YANGON. Though several high rise buildings have popped up during the last ten years, you can still feel this unique mixture of the Exotic East and British Colonial past, - in the narrow busy streets with residences and small shops side by side featuring Burmese, Chinese, Indian and Malay specialities and along the broad avenues with their Victorian styled buildings of a bygone era.
While Yangon until the 18th century was still an insignificant fishing village, its prominent and famous landmark, the Shwedagon Pagoda has stood there for more than 1000 years, mesmerizing visitors and residents alike with its glistening gold covered stupa where it is said that eight hairs of the last (Gautama) Buddha are enshrined at the base. The tip of the stupa is covered with 1800 carats gold and studded with thousands of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and topaz. A huge emerald sits in the middle to catch the first and last rays of the sun.
MANDALAY had been the royal capital for only 25 years when the British invaded Upper Burma in 1885 and exiled King Thibaw and his queen Supyalat to India. But for thousands of years it had already been considered a sacred place for the Buddhist faith. It was King Mindon who moved the capital from neighbouring Amarapura and built the Royal Palace as the center of the new city.
Today, Mandalay is a bustling commercial city among the golden temples and pagodas; with its location in the middle of the country it acts as a crossroad for goods coming from the outlying areas and from as far away as China, Thailand and India.
INLE LAKE, 1000 meter above sea level, in the Shan State, home to the Intha people and other ethnic minorities who make their living from fishing and floating vegetable gardens. And are famous for their special rowing technique.
Inle Lake is very shallow, being only 3 meters at its deepest. Silt and tangled
weeds are used by the local population as garden beds, often towed away to other parts of the lake where they are anchored to the sea bed by bamboo poles and filled with mud from the lake bottom to make a very fertile basis for many kinds of vegetables. All transport is by boat, whether to school, to do shopping or to attend the floating vegetable gardens.
BAGAN. "In the distance I saw the pagodas for which it is renowned. They loomed, huge, remote and mysterious out of the mist of the early morning like the vague recollections of a fantastic dream".
Such were the first impressions noted by Somerset Maugham when he first arrived at Bagan. More or less the same sight greets the early morning visitor today, several thousand of pagodas and temples in various sizes and conditions scattered around on the plain and appearing out of the mist. But in its heydays, in the two centuries from 1057 and until the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan overrun Bagan and destroyed most of it in 1287, more than 13,000 temples and other religious structures had been built here.