During my last visit to Myanmar, I started in Yangon and worked my way through surrounding areas. I visited the Royal Mandalay Palace, gazed over the back waters of Inle Lake, and hiked the northern mountains outside of Kyaing Tong in Shan State. With the help of a guide, our group ventured onto mountainous paths and visited remote villages inhabited by ethnic minorities. We met the Loi, Akha, Lahu, Akhu, Palaung, and Eng tribes. Despite global influence, the tribes still retain their strong cultural identities; they live isolated in their villages, wearing traditional garbs, speaking old languages, and growing highland rice. The people are very welcoming. On one of my hikes, I was invited into the home of one of the locals for a funeral ceremony. Everyone gathered to drink and eat in celebration of the passing of a loved one.
A distinct memory I have was when I attended a Shinbyu novitiation ceremony at the Shwedagon Pagoda. In Myanmar, it is a compulsory Buddhist tradition for boys age 8-20 to enter the Buddhist Order for a week or more as a novice. A formal novitiation ceremony involves a parade around the pagodas with the boys dresses up as princes.
Myanmar is a country of hidden treasure, smiling people, and local legends. I met with mystical astrologers, chatted with artisans in colorful markets, toured the magical Bagan, and visited many beautiful temples, monasteries, and pagodas. Myanmar is a beautiful must-see destination. It has rich culture and beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, since opening its doors, the country has begun to change. I encourage you to visit before their longstanding culture and traditions erode.