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The Secrets of Myanmar (Burma)

Now open to tourists, Myanmar is Southeast Asia’s new rising star

Avoid the height of the rainy season in Myanmar, from August through October.
Even Myanmar’s top tourist attractions feel undiscovered, because, essentially, all of the country is. After being closed off from the rest of the world for decades under oppressive military rule, Myanmar (or Burma, as many Western governments recognize it) is moving toward democratic reform and welcoming tourists.

It won’t remain under the radar for long. Since the United States and other countries eased economic sanctions against the country in 2010, interest in travel to Burma has been overwhelming to say the least. Over 1 million travelers visited the country in 2012, a 30-percent increase from the previous year.

The takeaway? Go now.

Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is the former capital city, where you can visit the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda. Plated entirely in gold, the Buddhist temple stands 360 feet tall and gleams (literally) with thousands of diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, with a 76-carat diamond atop its soaring spire.

The charming small villages and floating pagodas of Inle Lake, in the center of Myanmar, are only accessible by boat. And the only boats are those of the local fishermen whom you hire to take you on a tour.

Founded in the 11th century, Bagan was the original capital of Burma. It is a spiritual wonderland of more than 2,000 pagodas and temples built by kings of Burma’s Golden Age. Its golden Shwezigon Temple is a popular Burmese pilgrimage site.

Burma’s busy economic hub, Mandalay, in northern Burma, is also home to historic monuments like Mahamuni Temple, famed for its Buddha statue layered in gold leaf, which is is believed to be one of only five likenesses constructed during the Buddha’s lifetime.

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