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Wanderlust Issue 145 (April 2014) World Class Destinations ♦ Namibia ♦ Colombia ♦ New Zealand ♦ Mongolia ♦ Lake District ♦ How to plan a round-the-world trip ♦ Pocket guides: Bagan, New York City & Singapore

CONSUMER MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR www.wanderlust.co.uk April 2014

WORLD CLASS DESTINATIONS WE REVEAL THE BEST COUNTRY, CITY AND MORE...

W i n!

Trips to M a and Lapla dagascar nd over £5,0 worth 0 See page 0! 4

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♦ Namibia ♦ Mongolia ♦ New Zealand ♦ Colombia ♦ New York ♦ Singapore ♦ Burma ♦ Lake District

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CONTENTS

Issue 145 April 2014

360 – NEED TO KNOW

2014

Which countries, companies, airlines and airports did you rate last year? Thousands of you told us, giving us a fascinating insight into what real travellers really think…

THE RESULTS ARE IN!

nder 6 Viewfi to know this month... 14 Need Go now 16Eat this... 18 Simon Reeve reveals all 20 Know your... 22Award-winningSongkran trips 24

Which pic did you think was our Travel Photo of the Year? Find out here... Could visa costs stop you travelling? Spring to the Azores: plus Palin, luggage and jazz up your water We dish up a tasty tribute to Syria – a delicious squash kibbeh ...The TV presenter gives his own travel awards Reckon the UK is wet? This Thai festival is wetter! Your top tour operators inspire with their signature trips

TRAVEL MASTERCLASS

60The masterclass 64Ask the experts Travel clinic 66Take 68 better travel photos 71Traveller’s guide to...

How to plan your ultimate round-the-world trip, from budgeting and route-planning to what to pack Your questions answered: is Brazil dangerous? Can you eat non-spicy in China? Best ways to get to Tibet? Dr Jane talks health and safety in emerging destinations

Paul Harris offers tips on using the light to capture a perfect portrait on camera Lightweight waterproofs. Editor Phoebe Smith braves the rain to test jackets that weigh less than an iPad Air

Win!

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■ Cover Story

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107 World Class Destinations

Late last year we asked you – the ever-exploratory Wanderlust readers – about your favourite country, city, travel gear, airline, guidebook and more. You responded in your thousands and now the results are in...

Trip for two to Finnish Lapland p87 A great Madagascar escapade p130 Your pick of an American adventure p139

New York City, p137

137

NYC is the ultimate metropolis: so familiar from a million movies, yet still so much left to discover...

26 “Watching these elephants made me realise that some environments are so uncompromising that they transform those who inhabit them – and leave a lasting impression on those just passing through” Lizzie Williams

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Colombia, p44 “The road weaved high into the mountains towards Tayrona NP – a jungle-cloaked wilderness with some of the Caribbean’s best beaches and trekking” Nick Boulos

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WHIP UP A SYRIAN FEAST WITH... Sharon Salloum, p18 FEATURES

26Namibia Trip Planner 44Colombia

From towering dunes to desert elephants, here’s why Namibia is your top country A tale of two very different coastlines in your joint second top country – from whale watching on the Pacific to meeting locals on the Caribbean shore New Zealand From the ridiculous to the sublime – travel Queenstown to Milford in your joint-second favourite country Mongolia Soak up the best bits of your favourite emerging destination Lake District Go green! Why the hilly Lakes is your best of Britain

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Rob Palmer

FROM THE ROAD

POCKET GUIDES

103Your Story

Reader Luke Darracott rides the rails to Russia’s wild Karelia region, fuelled by lemon tea and lots of vodka... Letters In our mailbag: praise for this year’s fantastic Destinations show and the myWanderlust meet-up; devotion to South Luangwa; Travel Photo Of The Year: a bias towards high-tech gear?

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Month You Have 105This Been...

