Myanmar was isolated for the world for quite a few years. There were few secrets in relation to the historical, religious and cultural attractions in the country that was Burma under British colonial rule until just after World War II, with Japanese occupation for a period during that War. The result was that people knew plenty about the Country yet it was only a couple of years ago that it had its first World Heritage site recognised by UNESCO, Pyu Ancient Cities. Other sites have been submitted for recognition and it is worth mentioning them because they are likely to be included inMyanmar private tours that last more than a couple of days. The regime has become more liberal and elections held; as a result, more tourists are booking Myanmar tour packages and seeing those sites for themselves:
Obviously the first site to mention is Pyu which comprises three walled cities, each surrounded by a moat; Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra. The location is the Ayeyarwaddy River Basin where they flourished for over 1,000 years from 200BC. At this stage, archaeological work has yet to be completed but what has been revealed are brick Buddhist stupas, citadels, burial grounds, some signs of industrial production and some standing walls. It appears that the people understood irrigation systems and that agriculture was the major activity.
Twenty years ago, what was then Burma nominated eight sites and Pyu is to date the only one that has been approved. UNESCO has suggested improvements to those sites which could well lead to their acceptance. The Government realises the value of achieving this status and it will certainly lead to more travellers looking to spend time on a Myanmar holiday.
Bagan Archaeological Area and Monumentsare perhaps the best known of the sites. At one time, it was thought that there were 10,000 temples in the ancient capital of Bagan; there are still more than 2,000. Two that are certain to be included in Myanmar family tour packages date back to the 12th Century, Ananda Temple and Sulamani Temple. The murals indicate a skilled people. The problem with the site has been other developments in more recent times that has taken attention away from preserving the historical gems in the area. It means there is opposition from a range of experts to the application yet tourists will see some wonderful buildings when they travel to Bagan.
The good news is that UNESCO and the local archeological team are liaising to move the application forward by developing restoration plans which will conserve the places.
The other places in the 1996 application were:
• The Wooden Monasteries from the Konbaung Period: Ohn Don, Sala, Pakhangyi, Pakhannge, Legaing, Sagu and Shwe-Kyaung in Mandalay.
• Badah-lin Caves
• The ancient cities of Upper Myanmar: Innwa, Amarapura, Sagaing, Mingun and Mandalay
• Inle Lake where the locals living on houses on stilts fish and farm as their ancestors have done for years.
• The Mon cities ofBago and Hanthawaddy
A further application was made recently for recognition of some of the natural wonders in Myanmar which are often included by a good Myanmar tour operator looking to put together a travel itinerary:
• Ayeyarwaddy River
• Northern Mountain Forest
• Indawgyi LakeWildlife Sanctuary
• Natma Taung National Park
• Myeik Archipelago
• Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
• Taninthayi Forest
There is no doubt that the attitude towards Myanmar is changing and with that progress should be made on the recognition of these sites; they are there for everyone to enjoy anyway.