A step into Myanmar

Every Burman has his sada, his palm-leaf horoscope cast in his infancy at the same time the astrologer confers upon him a name. On the occasion of every important decision - even, in modern days, decisions of state - the horoscope is cast anew, the planets studied and decisions made or postponed, action undertaken or put off. And no power on earth can make a Burman act in defiance of his stars
 
 
 
 
This huge cave is simply breathtaking. As you enter the football stadium–sized cavern you’ll be greeted by (what else?) dozens of buddha statues, a couple of pagodas and some newer clay wall carvings.
 
 
 
 
Hpa-an, Kayin State's scruffy, riverside capital, isn't going to inspire many postcards home. But the city is the logical base from which to explore the Buddhist caves, sacred mountains and cloud-scraping islands of the surrounding countryside.
 
 
 
 
One of Myanmar’s main attractions, this is a temple town. The area known as Bagan (ပုဂ) or, bureaucratically, as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies an impressive 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. The Ayeyarwady River drifts past its northern and western sides.
 
 
 
 
More and more foreigners are finding their way to delightful Hsipaw (pronounced ‘see-paw’ or ‘tee-bor’), drawn by the possibilities of easily arranged hill treks that are more authentic than those around Kalaw or anywhere in northern Thailand. Many people, though, find the town's laidback vibe and intriguing history (it was once a Shan royal city) as much of an attraction and spend far longer here than they intended. With just enough tourist infrastructure to be convenient, Hsipaw remains a completely genuine northern Shan State town. Be sure to check it out before that changes.
U Bein Bridge (Burmese: ဦးပိန် တံတား) is a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura in Myanmar. The 1.2-kilometre (0.75 mi) bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Burma is a very safe country to visit, but meeting Burmese people requires sensitivity and tact. Don’t ask locals what they think about the regime, and be wary of places that treat ethnic minorities as attractions – notably the ‘long-necked’ Padaung women in Shan State. For further information, take a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice for travellers to Burma.
 
 
 
 
Standing proud in the middle of a small, artificial lake is Kyauk Kalap, a tall finger of sheer rock mounted by one of the most unlikely pagodas in Myanmar. The rock offers great views of the surrounding countryside and nearby Mt Zwegabin, and is allegedly the best place to see the sunset over this mountain.
 
 
 
 
The area’s most active town and main transport hub is Nyaung U, in the northeast corner. About 2.5 miles west, Old Bagan is the former site of the village that was relocated two miles south to New Bagan in 1990. Between the two is Myinkaba, a village boasting a long-running lacquerware tradition.
Connecting the towns are paved roads making a 12-mile oval. In between and around these towns is the bulk of the Bagan action: the plain, featuring most of the temples, all connected with a vast network of bumpy dirt roads and trails.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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