Cycling the Solent Way; gearing up for Guatemala; travelling from Milan to Rome by train; and hiking glaciers while hunting the northern lights in Iceland

133 Short Break

Make a break for Burma: you voted the temple-strewn hub of Bagan as your top city, so here’s a quick guide to getting the most out of its bewildering bevy of ruins First 24 Hours Whether you’re on a quick stopover or taking a longer break, here’s how to spend your first day in super-efficient yet surprisingly cultural Singapore Travel Icon Epic in name and nature, New York City is not only filled with travel icons, but is a landmark in itself – so plan a spring trip to the Big Apple

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“Late-morning rays illuminated the knobbly peak of Loughrigg Fell, inviting me onwards. I strolled easily up to its summit, the loose rocks beneath my boots crunching as I went” Phoebe Smith

Lake District, p118

“It’s a rugged land of snow-dusted mountains, desert plateaus, huge salt lakes, traditional eagle hunters and a hotchpotch of contrasting cultures” Charlie Walker

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Mongolia, p88

Bagan, p133 Bagan

74 ist e valley the m isscrossed th “As the path cr e Routeburn th ed ss pa I ; as e” began to clear looming abov Southern Alps Flats I saw the Helen Ochyra

TALKING HEADS Simon Reeve p20 “I think people are desperate to have memorable experiences. They get those experiences by going further and getting off the beaten track” Simon Reeve

New Zealand, p74

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sun’s embrace New Mexico, USA

Photographer: Colleen Pinski A flaming ring of fire illuminates the sky for this shot, captured during an annular solar eclipse. It is just one of dozens of remarkable images in Dawn to Dark, a book that uses some of the world’s best photography to depict the passage of a single day. Taken from atop an Albuquerque hillside, at this very moment the low sun is blanketed by the moon – all bar a glowing semi-halo. And just as their paths intertwined for this rare event, Colleen Pinski seized her opportunity to immortalise a “beyond this world” experience... Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light (National Geographic, £30) out now

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■ Readers’ Pictures

YOUR PHOTOs

Been somewhere beautiful? Done something amazing? Email fromtheroad@wanderlust.co.uk – make us jealous! “My welcome to the village. Lume, Tanna Island, Vanuatu.” Gwen Green

“After reading the article in Wanderlust [issue 140, Oct 13] ‘Mysteries worth travelling for’ I knew I had to put Phnom Kulen, Cambodia, on my list of things to see during our trip.” Marilyn Willwohl

“A wonderful end to a three-week trip down through Chile. With the Moai on Easter Island. Colour co-ordinated too!” Stuart Wilcox

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360˚ Viewfinder

“What’s this – my girlfriend in the palm of my hand? Must have been the altitude!” Taken at Laguna Tebinquinche, Salar de Atacama, Chile. Phil Sutcliffe

“My wife and I are enjoying Wanderlust as we take a rickshaw ride in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.” David McDonald

Where does your Wanderlust take you?

“Standing on the steps in the iconic Times Square, NYC, which appeared much smaller than I imagined. And much drier than the day before when there was a massive rain storm!” Gail Ashington

Every month we ask ‘Where does your Wanderlust take you?’, giving you a chance to win a goody bag including an adaptable Insect Shield Buff® – a new travel accessory to protect you from sun, wind and bugs (RRP £20). But can you do better than David (above)? We want to see where your Wanderlust takes you and where you take your Wanderlust! Take your magazine with you on your next trip and share a pic with us. Post it on our Facebook wall, tweet it to us at @wanderlustmag or email it to fromtheroad@wanderlust.co.uk.

“The amazing view from Table Mountain, Cape Town, on new years eve.” Laura Simpson

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12 Things you need to know this month...

Your April essentials: Simon Reeve reveals his travel favourites; the Azores open up; the best Syrian supper; your guide to Thai New Year

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■ New Frontiers

Visas won’t stop you travelling

With Turkish e-Visas being launched this month, we delve into the mysteries of the travel permit and ask how much you’re prepared to pay for one...

