In a fantastically unusual twist on the expected, news out of Myanmar is creating a rare moment of unity and celebration between Republicans and Democrats.

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced like “Oun San Su Chee”) has arrived in Washington to begin a marathon tour of the US. It’s the most recent milestone in a remarkable personal journey that has led her from house arrest as a political prisoner to world traveling parliamentarian. Happily, her journey mirrors the evolution of her country, as it has transitioned from five decades of oppressive military rule toward democracy.Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi kicks off her 17-day tour of the US in Washington D.C.

Coinciding with her visit, Myanmar announced today that it is releasing more than 500 prisoners, including dozens of political detainees. Adding to the good news, the government has replaced a press watchdog agency that has been criticized as oppressive with a new, more liberal council. This move is seen globally as a boost for freedom of expression.

As part of her 17 day visit to the US, Aung San Suu Kyi will receive the highest award Congress can give. Republicans and Democrats have supported her and the transition of Myanmar (formerly Burma) toward democracy.

During the course of her US visit, she will spend time in Washington and New York, then the Midwest and finally in California. Her visit precedes by one week that of Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, who will be in New York to speak to the UN General Assembly.

At Classic Journeys, we’ve been fascinated by Myanmar for years. It’s that mesmerizing combination of gentle people going about their daily lives and traditions untouched by the modern world, while just-recently opening to travelers now that it’s been given the chance to emerge from isolation.

And so building on our years of experience and travels in Southeast Asia, we’ve created a memorable journey through this magnificent country. Our trip schedule  celebrates Myanmar’s transition toward democracy with a nine day eight night cultural walking tour of Myanmar. Some highlights from the Myanmar trip include:

YANGON – A genuinely delightful mix of rustic colonial buildings and modern, gilded pagodas.

INLE LAKE – So very different to other parts of the country. Here we’re out on the water, surrounded by nature, lovely vegetation and ethnic markets. Walks here through the villages are different due to the ethnicity and the natural backdrop of hills, fields and water. The climate is a bit cooler here also, so it makes for very comfortable walking.

MANDALAY – On our tour of Myanmar we visit the Golden Palace Monastery; so different to others due to its almost entirely wooden structure and intricate carvings. But the key here is the introduction in the monk way of life which is something travelers generally do not see elsewhere (even in Bagan where most temples and pagodas are not home to monasteries).

Monks in Myanmar

BAGAN – The whole atmosphere here is extraordinary, in the same way the Angkor complex in Siem Reap is but far fewer tourists (so far!). It’s not so much the pagodas themselves that are glorious, but the whole journey between them including the wide open setting on the plain that makes it even more special. There is no development, no shops, no commercial ventures, just miles and miles of open land and pagoda spires that have stood the test of time and isolation. We’re moved by the spirituality of the place and the peacefulness.On Classic Journeys’ tour of Myanmar, you’ll explore the 2000+ mind-boggling temples of Bagan.

You can enjoy some beautiful photography of the countryside and people we meet on our tour of Myanmar by visiting Classic Journeys’ website. Take a moment to enjoy the photos. And if you’d like to receive the full daily itinerary for our Myanmar trip, just call us at 800-200-3887.