With a beaming welcome and a delicate bow, hands pressed together as if in prayer, the gentle people of Burma - or Myanmar as it is now known - put the visitor at immediate ease. A delicious extravaganza of cultural and culinary delights awaits discovery in a land still blissfully free of Western influences. Women with faces covered in traditional Thanakha make-up peer inquisitively at the curious visitors; graceful longyi garments sweep elegantly from waist to ankle; bustling markets brim with handicrafts and lacquerware. Attractions abound, from the colonial buildings of Yangon to the plethora of gilded temples where the Burmese display their devotion through elaborate ceremonies swathed in scent and smoke. Most spectacular of them all, Shwedagon Pagoda is for many a once in a lifetime pilgrimage, with thousands more temples and stupa rising through the dawn mists on the mesmerising plains of Bagan. This 26 acre site in central Burma is wreathed in splendour; the setting is divine and scattered throughout are more than 2,000 temples dating back to the 11th and 12th Centuries. To appreciate the true scale of this magnificent archaeological site is by hot air balloon at sunrise; alternatively, for another sight almost beyond superlatives, climb to the top of a pagoda to watch sunset over the Ayeyarwady River. Still the sights come thick and slow… the floating tomato gardens, long-tailed boats and leg-rowing fishermen of Lake Inle… with the dazzling white sands of Ngapali Beach to round off an overload of visual splendour. With so many must-sees and must-dos, Burma is top of the travel aficionado's list, a destination too special to miss, an experience to plan for whilst Burma stands at its unspoilt best.
The best time to visit most areas is during the cooler season from October to February. The hottest months are from March to May when the rainy season begins. The rains last from mid May until the end of September and are followed by cooler, more comfortable weather.
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