Mingalabar is a word of welcome as well as a wish for good fortune. This single word best signifies the inherent nature of the people of Myanmar: not only to offer hospitality but to wish others well. With traditions deeply rooted in the loving-kindness philosophy of Buddhism, the creed that Myanmar lives by is cedana, or heart-felt goodwill towards friends and strangers alike. Myanmar, previously known as Burma, possesses a rich and vibrant cultural tradition, with great natural beauty that is combined with magnificent temple architecture.
From the ancestral pagoda temples that tell stories of splendor, to the picturesque mountain passages and rice fields, there’s an almost endless list of things to discover in Myanmar. It is still an inexpensive destination for expatriates considering relocating to South East Asia. Expats moving to Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) or Mandalay, will find themselves welcomed in this country that’s also known as the Golden Land – a truly hidden treasure.
The former capital of Myanmar, and its largest city, Yangon is one of Asia’s safest cities, with no areas to be avoided. It is a city with rich culture, warm people and a surprisingly fast rate of growth. Just over the last four years alone, a large number of international food chains and stores have arrived in Yangon and large shopping malls have been opening (and continue to open) in various locations. It is a vibrant city experiencing rapid transition from its multicultural roots and colonial past to a new phase of progress and modernization; and a melting pot – a diversity of cultures and communities in terms of people, settlement and religions.
Yangon is surprisingly green thanks to its stunning lakes, shady parks and verdant tropical trees. This is why it is dubbed “The Garden City of the East”. There are so many spectacular pagodas to enjoy and a number of attractive parks around the city which are veritable oases. Many offer activities from a water fountain show and a planetarium, to an old steam locomotive and an old Myanma Airways aircraft to swimming, rowing and sailing.
Throughout the metropolis, numerous food stalls, historical sites, art galleries, souvenirs and markets are yours to explore. Many places still retain some of the charm of a bygone era and there are many ways to become acquainted with the city. There are many markets worth visiting with big selections of handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, gems, jewellery, antiques and art galleries, you can while away your time browsing, searching for that perfect gift for your family or eating at one of the many traditional Myanmar and Chinese food stalls in the market.
Yangon, a vibrant city in flux and undergoing modernisation, is also a spiritual melting pot of long-held traditions including festivities mostly associated with Buddhist beliefs and traditions. Living in Yangon is like being in a time capsule travelling to its past while living in the present and moving towards its future.
Travel within Myanmar is a wonderful experience. You can fly to many places or choose to take a car, bus or train. Some places are accessible by boat. The main tourist places (Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay, beaches) are reasonably easy to get to, while locations such as Putao (up north in the Himalayan foothills) or the Myeik archipelago can be more difficult to reach and may require permits. Any places that might be dangerous will be off limits although at this point, much of the country is open to travel.