Yangon and in 1885, the name was anglicized as Rangoon when the British invaded the country.
The city is of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influence, and recognized for its majestic architecture. And since the city serves as the country's main access and harbor, it is also the country’s centre of business. The city offers the different side of Asia harmonizing tradition, culture and modernity altogether. An interesting choice of museums, art galleries and markets are spotted here and the lakes, parks and tropical trees can just be right things for the nature lovers and these are the reasons why it is named as ‘The Garden City of the East’. The city is also considered as one of the most exotic and also the safest places in Asia.
Previously Bagan was known as Pagan and is an ancient city located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River. The area known as Bagan or ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies the area of 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. Bagan is a temple town to the biggest and intense concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world and many dating back to 11th and 12th centuries. At every finger points one can find pagodas and temples but you can rarely come across any and the remaining are in poor shape and some are well maintained like the Ananda Pahto while the others are just small collapsed relics. Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes".
The place is possibly as inspiring as the Pyramids of Egypt but sadly UNESCO did not take in it on its World Heritage Site regardless of the magnificence and importance of Bagan because some temples were rebuilt in an unhistorical way. Bagan is also the first place to have changed into a religious and cultural centre, by Shin Arahan who brought Theravada Buddhism to this land. Bagan is one of the major historical landmarks of Asia and represents the outstanding achievement of Theravada Buddhism. Bagan is full of ancient architectural designs, mural paintings, precious frescoes and stone inscriptions and it is also the centre for the manufacturing of lacquer ware products in Myanmar.
Mandalay is located 716 km north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River. It is the second largest and also the last capital city of Burma. The city gets its name from Mandalay Hill nearby and the name is possibly derived of a word Pali although the precise word of derivation is unclear. The root word has been considered to be: "Mandala" which means circular plains, "Mandare" which is believed to mean "auspicious land", or "Mandara" a mountain from Hindu mythology.
It was founded in 1857 and the royal city was formally named Yadanabon, the Burmese version of its Pali name Ratanapura which means city full of gems. It was also called Lay Kyun Aung Myei, Victorious Land over the four islands and the royal palace, Mya Nan San Kyaw Famed Royal Emerald Palace. Like other cities in Myanmar, Mandalay is also home to many pagodas and monasteries. With about 80% of the population practicing, Theravada Buddhism is expected to be the leading religion in the country. Mandalay is a pleasant city with many attractions and most of the attractions in the city offer tourists a religious experience. Along with many other attractions here, the most famous one is Mandalay Hill, a must stop for any tourist who visit Myanmar. Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery (aka Golden Palace Monastery), Kuthodaw Pagoda (Book Temple), Gold leaf factory and marble carving street, Mahamuni Paya Pagoda, Mandalay Fort/Palace, including a recently reconstructed palace are few places to visit in the city.
Inle is a freshwater lake located in the heart of Shan State which shares borders with Thai & Laos. It is one of the highest lakes of Myanmar at an elevation of 900 meters above sea level and the second largest natural lake in Myanmar. Floating villages, gardens and markets and the unique way of life of the local Intha people are famous here and the most noteworthy feature of the lake is unique leg-rowing technique by the Intha people where they row their boats by standing firm on one leg and use the other leg with the oar to row in order to obtain better vision over the reeds.
There are nearly 20 villages around the lake, some of which are farming communities while others are known for papermaking, weaving, silver making or even pottery. In this area, there are about a hundred Buddhist pagodas and about a thousand stupas because the inhabitants here are religious Buddhists. The most famous products of Inle Lake are monks’ robes that are valued highly and woven from lotus fibers. Weavers must stick on to the Buddha’s teachings and that also includes keeping the five principles, while making the robes. And this distinctive fabric is not found anywhere else in the world, and it is supposed to have been invented about hundred years ago by a woman living at Inle Lake as a gift to her respected abbot. Inle is for sure one of Myanmar’s most popular destinations for travelers.
The most famous beach in Myanmar Ngapali Beach is located 7 kilometers from the town of Thandwe, in Rakhine State. Ngapali also pronounced Napally is said to be named after the Italian city of Naples but in Burmese the name "Ngapali", has no meaning. Until 90s Ngapali used to have large bungalows but they were torn down for commercial structure like hotels and restaurants. The beach stretches on the white sand and coconut palms and offers some of the relaxing leisure activities around like beach strolling, cycling, motor biking, sunbathing, taking trips on local fishing, boats, kayaking, snorkeling or scuba diving in the midst of the brightly colored fishes down the beach and around some of the local villages.
