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My Myanmar

by Neil Darby on 15 February 2016, 14:02PM

Travelbag’s Asia Expert Neil Darby specialises in preparing tailor-made travel itineraries for intrepid travellers around the world. Recently he was fortunate enough to travel to Myanmar, adding this beautiful country to his ever-growing list of Asian destinations he has been fortunate enough to travel to and explore.

Day One:Yangon

Mingalabar! 

We started our journey by arriving into Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. Although not the official capital, Yangon remains Myanmar's largest and most commercially important city and we transferred to downtown Yangon by coach from the International Airport.

Yangon has many stunning buildings, and you really get to appreciate its heritage and colonial history on the drive into the city. Without doubt, the highlight of any visit to Yangon is a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is widely regarded as one of the world's most spectacular religious monuments. The golden done of the Shwedagon Pagoda rises 98 metres above its base, and is covered with 60 tons of pure gold.

This is the very heart and soul of Buddhist Myanmar, and you need to take the time to visit the site up close as you will find many other pagodas, temples and Buddha images to view and experience.

In the afternoon, we experienced another side of Yangon as we travelled by local ferry over to Dala. Dala is where many of the local villages are located, and it will give you an insight into the local culture of modern day Yangon.

We stayed overnight at the 5 Star Sule Shangri-La Hotel and were hosted for a lovely dinner at The Strand Hotel. If you are keen to enhance your colonial experience during your stay in Yangon, I can highly recommend The Strand Hotel.

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Days Two & Three: Ngapali Beach 

A short flight with Mann Yadanarbon Airlines took us from Yangon to Ngapali Beach. 

People who yearn for Thailand as it used to be thirty years ago would undoubtedly appreciate Ngapali as it is relatively untouched and boasts both crystal clear waters and lovely sandy beaches.

We stayed in the Amazing Hotel, which has stunning sea front villas and is perfect for a relaxing few days on the beach.

We also visited Ngapali Bay Villa & Resort and Amata Resort & Spa for site inspections.     

**Top Tip** - The best time to visit Ngapali Beach is between the months of October and May during the dry season.

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 Day Four: Bagan

Bagan was touted to be one of, if not the, main highlight of the trip and we were certainly not disappointed.

Bagan is in central Myanmar and is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites; one to rival Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. Located on a large plain beside the Ayeyarwady River, the selection of magnificent red brick temples and pagodas that can be found here are a legacy of the kings of Bagan, and luckily we had a full day to explore.

We scaled one of the tallest temples and were rewarded with the most amazing 360 degree views over the plains of Bagan, with a back drop of beautiful clear blue skies, and sunshine and stunning views of pagodas and temples as far as the eye could see.

We also spent some time exploring Nyaung U, an authentic Burmese village where there was the opportunity to purchase some local goods and mingle with the vendors, and headed to the Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda Temple and Gubyaukgyi Temple before we ended the day with a relaxing sunset boat trip across the Ayerwaddy River.

We stayed overnight at the Areindmar Hotel Bagan

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Day Five: Mandalay

We arrived into Mandalay airport bright and early.

Our day consisted of travelling to Amarapura and strolling around U Bein, admiring the longest teak bridge in the world and observing how locals live in the villages that can be found on each side of the bridge. In the afternoon, we visited the Shwenandaw Monastery and were able to witness a day in the life of the monks and nuns who reside there.

This was a unique and humbling experience as you really got an insight into the Buddhist faith in practice, which dictates a good work ethic, belief and good will.

We were then driven up to Mandalay Hill and admired the iconic view over the whole city before staying overnight at the Sedona Hotel Mandalay.

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