By Barrie Parker, who travelled with us in January 2015
My wife, Narasri, and I have travelled fairly extensively in Southeast Asia and we’d wanted to visit Burma for a long time.
Travelling tailor-made allowed us to visit at our own pace and absorb the culture, customs and history of the country. It also enabled me to indulge in my obsession as a photographer.
Mandalay and its markets
Beginning in Mandalay, we explored the jade market, where craftsmen do very skilled marble cutting.
The extraordinary railway market is a sight to behold as vendors clear the tracks in seconds just before a train passes through.
We also walked across the world’s longest wooden (teak) footbridge, U-Bein Bridge, near the old capital city of Amarapura.
U-Bein Bridge is the world’s longest wooden footbridge
In the air over the temples of Bagan
We left Mandalay and began a slow four-day river cruise on the Irrawaddy River to Bagan. We stopped off to visit many places of interest and several rural communities on the way.
In Bagan, it's impossible not to visit at least a handful of the some 2,000 pagodas or temples and to realise just how important Buddhist beliefs and practice are to the vast majority of the population.
We took a sunrise hot-air balloon trip over the temples on our second morning in Bagan, which was a magical experience.
A hot air balloon trip is a great way to experience Bagan's temples
Floating vegetable patches and leg-rowing fishermen on Inle Lake
We left Bagan to travel to Inle Lake in the Shan State by plane and transferred to our hotel by long boat. Around the lake are many small villages that connect to the main lake by narrow canals.
The homes on and around the lake are stilted and the transport is by narrow canoe.
Slivers of land have been harvested and float on the water, secured to the shallow base of the lake by wooded poles. The vegetables the locals grow are delicious. The lake is rich in fish and home to the unique leg-rowing fishermen, who stand in their boats to get a bird's-eye view of the fish in the very shallow water.
Take some time to watch the fishermen on Inle Lake with their unique leg-rowing technique
Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset in Yangon
Our final destination was the charming, busy old Colonial city of Yangon (previously Rangoon). We explored it over two days.
Our abiding memory was seeing the famous Shwedagon Pagoda just before sunset as the local residents paid their respects after work or school. There’s a quite magical atmosphere present as the sun dips and darkness falls on this most sacred of places.
The best time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda is just before the sun sets
Start planning your trip to Burma
Places Barrie and Narasri visited on their itinerary
Less famous than the temples at Angkor or Borobodur, Bagan is unquestionably one of the 'must sees' in Asia. There are over 3,000 temples here, and a popular way to see them is via a hot-air balloon trip.
The capital of the Burmese kingdom before the colonial era, Mandalay is Burma’s second largest city. Highlights include the Shwenandow Pagoda, which has some exquisite woodcarvings adorning its walls.