WoT's Hot

Myanmar And It’s Fabulous Treasure Chest….Sheer Delight! Part 1

Munmi Barthakur

As Myanmar Tourism is opening its doors to its fabulous treasure chest, I highly recommend a trip to this part of the world. There are flights to Yangon, the capital, from most big cities also. However, as you read my article about a road trip to Myanmar, you may end up changing your mind and decide to plan the same instead!

Folks today I would be taking you on a most interesting journey to Myanmar. You may have thought of taking a holiday in Thailand or Myanmar − a matter of just a few hours from Kolkata for instance, but the question is, have you ever thought of a road trip to Thailand or Myanmar from Guwahati in Assam? Not really right? I am reminded of Henry Miller's words here, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of looking at things". How apt it is for my piece revealing the exciting time I had one time during school holidays!

We started the journey from my home town Guwahati early morning and in only a couple of hours we were in Shillong, Meghalaya. The spectacular kaleidoscope of colors reflecting the exotic landscape with glimpses of the myriad settlements made this the most amazing road trip! So engrossed was I in a reverie of appreciation, I did not even realize, we were almost at the border. Do please jot down important details of the necessary documents and formalities one needs to carry on this trip:

  • Your passport with minimum six months validity from your travel date and your visas.. You can log on to www.myanmar.org for guidance.
  • A Government permit to cross the International border, valid medical and travel insurance, photo ID card and photocopies of the proposed travel itinerary.
  • Make sure you carry a first aid box − a detail, which is of utmost importance for such a trip. God forbid that you be involved in a mishap.
  • I must mention the permission and royalty fees one needs to pay to the ministry, third party insurance and temporary importation for your vehicle and temporary driving license fees in case you plan to drive a hired car yourself, toll fees and taxation, which are as important as the rest of the documents.
  • You need to carry sufficient cash as ATMs may not be available in the interiors.
  • You would also need to inform the Myanmar Government about your proposed visit a month in advance. If you plan to undertake a tour, it would be advisable to get it authorized by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

After we got over with the mandatory formalities, we set off on our fascinating sojourn.

Myanmar, the fascinating land of beautiful temples and pagodas, also boasts of an amazing array of historical sites standing as a testimony to its rich culture. Its history is entwined closely with the culture of the Assamese community....this made it an extra special trip for me.

In Shillong, we hired a private car and set off on our journey to Imphal. The official crossing of the border is from Moreh-Tamu check post. After obtaining the permit, we took a mini bus to Moreh on the Indian side which cost us Rupees three hundred per head with bargaining of course! They start from about 700 meters south of Kangla Fort at Route 39. An agent helped us with all the formalities, so it was much easier. We walked across to Tamu and we were finally in Myanmar! From there we took a local bus to Mandalay and on to Bagan, both important tourist attractions along with Yangon.

Photo Credits: Mandalay: Pandaw Cruises
Photo Credits: Taungthaman Lake: Shutterstock

We spent the day in Mandalay, the bustling hub of Myanmar, which stands as the proud guardian of the rich Burmese culture. We visited the exotic Royal Palace − a legacy reflecting the last of the Burmese monarchy. If you have time, do visit the world's longest teak bridge. It covers the Taungthaman lake in the quaint Amarapura township in Mandalay.

Photo Credits: Myanmar Cuisine: Trip Advisor
Photo Credits: Souvenirs: Active Travel Asia

Another thing which struck me was that one is able to blend into the city like a native. The simplicity and genuineness of the Burmese people holds one captive in its folds. The terrific cuisine with its mouth-watering variety of exotic dishes makes it a great holiday destination. The ancient art of stone-carving is still preserved, as well as the gold pounding workshops, which are fascinating for tourists. We rented bikes and leisurely explored the town picking up attractive souvenirs.

Photo Credits: Bagan:Flying Dutchman Pat
Photo Credits: Bagan Trip Advisor

In the evening, we took a bus to Bagan. This city, with remnants of the glorious era of the Burmese monarchy, is also blessed with temples galore and they are simply breathtaking! We stood in stunned wonder at the sight of the pagodas surrounding it in spectacular profusion. You must also visit the Bupaya, which reflects the Pyu style of architecture, incidentally the oldest in Bagan. The Tharabar Gate, said to be a part of a 9th century wall is also worth a visit. The statues at the gate are believed to be protective spirits standing guard against any intrusion of evil.

We had booked a hotel for the night at Bagan through the ever reliable Booking.com and checked in tired out after the enjoyable day. Reviews posted by tourists came in handy and our stay was comfortable at the Hotel Umbra which has a great location.

You would need to wait for the rest of my travel diary on Myanmar in Part 2 of the series.

Photo Credit − Banner Left: Pique Newsmagazine; Banner Center: Intrepid Travel; Banner Right: Burma Hotel