Bordering Thailand, China, India, Bangladesh and Laos, the country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one of the few places left on earth that makes you feel as if you’ve time-traveled to another world. Myanmar is home to some of Asia’s earliest civilizations with humans inhabiting the area around 11,000 BC. The simple life is the only life that many of the residents know as they live under the shadows of some of the most lavish temples you’ll ever see.
The next time that you hop onto your private jet for an exotic adventure, seek out these sights at this bewitching destination:
Formerly known as Pagan, Bagan was the first capital of the Myanmar Empire and is one of the richest archaeological sites in southern Asia. Of the over 10,000 temples, monasteries and pagodas that were built during the 11th to 13th centuries, 2,200 still remain.
Among the more notable religious sites are the Ananda Temple and Dhammayangyi Temple. The Ananda Temple, built in 1105, has a cruciform layout with several terraces that fuse Indian and Mon architectural styles. Within the temple are four large, standing Buddhas covered with gold leaf, plaques depicting jataka tales, stone images and paintings. The Dhammayangyi Temple, built between 1167 and 1170, is the largest temple in Bagan.
The last royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is an economic hub and the home of the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which contains the “world’s largest book.” The pagoda has 729 marble tablets with the entire Buddhist canon carved into them. Each tablet is housed inside an individual stupa.
In Myanmar’s Shan State is Inle Lake, which shares the border with Laos and Thailand. Its elevation (900 meters above sea level) and mountain location makes it a cool retreat. Over 30 hill tribes live in the surrounding mountains. On your way to Inle Lake, you’ll pass water hyacinths in bloom, floating fields of tomatoes and monasteries on stilts. The fishermen on the lake are draped in longhis and have mastered the art of maneuvering oars with their feet so their hands are free to cast nets.
When you charter a private jet to Myanmar, be sure to stop in the city of Padaung (Yan Pa Doung), home to the Kayan people. The Kayan Lahwi women wear brass coils around their necks so they look longer. Lahwi girls start wearing the rings at age five. As they grow, the coils get replaced with ones that are bigger and longer. Some say that the women wear the coils because they believe that they are the descendents of dragons. Most, however, don the accessory as a way to reflect their cultural identity.
The Golden Rock, or Kyaiktiyo Temple, on top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo in Myanmar’s Mon State is a popular pilgrimage site. The wonders of this destination are multi-faceted. The Kyaiktiyo Temple is perched on top of a granite boulder that’s covered in gold leaves by the visitors. The boulder, however, appears to defy gravity as it sits on the edge of a cliff. According to legends, a strand of Buddha’s hair keeps the rock from tumbling.
As the most popular pilgrimage site in Myanmar, you can find the Shwedagon Pagoda (also called the Shwedagon Zedi Daw or Great Dragon Pagoda) in Yungon. The pagoda is considered the most sacred in the country because of the relics within it: a piece of Kassapa’s robe, eight strands of Gautama’s hair, Kakusandha’s staff and Koṇāgamana’s water filter. There are four main entrances into the Shwedagon Pagoda and the base of the stupa is adorned with bricks covered with gold plates. The umbrella crown of the pagoda, just under the vane, is encrusted with 2,317 rubies and 5,448 diamonds. The bud at the top of the vane holds a 76-carat diamond.
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