Travel


Discovering Myanmar: The Pearl of the Gulf of Bengal

Walter Raymond


Today, Myanmar remains one of the most unspoiled countries in Southeast Asia thanks to a 50-year ban on tourism lifted just seven years ago. Since then, Myanmar has become a favorite exotic destination.


The celebrated British writer and poet Rudyard Kipling visited the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, for just three days in 1889. He was immediately captivated by the mysterious and enchanting region, which he described as “a place totally different from any other known.”
Myanmar

The brief visit inspired Kipling to write his exquisite travel chronicles of two Myanmar cities: Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) and Mawlamyine (formerly called Moulmein). He also published his famous poem “Mandalay” about the love between a British colonial soldier and a beautiful Burmese girl. The poem’s rapturous passion is set amid a background of rich palaces, gentle hills and green rice fields.

Today, Myanmar remains one of the most unspoiled countries in Southeast Asia thanks to a 50-year ban on tourism lifted just seven years ago. Since then, Myanmar has become a favorite exotic destination.

Located between India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Laos, Myanmar enjoys a wealth of natural and cultural resources. The charm that seduced Kipling is still evident today in the the pristine beaches on the Bay of Bengal, in the towering Himalayas contrasting with the green plains of the rice fields and in the majestic Buddhist palaces, classic examples of British colonial architecture.

For the discerning and well-heeled traveler, world-class golf courses, paradisiacal resorts and rooms in dreamy palaces offer an irresistible attraction. Three years ago, Melia Hotels International, the luxury hotel chain based in Spain opened The Melia Yangon.
Myanmar

Thanks to a modern airport for domestic and international flights, the city of Yangon is considered “Myanmar’s gateway” and the country’s principal city. It is also home to the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the Myanmar’s most important religious monument. And in the center of Myanmar, the traveler should not miss the city of Mandalay, the source of inspiration for Kipling‘s poem.

Just north of Yangon is Bagan, a complex of more than 2,000 temples built between the 11th and 13th centuries, each with a sanctuary unique in its form and style of construction.

Located in the south of Myanmar, the Mergui archipelago is one of its most beautiful in the world, with secluded and unspoiled beaches of white sands and water so crystalline that you can see perfectly the bottom of the sea while sailing in its waters. The best option is to discover the region aboard one of the small sailboats that dock at the beaches. The cost of an exclusive seven-day sailboat cruise is around US $ 25,000.

Finally, also remarkable for their beauty are the silvery sands of Ngwesaung, a small village on the Bay of Bengal. Twice a day in this area the tidal flow allows a walk along the sea floor to the “Lovers Island,” named for being the ideal refuge to linger until the next low tide.

Myanmar is still a young country compared to other high-end international tourist destinations so travel experts advise hiring an experienced local guide to tour the various attractions.  ■

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