Yangon (Main City)
Yangon Situated on the banks of the Yangon River, it is a busy administrative and commercial main city of Myanmar. In the distant past this was just a small fisher village called Dagon but King Alaung Paya, after defeating his enemies, renamed it into Yangon meaning "End of strife" in 1755 A.D. Later the British colonial government also expanded and modernized the city. The most prominent landmark is the Shwedagon Pagoda, nearly 2600 years old and one of the most sacred and holy place for all Myanmar Buddhists. Other places of interests are the Sule Pagoda, the National Museum and the other colonial style buildings that dot the city, Bogyoke (Scott) Market, and the Gems Museum. Shopping visit to the China Town area are very interesting places to visit especially in the evening.
NayPyiTaw (Capital City)
Nay Pyi Taw is the national capital of Myanmar, located in Pyinmana Township of Mandalay Division. The administrative capital of Myanmar was officially moved to a militarized Greenfield site two miles west of Pyinmana and Naypyidaw is approximately 320 kilometers north of Yangon.
Mandalay was the last capital of the Konbaung Dynasty of Imperial Myanmar before the country was annexed by the British in 1886 A.D and exiled King Thibaw to Ratanagiri in India. It is also regarded as the cultural centre of the capital. Many artists and artisans make Mandalay their home town. The Mandalay Palace, built by King Mindon in 1859 A.D is one of the main attractions. Although most of the original buildings were destroyed during the 2nd World War many are now re-built. Other sites to see are the pagoda studded Mandalay Hill, the Maha Muni Buddha Image totally encrusted with gold and precious gemstones and the various workshops making such exquisite items as 100-looms silk textiles, the shwe chi hto or sequined curtains and cloths and tissue thin gold-leaves. Tanpawady is the place where tourist can still see the stone and wood sculptors at work. Here also brass items are cast using the ancient lost wax method. Across the Ayeyarwady river and about 45 minutes by boat is the world's biggest hanging bell at Mingun, the Mingun Bell and also the huge unfinished Mingun Pagoda.
Situated not far from Mandalay it was also one of the capital cities of the last Konbaung Dynasty. Amarapura was the capital during the reign of King Bodawpaya from 1783 A.D to 1819 A.D. The U Bein Bridge that spans the Taung Tha Man Lake is the most popular site for tourists here. This teak bridge is nearly a mile long and more than a century old and named after its donor U Bein, who was the mayor of the town. On the other side of the lake is the Taung Tha Man Kyauk Taw Gyi Image, a huge Buddha hewn out of a single block of marble. The famous Maha Gan Da Yone Monastery is also situated not very far away. It is one of the most illustrious learning centers of Buddhist scripture for the monks.
The Pali name of this city is Ratanapura or the City of Gems. Innwa was first made a capital in 1364 A.D by King Thado Min Bya but attained its magnificence under the Konbaung Dynasty only. King Alaung Paya, who founded this dynasty made Shwebo his capital but his son, King Hsin Byu Shin (Lord of the White Elephant) who succeeded him moved to Innwa in 1763 A.D. Innwa is now a quiet small village but many ruins dating from the King's time are still visible. The most remarkable sites are the Watch Tower, partially destroyed in an earthquake and the Mei Nu Oak Kyaung or the Brick Monastery of Queen Mei Nu, one of the very powerful queen of that time and donated to the Chief Abbot and the Bagaya Teak Monastery.
After the Bagan Kingdom was destroyed there appeared other short lived kingdoms; Pinya and Sagaing. Athin Ga Ra Saw Yun, a prince of one of the royal houses, established the Nyaung Yan Dynasty and made Sagaing the capital but it lasted only a scant 40 years and had 7 rulers. Sagaing is famous for its Sagaing Hills, the numerous monasteries and nunneries and the nearby dome-shaped Khaung Hmu Daw Pagoda. The Innwa Bridge that spans the Ayeyarwady river at this point was destroyed by the retreating British forces in WWII but was rebuilt. Thabyedan Fort, on the Amarapura side of the river and beside the bridge, was used by the Myanmar Imperial Army to guard against the advancing British forces.
Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin
42 miles from Mandalay and accessible by car is the beautiful town of Pyin Oo Lwin. Previously it was known as Maymyo in honour of Col. May of the 5th Bengal Infantry who was stationed there in 1886 A.D. Pyin Oo Lwin is situated on the Shan Plateau at the elevation of above 3500 feet and as such enjoys a very pleasant and cool climate. The British Colonial Government designated this town as the Summer Headquarters and consequently there are many small bungalows set in spacious and flowering gardens in the best English country house styles. The Botanical Gardens have now been up-graded into a National Kandawgyi Gardens. Pyin Oo Lwin is also on the Burma Road which gained fame during the 2nd World War.
The seat of the 1st Myanmar Empire founded by King Anawrahta in mid 11 century A.D. Although legends say that there were supposed to be more than four hundred thousand pagodas at Bagan there are now approximately 2000 pagodas situated in an area about 16 miles square and under the care of the Archaeological Department. Many of the pagodas are in ruins but inside these structures beautiful wall paintings are still very much fresh as if painted only yesterday. The mightiest structure at Bagan is the Dhammayangyi stupa, the loftiest is the Thatbyinnyu and the most artistic and exquisite is the Ananda Temple. King Anawrahta, the founder of the Bagan Dynasty started construction of the Shwezigon Pagoda, one of the most venerated shrines in Bagan but finished by his son, King Kyansittha. Sunset at Bagan are best enjoyed by climbing up some of the pagoda platforms. Across the river is the Tantkyi Taung Pagoda, where Lord Buddha once stood and prophesied the emergence of a mighty city on the opposite bank. Bagan was destroyed by Mongol invaders in the 12th century A.D.
Approximately 40 miles from Bagan towards the east is the famous Mt. Popa known as the Mt. Olympus of Myanmar. The mountain is an extinct volcano and nearby is the pagoda studded smaller peak. Popa region is a geographical phenomenon, a green and cool oasis with many exotic herbs and flowers in the centre of a dry and dusty Myingyan Plain. Due to this extraordinary fact Mt. Popa and the smaller cone beside are attributed with the distinction of being the home of the nat spirits, the supernatural beings that will help if appropriately respected but do harm if angered. The main mountain area is now designated as the Popa Mountain Park.
Tachileik Known as the City of the Golden Triangle it is situated in the famous Golden Triangle, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet. This is a very active and busy town being situated right on the border with Thailand and across Meisai in Thailand. Around Tachilek are many ethnic Akha and Lisu and villages. Wan Pong Jetty on the Mekong river is the port and situated opposite Laos on the other side of the river. Rides are possible on long-tailed boats zooming along the Mekong River also.
Previously spelled as Keng Tung it is the capital of Eastern Shan State. It was ruled by sawbwas or hereditary princes until the 1950s. The Palin Gate is the only evidence left of its former glory but there is still a compound called Tombs of the Sawbwas in town where the sawbwas' tombs can still be seen. Although the majority of the population, the Gon Shans are Buddhist there are also Christian churches in town. The main attraction in town is the market where hill tribes come down to trade in the morning wearing their traditional clothes and the Maha Muni Buddha Image in the centre of the town. The monasteries at Kyaing Tong are mostly in the Thai style. The Naung Tong Lake in the centre of the town and the lone solitary tree standing alone on the Lone Tree Hill are associated with the history of Kyaing Tong. Trekkers can visit Akha, Eng, Lahu, Palaung, Wa and other ethnic villages around the town.
Nestled between hazy blue mountains of Southern Shan State Lake Inle is world famous. It is a very large fresh water mountain lake and dotted on the lake are many villages. The people of the lake are called the Innthars and spending their whole life on the water had evolved a unique way to propel their canoes. They use their legs to grasp the oars and row. They also have so called floating gardens, stretches of moss and sediment salvaged from the lake and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles, where they grow vegetables and flowers. The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda houses 5 solid gold Buddha Images that are carried around the lake on a gilt barge pulled by hundreds of leg-rowers. This Festival normally begins from the 3rd day of the waxing moon of Thadingyut (October) to the 2nd day of the waning moon of Thadingyut but these dates can vary according to the lunar calendar. The town of Nyaung Shwe is the entrance to the lake and also was the ancient seat of the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwas for centuries.
