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One of South-East Asia's largest and most diverse countries, Burma is a nation laden with beauty. Never-ending beaches and island hideaways adorn this fascinating part of the world. Rudyard Kipling described Burma (known also as Myanmar) as “quite unlike any place you know about”, and this is still true more than a century later. Looking out on to the infamous vast Indian Ocean, Burma stretches from the islands of the Andaman Sea right up to the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, and is popular with both historians and hedonists.

Relatively undiscovered and steeped in mystery, Burma is a nation that has only recently emerged into the modern world. It is a land of breath-taking beauty and offers all of the traditional delights of the entire Asian continent in one country: virgin jungles, snow-capped mountains, and exquisite coastlines blend with a rich and varied cultural heritage spanning over two thousand years.

A total of 135 different ethnic groups inhabit Burma and those lucky enough to call it home live among ancient monuments and cities that attest a vibrant and newly modern culture. The ethnic diversity makes for what many describe as the friendliest country you will ever visit, where hospitality is like nowhere else. The tropical monsoon climate of Burma makes it a year-round destination; the rainy season is generally between May and October, but the rains, although ferocious, are short-lived and make way for more beautiful weather with less humidity. The cooler months tend to be between November and February for those who enjoy a less humid climate in which to explore.

No Burmese visit is complete without a trip to Yangon, otherwise known as the Golden City: the golden-gilded Buddhas are a cultural sight to behold, and the tranquil lakes and majestic architecture are an aesthetic marvel. It is also home to one of the ancient wonders of the world, Shwedagon Pagoda, a 98 metre high stupa with a golden glow that emanates throughout the city. The beautiful shrine is set against a stunning green backdrop, the perfect enchanting contrast to this magical sight.

Mandalay gives the impression of romance and times gone by with its impressive palace and ancient moat at the foot of a pagoda-topped hill. Famed as the cultural and economic pinnacle of upper Burma, the city is the perfect base from which to explore the ancient cities and colonial hill stations, all within close proximity.

Bringing visitors to Myanmar for over 1000 years is the awe-inspiring Bagan, a kingdom that took root in the eighth century and one that ancient chronicles cite as once having 4446 temples spanning its wide plains. As of today, only 2230 temples remain; still plenty for the intrepid to explore. Appreciation of these fine masonry buildings deepens on discovering that barely a trace of cement was used. The huge roofs were erected with the help of arches and barrel vaults. The windows of the temples were designed to refract the sunlight directly on to the faces of the vast Buddha images within the vaulted chambers.

 

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