Rudyard Kipling once wrote: ‘This is Burma. It will be quite unlike any land you know about.’ Indeed, the country had such a profound and lasting impact upon him that he penned the poem ‘Mandalay’, referring to Myanmar’s capital. Kipling’s estimation has proven to be unerringly true. Once cast down in an uncertain and oppressive political landscape, Myanmar, situated in South East Asia and formerly known as Burma, is now beckoning a more flourishing, stable and promising future. In 2015, Myanmar voted in its first democratically-elected government in half a century, which has led to the welcome relaxing of censorship and a new-found openness in dialogue regarding once-taboo subjects.
Having changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, signalling an end to the unrest, the country has recently enjoyed an uplifting surge in its tourist industry. A rural nation of traditional values, travellers come from far and wide to discover an enchanting land where pious monks receive greater adulation than famous celebrities, and spirituality reigns. Burma is a place where material possessions are of no consequence, and the spirit of generosity in the Burmese people is part of the country’s innate charm.
The bustling city of Yangon is Myanmar’s commercial hub, and a destination of idiosyncrasies, where modernity meets culture, tradition, and architectural landmarks. Visitors can explore the dynamic streets replete with international food vendors or delve into the city’s flourishing art scene from Pandsodan Street to the historical 1901 The Strand Hotel. Amidst the energetic pace of the city, travellers can be transported to a place where time seemingly stands still in Yangon; fascinatingly, it is home to the highest number of colonial buildings in all of South East Asia. The cultural highlight of the city is undoubtedly the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, which has a ninety-eight metre high stupa, and a stunning golden glow that can be seen throughout the entire city.
The Strand River Cruise sails along the longest river in Myanmar, the Ayeyarwardy, i.e. 'The Elephant River', which starts at the top of the Himalayas and flows to the south of the country. The cruise commences at Bagan or Mandalay, both sublime sites within their own right. Mandalay is the city that inspired one of literature’s greats to dedicate an entire poem to; this is a capital that has a tumultuous patrimonial background, having been colonized by the British and raided during World War Two. Noted for its colourful arts, religious significance and beautiful temples, this city is simply not to be missed. Bagan, a World Heritage Site, is the famous dwelling of the world’s largest reclining Buddha. One of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, many have said that the temples here can rival the sights of Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat.