Beach, Buddha and Pagoda – How To Spend 5 Days in Myanmar

Myanmar (aka Burma) has only recently opened to tourism after lifting an embargo on foreign visitors. Tucked away in the South Asian peninsula, the country is unknown to most western tourists, except for it’s communist politics followed by a fight for democracy led by female activist Aung San Suu Kyi. A deeper dive into Myanmar’s history opens up a rich pandora of culture, religion and architecture spanning thousands of years. The country is biodiverse with beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. While it is difficult to see Myanmar in just a few days, I managed to capture a few highlights through my lens.

Yangon, the capital, is where I spent most of my time as our ship was docked there was three days. Sailing into the Irrawaddy River Delta gave way to views of muddy brown waters with nomadic fisherman on traditional boats, followed by golden domes popping out from bare villages. The city, itself is pretty small, with business buildings, hotels, tea shops, gardens and lots of pagodas. Having been cut off from the rest of the world, you won’t find any name brands or chain restaurants here. People still dress traditionally in sarongs (called longyi) and put bright creamy paste (thanaka) on their faces, while crouching on low stools on the street side cafes eating fish curry and steamed rice. It is easy to walk around, taxis are cheap, though traffic can be bad at times.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple houses one of the most revered reclining Buddha statues in the country. Though the original statue was built in 1899, it has been modified and reconstructed few times until the 1970s.

Dominating the Yangon skyline, Shwedagon Pagoda is spectacular by day and night. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, and perhaps the oldest Buddha stupa in the world, built between 6-10 centuries CE. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to wander around the complex of temples to absorb their splendid beauty, and maybe you would feel like spending a few minutes in silence or meditation.

In the evening, head over for dinner to Karaweik Royal Barge. Karaweik Palace was constructed in the shape of a barge as a symbol of Burmese culture and arts. It serves international buffet with cultural performances. Other restaurants I tried were Yangon Tea House, a casual and hip Burmese/ Indian restaurant, and Feel Myanmar, a traditional place where you can pick and choose your food and quantity. This is a great venue to safely try a lot of Burmese dishes that you may have seen on the streets as well.

On the other side of Yangon’s cosmopolitan city, is the township of Dala. This is the place to go if you want to see daily life of the locals – where they live, shop, study and pray. Most people cross the river on ferry boat to work in the city. Walk through the wet markets, visit a monastery, stop by an orphanage, and ride on a trishaw.


From Yangon, take a short flight to the city of Bagan, in the eastern province. It is said there were over 10,000 religious structures built in Bagan between 9-13 centuries, though only 2,000 of them still remain today. Shwesardaw offers a great lookout to many of these temples spread across the archeological area.

Though there are dozens of other temples in the area worth visiting if you have the time, Shwezigon Pagoda built by the Mon Dynasty, is covered with more than 30,000 copper plates (originally gold). The pagoda houses four huge bronze statues of Buddha, and contain his original footprints.

Lampi Island is the only marine national park in Myanmar, home to over 1000 species of animals, plants and marine life, as well as occasional sea gypsies. Here you can take a private zodiac cruise to visit the mangroves.

Further south is Shark Island, a secluded natural island perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the white sandy beach. There are a number of beaches and exclusive beach resorts in Myanmar, that offer opportunities to see the rich coral formations and marine life.

Located at the Myanmar-Thailand border, is the charming town of Kawthoung. With strong Indian and Muslim influences, it is a town on a hill where you can walk around and explore within a day. Kawthaung is also the starting point for Myanmar-based cruises to the vast Myeik Archipelago.

My trip to Myanmar was possible through Silverseas Discoverer Andaman Sea Expedition cruise. I was on their inaugural sailing to Myanmar, a country that should be added to your travel bucket list!

5 Must See Places in Cape Town, South Africa

What does your mind envision at the mention of Cape Town, South Africa? Perhaps you see flashes of Cape Town’s tumultuous history. Remnants of the apartheid, a system of racial segregation from 1948 to 1994, loom heavily over this beautiful city.  There remain visible reminders of the painful class system, displaced persons and civil unrest.  However, it is time to take another look.  Cape Town is a coastal town, comprised of a majestic port, vineyards as far as the eye can see, pristine beaches and so much more. In Cape Town a traveler will find a bit of everything.

Cape Town was originally founded as a resupply stop for the Dutch East Indies Company.  Today, Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa. It is the second most populous city in South Africa and the largest city in the Western Cape.  Here are some sites you must visit to gain a new perspective on the country.

Majestic Table Mountain

CapeTown Table Mountain

On a clear day in the city, Table Mountain’s prominent summit can be seen for miles around. It is widely recognizable and makes up the backdrop of the area.

An interesting phenomenon known as orographic clouds occurs at the site of Table Mountain. Locals have been known to call these clouds the “table cloth.” These clouds give the mountain both a mysterious and majestic feel yet can appear to completely swallow up this 3,559 ft landmark. At times, there are opportunities to literally walk through the clouds.

The summit of the mountain can be reached by cable car and boasts awe inspiring views.  The plateau of the mountain is 2 miles from side to side, revealing picturesque views of the city below and the ocean beyond. Visitors to Table Mountain walk among the fiery sunset colored flora, and take photographs of each other against the backdrop of the intense shades of grey and purple. Save some energy, there is more, now choose to hike, mountain bike, go rock climbing or visit some caves in the national park.

Reclaimed V and A Waterfront

Victoria and Alfred WaterfrontThe Victoria and Alfred Waterfront has undergone many transitions over the centuries.  The harbor basins were originally built between 1860 and 1920 at the direction of Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s youngest son.  Presently the V and A Waterfront is Cape Town’s number one attraction. The harbor is vibrant with more than 80 restaurants, retail stores, hotels, an aquarium, amphitheater and private residences. The waterfront attractions include the Nelson Mandela Museum and the launch for a boat ride to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Here is a tip; purchase tickets online weeks in advance of your visit to ensure your visit to Robben Island during your stay in Cape Town. With 400,000 square meters of mixed development use at The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, there is sure to be entertainment and cuisine to suit every persons tastes.

Brilliant Bo Kaap

BoKaap DistrictThe Bo Kaap district in the city of Cape Town is an artistic statement that quickly catches the eye.  The homes, painted in vividly bold colors, leave a lasting impression.  The area was originally known as the Malay Quarters although several groups of people dwelled in the community, including a significant population of Muslims.  Today, the traditions can still be experienced with its abundance of Malaysian cuisine, Muslim mosques, carnivals, museums, and bright facades.

Unspoiled Beaches

The beaches are a must see while visiting Cape Town.  They are sugary white and impeccably maintained. The city has over 80 beaches and facilities, as recognized by their government with the most popular destinations for visitors being Clifton, Camps Bay and Boulders Beach.

Hout Bay BeachClifton Beach is known for the luxury of the surrounding homes, boutiques, and restaurants.  This “Millionaire’s Row” is a place to go see and be seen and has been coined Cape Town’s St. Tropez, a province located on the French Riviera.  St. Tropez is known as “the” beach destination for the famous, wealthy, and beautiful.  Clifton Beach, while known for its posh ambiance is also a destination for sunbathers.

Camps Bay Beach, just down the road from Clifton Beach, gives a more laid back atmosphere than the Clifton area.  It is family friendly during the day and has ample amounts of dining and shopping. During the evening the beach is also known for its bars and intriguing nightlife.

Boulders Beach is a recreational site that is a part of the Table Mountain National Park.  It has slightly warmer water and its rocks dissipate the waves making snorkeling ideal.  It also happens to be the home to a colony of endangered African penguins.

Exquisite Vineyards

Constantia Winery

Less than an hours drive from Cape Town’s city center are captivating landscapes of wine country. Rolling hills of endless vineyards span the territory of Cape Town incorporating more than 20 wine producing regions. Many have won international awards and continue to produce sought after harvests.

Wineries such as Constantia and Cape Point deliver warm hospitality, world-class wine, and a reprieve from the busier city.  To visit, consider companies such as South African owned Luhambo Tours, which accommodates tours to various wine estates.

A local source for information can be essential to experiencing the most Cape Town has to offer. Tour with a lifelong resident and licensed operator like Auriol’s Tours for a unique perspective with uncommon expeditions.

The traditional and contemporary life styles in Cape Town co-mingle; the natural beauty and artistic flair merge making it a destination to behold.  A recommendation, when thinking about travel to Cape Town, South Africa, envision the need for at least seven days in order to experience most of what Cape Town has to offer.

To learn more about traveling to Cape Town, visit Cape Town Tourism.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious.  Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

The best national parks in Brazil

Natural landscapes, beautiful cascades, majestic waterfalls, diverse vegetation and fauna of various species are some of the charms that tourists can find in the national parks of Brazil. Here are the best ones as claimed by Brazil Ministry of Tourism. Continue reading “The best national parks in Brazil”

Myths and facts of Rio

They say you never truly know a place till you actually go there yourself and experience it first hand. People warn you, advise you, paint a picture of a destination for you. But everyone has their own lens of looking at things so where one finds danger, another may feel safe, where one sees chaos, another may find beauty. Continue reading “Myths and facts of Rio”