The capital of Southern Shan State, it is approximately 24 miles from Heho Airport. Many ethnic nationalities, especially the Pa Os and the Shans can be seen in their distinctive costumes in the marketplace. 29 miles from Taunggyi is the Kekku Pagoda Complex. It is a cluster of more than 2000 pagodas, mostly in ruins, on a small hill overlooking the Hopong Valley. Kekku is best visited during its festival time on the Full-Moon Day of Tabaung (March). The most interesting time to visit Taunggyi would be on the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmon (November) when the whole town comes alive with many festivals. The first is the Khatein Ceremony when holy robes are offered to the monks, the second is the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the third is the Parade of Lights. Situated at an elevation of approximately 4500 feet the weather is nice and cool and fresh.
This is also an old town once governed by a ngwe kun hmu or a collector of taxes during its feudal period. There is a cave high up on a cliff where legend say lived a huge spider and a virgin is sacrificed everyday until a prince came along and shot it. Now this lime stone cave is filled with tens of Buddha Images and pagodas of all sizes. The lake in the middle of the town is said to be the place where the mythical half-human and half-bird Keinnari girls bathe. Trekkers can go to many surrounding Pa O, Palaung and Danu villages around Pindaya.
The British called it Akyab. It is situated on the western seaboard at the mouth of the Kaladan River and the capital of Rakhine (Rakhine) State. When Rakhine had its own kingdom Sittwe was just a small fisher village but when the British conquered parts of Myanmar after the 1st Anglo-Myanmar War Rakhine was ceded to them and Sittwe made into its capital. Sittwe is now a busy coastal city trading mostly in seafood products and the markets are colourful at best when the fishing boats arrive with their daily catch.
Another cool and pleasant hill station at the elevation of approximately 4000 feet. This is a very nice and quiet town and the starting point for many treks into the ethnic villages around the peaks surrounding the town.
The ancient capital of the last Rakhine Kingdom is situated about 50 miles from the mouth of the Kaladan River. It is accessible by boat from Sittwe. Mrauk Oo was founded in 1433 A.D by King Minsawmun and fell to enemy forces in 1784 A.D. There are many ancient and ruined pagodas in and around the old city perimeter. Going up the river some Chin villages can be reached where the women still tattoo their faces.
The beach area is Ngapali and the airport is at Thandwe ( formerly called Sandoway by the British). This is one of the most popular of three beach areas on the western seaboard. Ngapali Beach stretches approximately 7 miles and many come here for the sun, fun and relaxation. Thandwe also has a long history. In ancient times it was known as Dvaravati and it is believed that when attacked by enemies the city would rise into the sky and stay suspended until the siege is over.
The town was called Tavoy by the British and situated on the narrow coastal strip bordered by the Andaman Sea on the east and the Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) ranges in the west. Moung Ma Kan is a beach area not very far from town and very popular. This town is also a very busy seaport. Many Phuket-based tour operators come to visit this town on their own chartered boats.
The British called it Mergui and the many island dotting the Andaman Sea as the Mergui Archipelago. Most of the island are uninhabited and pristine. Myeik was a busy seaport before and during the colonial times and many old colonial style house are still standing. Even now it is one of the busiest ports on the southern sea coast with many deep sea trawlers making it their home port. A species of bird called the swiftlets make their nests in the caves on the islands offshore and these are gathered for export as birdnests to many Asian countries.
This southernmost town built on the southernmost point of the Myanmar mainland was named Victoria Point by the British to honour Queen Victoria. Now it has reverted to its original name of Kawthoung and the point is now Bayint Naung Point. The Andaman Sea is dotted with many small islands and are good places for scuba diving, snorkeling, sea-kayaking and other water sports. About 6 hours sailing time away by a motorized schooner is the Lumpi Marine National Park. The Salon people who live among these islands are nomadic in nature. They live on their boats; the whole family and even the house pets and come in to shore only to escape the monsoon storms. These people earn their living by diving without any apparatuses up to incredible depths to bring up such treasures of the sea as pearls, sea cucumbers etc.