When describing the golden stupa that for many people defines Yangon, it’s hard not to repeat what many others have already written or said. Perhaps the most entertaining thing about visiting the great pagoda for someone who’s been there more than once, is bringing somebody who hasn’t seen it to watch their reaction: eyes boggle, jaws drop and breath is sharply inhaled. The 330-foot-plus gilded stupa is a must-see for anybody seeing Yangon for the first time but remember to bring 8,000 kyats (local currency) for the entry fee. Also, keep in mind that the pagoda is a deeply religious site that holds special meaning for Myanmar’s Buddhists – dress and act respectfully. Getting to Shwe Dagon is very easy – just say the magic word “Shwe Dagon”, and any cab driver will take you there.
As the country’s most important religious site, Shwe Dagon Pagoda is literally ringed by people selling all manner of Buddhist artifacts, articulated dolls, books, bells, art works, fans and so much more.
In many ways Bagan is the equal of Cambodia’s ancient city of Angkor Wat. But where the temples at Angkor are relatively closely packed, the pagodas and relics at Bagan are scattered far and wide across a 42-square kilometer plain that includes thousands of sites. Bagan is also well developed as a destination by Myanmar’s standards and is serviced by its own airport, as well as boats linking it to Mandalay via the Ayeyarwady River. Visitors can choose to hire a bicycle, electric bike, car or ox-cart to explore the many varied temples in the area. You can also choose to visit the temple atop Mt.Popa, which is an hour drive from Nyaung U.
The artisans and craftsmen of Bagan produce a wide range of tourist artworks and knick-knacks including sand paintings, lacquer ware and ornate screens made from carved wood.
Kyaikhtiyo is one of the major tourist destinations in Mon State and is an easy five hour bus ride from Yangon. The bus stops in the little town of Kinpun at the base of the mountain. Visitors have two options: climb the mountain on foot for about 7 hours via an 11-kilometre uphill hike or take an hour trucks that cost 2,500ks each and climb most of the way to the top.
At the summit of the mountain there are several hotels that foreigners are permitted to stay in. Beyond lies a checkpoint where you must pay a 6,000ks entry fee and then a ridge along the mountain with pilgrim rest houses, monasteries and of course, the Golden Rock.
The rock itself is entirely coated with gold, which has been lovingly applied sheet by sheet by male visitors-women are not allowed onto the platform- and rests on a rock ledge, seemingly defying gravity.
Mon State is renowned for its rubber plantations, which is consumed locally or exported abroad. The state is also a big producer of delicious cashew nuts. However, Kyaikhtiyo is famous for the pepper grown on the mountainside and in surrounding areas.