D

o you think about visas before you book a trip? How much do you let visa costs change your travel plans? Will you worry about when and how to apply? With travellers from more than 80 countries – including Britain, USA and Canada – having to now obtain an e-Visa online to visit Turkey (apply at www.evisa.gov.tr/en; the transition period runs to the end of 2014), it’s time to talk visas. One traveller told us although visa costs may not change his plans completely, they could impact on short breaks and stopovers: “My wife and I were planning to spend a few days in Mumbai after our trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, but changed our minds because of the £92 visa.” However, according to the experts from companies that help travellers organise visas, the expense (and sometimes hassle) of obtaining one rarely puts most people off. Edward Carnell, of Visa Swift, says: “When people need to travel, these documents are seen as a need-to-have purchase.” Visa Machine’s Jenny Hunter agrees, pointing out that costs are minimal compared to the

trips: “It’s the zeal to see the world that drives where people go rather than the cost of visas.” So which lucky nationalities need visas the least? Brits, Finns and Swedes according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index (October 2013). These passport-holders can visit 173 of 219 territories visa-free. US residents rank second (172 countries), while Canada (170), New Zealand (168) and Australia (167) follow. Worst off are Afghan nationals, who can visit just 28 places without a permit. Residents of Iraq (31), Somalia (32) and Pakistan (32) don’t fare much better; South Africans (94) get a raw deal too. Often it’s a case of tit-for-tat says Jenny: “If one country eases or tightens its regulations towards another, the same is echoed back.” Visa fees vary according to differing admin costs within each country. Usually there are several price brackets according to nationality: “This is probably driven by a whole range of factors, from wanting to encourage/discourage a specific tourist demographic, through to needing to account for inflation in paying staff,” Jenny adds. However, can you – and should you – really put a price on your wanderlust? You tell us...

Dreamstime

‘Brits, Finns and Swedes have the most freedom of movement’

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360˚ Need to Know

■ The Nitty Gritty

Visa validity issues on the road According to Jenny Hunter, MD of visa service The Visa Machine, visa problems are most common on long overland trips. “Travellers on these types of trip come across obstacles – break downs, unexpected delays, illnesses and so on – which can mean they simply run out of time; their visas expire. “We had one group who experienced this when their car broke down in Kazakhstan and their Russian visa validity got eaten into. Not only were they running right up to the wire on their Kazakh visa, but they also had to find a way of getting a new Russian one while in Kazakhstan. Their only option, after their car was fixed, was to leg it to Almaty to get a new Russian visa, and then dash to the Kazakh border to ensure they were out on time. We had to courier their new, original Russian Letter of Invitation (the Embassy wouldn’t accept a copy) to Almaty and in the end they made it – but it was very tight! “Generally, if people don’t have the right visa, they are turned away either by the airline before they board or at the border.”

Wanderlust readers get £5 off with The Visa Machine. Go to wanderlust-visa.co.uk for details.

■ Online reader poll We asked you: ‘How much are you prepared to pay for a visa?’ Up to £20 8% Whatever I have to pay to go where I want to go 66%

£20-60 18%

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£60-100 8%

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Gnarly views

Withered trees in the Dead Vlei surrounded by red sand dunes

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Namibia T r i p

P l a n n e r

The tallest dunes, the oldest plants, a wealth of wildlife, a bucketload of adventures – it’s no surprise Namibia is your top country. Not been? What are you waiting for? Words Lizzie Williams

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Animal attraction

Etosha NP’s life-giving waterholes can attract numerous species at any one time; here giraffe, zebra and springbok gather amiably on the edge of Etosha Pan; (right) More than 200,000 Cape fur seals choose to bask at Cape Cross, which is the largest colony of these characters on mainland Africa. It can be smelly; as you can imagine that’s a lot of fish suppers

Ok ava ngo River

Tsumeb

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Khaudum NP

ton

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Tsumkwe Damaraland Waterberg Plateau mi ese b D

500km

Okahandja WINDHOEK K a l a h a r i Desert

rt

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BOTSWANA

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Etosha NP Okaukuejo

Swakopmund Walvis Bay 0

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AT L A N T I C OCEAN

Kunene R i e r v

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Wildlife Despite its aridity, prolific waterholes enable game-viewing in Etosha National Park to be on a par with Botswana’s Chobe or Zimbabwe’s Hwange. Etosha means ‘great white place’ in the Herero language, and the park is dominated by the Etosha Pan. Seeing animals pace across this surreal expanse of white, cracked, dry mud that shimmers with mirages and spiralling dust-devils is what makes Etosha so special. The rest-camps of Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni have floodlit waterholes for

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Previous spread Dreamstime This page Lizzie Williams

Namibia Trip Planner

exciting night viewing, while Onkoshi and Dolomite camps offer more luxurious sleeps inside the park. Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast marks the spot where Portuguese mariner Diogo Cão first set foot in 1486, and today is the location of a colony of Cape fur seals. Why they choose to sit on the same rock is unknown, but they do. As many as 200,000 gather here in breeding season, turning it into an extraordinary carpet of bleating black, with countless more heads bobbing offshore. The colony attracts predators such as black-backed jackal and brown hyena, which pace along the beach.

Since the 1970s the 200m-high, flattopped Waterberg Plateau National Park has been a secure sanctuary for endangered species, including white rhino and the rare roan and sable antelope. The patchwork of wooded areas, grasslands and ravines on the top is good hiking territory, and walks ranging from one hour to four days can be organised from Waterberg Camp (Namibia Wildlife Reserves; www.nwr.com.na). The pan-handle shaped Caprivi Strip is a land of fertile, flat floodplains surrounded by perennial rivers, a far cry from the arid lands of the Namib. The main attractions are the 450 species of birds; 50 or more can

be seen in just an hour or two, with the rare Pel’s fishing owl topping most Caprivi bird wishlists. Mammals here include crocodile, hippo and wetland antelope; elephant migrate across the rivers from Botswana. Wildlife may be spotted in the small Caprivi reserves of Mahango, Mudumu, Mamili and Bwabwata, or from Caprivi’s lodges. The real beauty of Namibia, however, is that you might see wildlife anywhere – you don’t have to be within the national parks. While driving along wilderness roads, look out for gamboling springbok, stately oryx, trees heavy with weaverbird nests and many other creatures. ⊲ Wanderlust April 2014

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SUBSCRIPTIONS

An offer to smile about... Wanderlust Issue 145 (April 2014) World Class Destinations ♦ Namibia ♦ Colombia ♦ New Zealand ♦ Mongolia ♦ Lake District ♦ How to plan a round-the-world trip ♦ Pocket guides: Bagan, New York City & Singapore

CONSUMER MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR www.wanderlust.co.uk April 2014

WORLD CLASS DESTINATIONS WE REVEAL THE BEST COUNTRY, CITY AND MORE...

Win!

Trips to Mada and Lapla gascar nd over £5,00worth See page 0! 4

+

♦ Namibia ♦ Mongolia ♦ New Zealand ♦ Colombia ♦ New York ♦ Singapore ♦ Burma ♦ Lake District

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+

5 issues of Wanderlust for only £5*

Receive a FREE £50 travel voucher towards your next trip. visit www.wanderlustvoucher.co.uk for more details

Call us on: 01753 620426 and quote WL145 * TERMS & CONDITIONS: This offer is not available in conjunction with any other promotion. To pay by Direct Debit both the billing and postal address must be in the UK. Subscriptions are continuous; after the first payment of £5, a payment of £15.00 will be collected every six months unless cancelled. No minimum term. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery of travel voucher.

