I had always heard of Myanmar (formerly Burma) being a remote country and very little was known about it. Most tourists visit neighboring countries like India and Thailand and end up skipping Myanmar. But it turns out that Myanmar has a lot to offer in terms of beauty and culture and the friendly locals are more than happy to welcome you to their undiscovered gem.

Being one of the least known countries in the world can have its benefits. There is much to explore and discover and places are not yet bombarded with tourists. Myanmar is becoming increasingly popular since the country opened its doors to tourists a few years back, causing an influx of visitors every year. Yet Myanmar still feels quaint compared to other Asian nations. This quaintness is what gives Myanmar its charm and made me fall in love with it even more.

I began my journey in Mandalay where I got my first glimpse of golden temples piercing the deep blue sky. Novice monks in red gowns would get up at the crack of dawn to do their choirs and I would encounter them as they commuted across town. Occasionally they would glance over at me to acknowledge my presence and sometimes even return a smile. I followed them to the nearby U Bein Bridge, the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the world, where I met local fishermen and farmers. At Inle Lake, I hopped on a local fisherman’s boat for a glimpse of their daily life. Fishermen here are known to have great balance while fishing as they use one leg to row the boat while keeping their hands free for catching fish using a cone-shape net. Also at the lake live the Kayan women who are known for wearing neck rings which over time, elongates their necks.

Last but certainly not least is the ancient city of Bagan. Here is where the magic unfolds before your eyes. This enchanting place can only be appreciated in person and to truly experience the raw beauty of it, you need to spend a fews days exploring some of the thousands of Buddhist temples that are scattered on the open plains the size of Manhattan. Arriving at dawn (when it’s still pitch black) is part of the fun since I had to find a temple to climb in order to catch the sunrise over the horizon (not always an easy feat). The first rays of sunlight appear, revealing the colorful temples all glittering in the dawn sunlight. I sat there, quietly, taking it all in and catching myself smiling. Truly a magical place.