A crowd-free pilgrimage to Kyaikhtiyo

The Golden Rock is perched precariously on the cliff edge. (Photo – EMG)

The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, or the Golden Rock, in Mon State is one of the most popular places of pilgrimage among local and foreign visitors. Despite its all-season accessibility, tourists tend to come here during the summer and winter.

We set out on our journey to the pagoda one early morning. As we passed through the sleepy town of Kyaikhto, I still was half asleep and half awake, but could see the road lined with endless rows of rubber plantations. The Kinpun base camp had sprung into life when we arrived.

Where the golden spires rule

An ancient temple in Myingun closely resembles the Ananda Temple in Bagan. (Photo – EMG)

Magway Region is home to many ancient pagodas and temples on the banks of Ayeyawady River. These Bagan-style structures can be found in three areas: Salay town(famous for its Salay Yokesonekyaung Monastery), Salay area in Yenanchaung Township, and Myingun town in Magway Township. 

During my recent trip to Myingun, I visited ancient ‘cave’ temples that look like those in Bagan, and especially the cave where Shin Izza Gawna is said to have forged a philosopher’s stone, and the 100 Pillars Monastery.

The neon glare of Nyaung Shwe

From Nyaung Shwe’s main dock, it’s a short boat ride to Inle Lake. (Photo - EMG)

On one humid night delegates from civil society organisations across Southeast Asia were celebrating the end of a conference at a posh big hotel in Nyaung Shwe on the edge of Inle Lake. The boisterous party dragged on way past 10pm. Lights from the hotel’s rooftop illuminated the small town.

Infrastructure crucial to tourism: minister

Myanmar received 3 million tourist arrivals last year, a 51 per cent increase on the previous year, according to Htay Aung, the minister for hotels and tourism, adding that infrastructure must improve if the sector is to grow.

Htay Aung said: “Basic infrastructure projects play a crucial role in the development of tourism as the country sees a massive influx of visitors.” 

Hosting the Asean Tourism Forum 2015 in January could contribute a lot to the development of the sector, he added. 

The gateway to India

The trade zone in India’s Zokhawthar is located just opposite Myanmar’s Rih Khaw Dar. (Photo – EMG)

A light drizzle was falling one Sunday morning in the border town of Rih Khaw Dar in Chin State.  When I looked out the window of my motel room, I saw a red and white bridge over Ciau Creek with the border trade zone of India’s Mizoram State in the background. Plantations dotted both side of the creek, and crows of roosters echoed through the hills.

Mt Poppa calling out

Mt. Poppa (Photo - EMG)

Mt Popa, also known as Poppa Taungkalat, is located near Kyaukpadaung and is one of the major tourist attractions in central Myanmar. Some people believe Mt Popa is the spiritual centre of Myanmar and is often associated with Bagan, which is only 48 kilometres away, in traditional folktales.

The mountain is a steep-sided extinct volcano that rises 2,417 feet above the dry surrounding plains.

Myeik tourism reaches 17-year high

Snorkelling resorts in the Myeik Archipelago have attracted around 2,000 foreign visitors this year since January, according to the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism (Myeik Branch).

Last year, tourism revenue hit a 17-year high, Ks 57.99 million (US$57,991) and $329,470.

Entry fees to Kawthoung District and Myeik District are $50 and $80, respectively, for local tour agencies. For foreigners, the fees are $100 and $150, plus an additional $20 per day for tourists who stay more than five days.