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Colombia

‘The sea shook as 40 tonnes of humpback erupted from the water – thrusting skywards like a rocket – barely 15m away’

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Colombia Waving hello

(clockwise from this) A humpback whale’s pectoral fin arches at visitors; a fisherman casts his net; trekking in Tayrona National Park; taking things easy in Taganga near Santa Marta

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TRAVEL MASTERCLASS Become an instant expert with our travel know-how

Semana Santa

Dreamstime

see p63

■ This month’s experts include: RTW traveller Alex MacCaw, p60 ♦ Brilliant bag-packer Doug Dyment, p63 ♦ Yorkshire bicyclist Harry Dowdell, p64 ♦ Global health guru Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, p66 ♦ Right light snapper Paul Harris, p68 ♦ Wanderlust April 2014

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Been there, and there, and there...

A round-the-world trip: still one of the most exciting propositions for travellers

■ The Wanderlust Masterclass

How to plan a round-the-world trip

T

he fictional Phileas Fogg did it in 80 days; in 1890, journo Nellie Bly completed it in 72; last year, a non-supersonic aircraft set a westbound world record of 48 hours, 42 minutes. There’s just something special about the idea of a round-the-world (RTW) trip, so it’s no surprise that most travellers want to do it. But when it comes to circumnavigating the globe, where do you begin?

How do I start planning? Most importantly, ask yourself: where do I want to go? Draw up a shortlist of the

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places you most want to see, to help narrow down your route. Once you’ve identified the must-sees, you can begin to join the dots. And do you want to fly around the globe? Or travel overland? Next, outline your budget, which will partly determine the duration and scope of your adventure. Remember, it’s not just a case of paying for flights – your available cash will dictate whether you stay in hotels, hostels, campsites or on couches; you’ll also need to budget for insurance, visas, vaccinations and other travel essentials. Rosie Swale-Pope, who ran her way around the world, reckons the key thing is facing

reality: “You need to assess what money you’ve got and your possibilities for financing it. Time and money are very precious.” Tom Bruce, who is the founder of tombrucecycling.com, went RTW by bike. He says the trick is not to try to pack in too much or to over plan: “If there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s that things will go wrong – plans need to be fluid.”

What about flights?

Unless, like Rosie, you decide to run, your biggest upfront expense will be transportation. The most economical way to travel is to book a RTW flight, a multi-stop ticket that hops

Wanderlust April 2014

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New Zealand

The missed link

The Routeburn – one of NZ’s Great Walks – gets overshadowed by the nearby Milford Track. But tackle this easy trail, linking Queenstown and Milford Sound, and you’ll get some South Island wilderness all to yourself Words Helen Ochyra

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Man’s best friends Horseback golden eagle hunters roam the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia

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Mongolia

Rising Star

Where do you start with a country as big as Mongolia? We break down this vast country – voted by you as Best Emerging Destination – into a more digestible prospect Words CHarlie Walker

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2014

Which countries, companies, airlines and airports did you rate last year? Thousands of you told us, giving us a fascinating insight into what real travellers really think‌

THE RESULTS ARE IN!

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Top Emerging Destination Mongolia An interesting category this. Previous winners (Burma, Colombia) have ‘graduated’ to score highly in the Top Country category; could the same happen to Mongolia? This vast sweep of Central Asia – rich in nomadic tradition, unusual wildlife and

truly epic wilderness – certainly deserves more visitors. And it seems more of you are venturing to this region of the globe, with Tajikistan (home of the mighty Pamir Mountains) and Georgia fleshing out the top five. Could 2015 be the year of the Silk Road?

RANKING 1 Mongolia =2 Tajikistan =2 Venezuela 4 Taiwan 5 Georgia

% 96.67 95.15 95.15 94.29 94.00

Corbis; istockphoto

Burma might have missed out on the Top Country crown this year (it won in 2013), but you’ve voted its headline site Top City – and by some margin. That the ancient city of Bagan, a cluster of more then 2,000 11th- to 13th-century temples on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, was virtually off-limits five years ago makes its win even more remarkable. Bagan heads a South-East Asian sweep of the top three, with Laos’ laidback Luang Prabang and Vietnamese lovely Hoi An (last year’s winner) completing the trio. In all, 768 cities received nominations, from Abidjan to Bognor. Proving how well-travelled you are, more of you had been to Hanoi (the most-visited hub) than Paris.