Surfing is feasible as well during the monsoon season. Another activity can be getting on the hill a little away and exploring it. On the hill you can also find a beautiful lake where the visitors are allowed to do the fishing but not swim. Ngapali Beach has been a major tourist destination and just the perfect place to benefit from the beauty of nature, beach and the sun. According to the local people, the best time to visit the beach is in October and May. One can even hire a bicycle at Ngapali to get to the black sand island called Zalat Htone and there are also interesting activities to observe around the area are hand-woven artifacts and ceramic pottery using clay in Rakhine and Kinmaw villages respectively.
Mrauk u is located at northern Rakhine State. Mrauk U is also spelt Mrauk Oo and pronounced ‘Mrow Oo’ or ‘Myow Oo’, depending on Rakhine or Burmese pronunciation. The city is chief archaeological and tourist destination and some intellectuals state that the name Mrauk U means 'The First Accomplishment' in ancient Arakanese. Mrauk U, or Arrakan (city of Arrakan), in the first plan of the Portuguese settlement of Daingri-pet. In 1433, King Min Saw Mon established Mrauk U as the capital of the last unified Arakanese Kingdom. At its peak, Mrauk U controlled half of Bangladesh, modern day Rakhine State (Arakan) and also the western part of Lower Burma.
Also called ‘Monkey’s Egg’ for some unknown reason, Mrauk U has collection of temples and pagodas where unlike the mud and clay bricks of Bagan, most of Mrauk U's temples were built of hewn stone bricks. The monuments of Mrauk U are divided into northern, eastern, southern and western groups. The most notable temples in Mrauk U are the Shite-thaung Temple (Temple of 80,000 Images or Temple of Victory), Htukkanthein Temple (Htukkan Ordination Hall), the Koe-thaung Temple (Temple of 90,000 Images) and the Five Mahn pagodas. The main attractions are the temples and ruins around the town. The best time to visit Mrauk U is from November-mid-March.
Ngwe Saung, pronounced as Way Saung is a popular beach among the tourists. Ngwe means silver and rightly explains the silvery sand on the beach here. It was opened in March 2000, although new, this beach is intended to draw people with larger holiday budgets. But the nightlife activities here is very vacant comparing to Chaungtha and Ngapalin beaches both of which have greater nighttime activities. But the main daytime attraction at Ngwesaung is a nearby elephant training camp and is an ideal place to watch the sun set into the sea every evening and perfect getaway to relax away from city life.
Sunbathe; beach volleyball, seafood, windsurfing and kayaking are few interesting activities one can indulge in this beach that have stretched for about 15km. Ngwe Saung Beach is one of the best places to take a break and get relaxed. People also like the beach for its cleanliness and serenity. The idea is to just relax and take pleasure in the quiet time. Rakhine Mountain Range is one of the main tourist attractions at Ngwe Saung. Many visitors trek up the range and into the forests to experience the natural beauty of the spot. This white sand beach is also the lover’s island.
Nay Pyi Taw or Naypyidaw means “Royal Capital or "the Seat of the Government" and is also the capital and the third largest city of Myanmar. Also known as Kyetpyay, Pyinmana or Kyatpyay, Pyinmana, Nay Pyi Taw is located between the Bago Yoma and Shan Yoma mountain ranges covering an area of 7,054.37 km (2,723.71 sq mi). In the early 21st century, the city was built in the central basin of Myanmar to serve as the country’s new administrative centre. The city is different from the rest of the cities in Myanmar, it is very much urban and the city is organized into zones based on function; the residential, ministry, military, and hotel zones for instance.
It is growing fast and has earned the title of one of the world’s fastest growing cities but it also calmer than other cities. Nay Pyi Taw consists of eight townships namely: Ze-yar-thi-ri, Pohb-ba-thi-ri, Ut-ta-ra-thi-ri, Za-bu-thi-ri, Dek-khi-na-thi-ri, Pyin-ma-na, Le-way and Tat-kone Townships. And the few sights to visit in the city are: Uppatasanti Pagoda, Thatta Thattaha Maha Bawdi Pagoda, Hluttaw or Parliament House, Gems Museum and Public Gardens. The most notable tourist attraction in Nay Pyi Taw is possibly the Uppatasanti Pagoda, also known as the “peace pagoda.” It is the most famous landmark in the city and is a duplication of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Likewise, this pagoda also houses a historical objects; a Buddha tooth remnant from China.