Top City Bagan, Burma

RANKING 1 Bagan 2 Luang Prabang 3 Hoi An 4 Venice 5 San Francisco 6 Cusco 7 New York 8 Edinburgh 9 Cape Town 10 Tallinn

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% 97.50 95.71 94.33 94.19 94.12 93.85 93.51 93.08 92.97 92.63

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Green with envy

From walking and cycling to hiring a Twizy (electric car), there’s many ways to make a trip to the Lakes eco-friendly

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With its electric cars, bike-friendly buses, boats, trains and trails, the Lake District – your Top UK Destination in the 2014 Readers’ Travel Awards – is also one of the best places for a great green adventure

Green & pleasant land

Words Phoebe Smith photographs Neil S price

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POCKET GUIDES T H E B I T S O F T H E G U I D E B O O K Y O U R E A L LY N E E D

135 SINGAPORE

137 NEW YORK CITY

133 BAGAN

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Pocket Guides Short Breaks Not so plain

The temple-dotted expanse of Bagan is dreamy at sunset

First 24 hours

Bagan, Burma

Marco Polo called it ‘one of the finest sights in the world’; you voted it ‘Top City’ – Nick Boulos discovers why Bagan is the short break within any Burma itinerary

Shutterstock

T ✃

he road ahead was long, straight, and lined with trees. It shimmered in the steamy morning heat. In the far distance, rising from the dusty plains, was the ancient skyline of Bagan. Creaking with each rotation, the wheels of my rusty bicycle carried me towards the 3,000 or so stupas, pagodas and tiered temples that are scattered across the flat Burmese grasslands. I pedalled through villages where crimson-robed monks shopped at streetside stalls attended by women whose cheeks were covered in thanaka – a pale paste made from ground bark that’s said to protect from the intense South-East Asian sun. A herd of grazing goats moved south, dust gathering at their hooves. Wondering which crumbling relic to visit first, I stopped to consult the heavily creased map enthusiastically offered by the lady at my family-run guesthouse in the nearby village of

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Nyaung-U – Bagan’s nearest airport. She had circled dozens of temples. Over the coming days, I cycled along the never-ending network of sandy tracks, visiting as many of Bagan’s stupendous stupas as possible. Temple fatigue? Not likely. Located on a wide bend of the Irrawaddy River, Bagan is an essential short break on almost all Burma itineraries. And for good reason. Once a thriving city of more than 200,000 people, it’s now one of world’s greatest archaeological sites, covering an area the size of Guernsey. The scene that awaits today is the handiwork of mighty Bagan Kings. From 1044 to 1287, an average of 20 religious buildings took shape each month; it’s estimated that more than 10,000 were built. Most have been destroyed – a result of neglect and earthquakes, the most recent of which shook Bagan in 1975. However, major restoration has returned some of the damaged monuments to their former glory.

I was admiring one deserted stupa – so small it had a number instead of a name – when a sudden rustle came from the nearby bushes. A petit chap wearing a longyi (traditional sarong) came rushing over, fumbling with a large set of keys. The caretaker unlocked the heavy gate, beckoned me into the musky interior and proudly showed off the faded murals inside. Our footsteps echoed around the cavernous chamber. Of course, there’s more to Bagan than just its temples, which is why Wanderlust readers voted it ‘Best City’. There are villages, monasteries and mountains to explore, and some of Burma’s friendliest people to meet. Follow in the footsteps of barefoot pilgrims and scale Mount Popa; seek enlightenment at the sacred shrines of Salay; or cruise along the mighty Irrawaddy. However you spend your time in and around Bagan, just don’t rush. Hang around for a few days. You won’t regret it. ⊲ Wanderlust April 2014

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