RANGOON — State-owned flag carrier Myanma Airways will begin offering new sightseeing routes over some of Burma’s most scenic and historic sites, the company announced on Sunday.
Five routes have already been designed for tourists wishing to get an aerial glimpse of Mandalay and Irrawaddy divisions, and are expected to take off later this week.
Aung Min Swe, manager of the airline’s Mandalay branch, told The Irrawaddy that the company initiated the new tours in response to customer demand for the service, which is not yet offered by any other carrier in Burma.
“The scenes around Mandalay Division are very beautiful,” he said, “and through these sightseeing tours, passengers can experience them from a new perspective, including sunset views.”
The tours are limited to 10 passengers at a time in newly acquired Grand Caravan aircrafts, which are spacious with plenty of window visibility so that travelers can get a good view and snap photos.
Tourists can choose from three routes in Mandalay Division: Chanmyathazi-Bagan-Chanmyathazi; Chanmyathazi-Bagan-Monywa-Chanmyathazi; and Chanmyathazi-Pyin Oo Lwin-Gotiek Bridge-Chanmyathazin.
Flights will take off every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and flight times will vary depending on the destination. Tickets will cost between US$50-75 depending on the route, though groups will have the option of booking a private flight for $750, which will depart at the passengers’ discretion. Flight time is estimated between 1-1.5 hours.
“We arranged these routes where there are many beautiful scenes to see,” Aung Min Swe explained. “Passengers can experience the bird’s eye view of Swe Daw Lay Su, Bodhi Tahtaung pagoda, the Irrawaddy River, the Goteik viaduct—which was built before World War I near Pyin Oo Lwin—and even get a sunset view of Bagan.”
Swe Daw Lay Su is a group of sites near Bagan where Anawrahta Minsaw, founder of the Pagan Empire, built stupas marking four sacred places. As legend has it, a white elephant carrying a replica of Buddha’s tooth knelt at each of the four places while seeking an auspicious location to enshrine the relic, which was a gift from Kinh Dgatusena of Sri Lanka.
The original replica is in Lawka Nanda Pagoda, four others are enshrined in the other stupas that make up Swe Daw Lay Su. Many Burmese Buddhists believe that visiting all four stupas in the same day will bring them good fortune. Myanma Airways new flights, however, will not actually land at any of the sacred structures.
Tour groups have already shown great interest in the new flights, Aung Min Swe said. About 20 tour companies have already inquired about the service, and he anticipates that it will soon expand to meet growing demand for unique travel options in the once-closed country, which is rapidly becoming a popular destination for travelers seeking an authentic and relatively underexplored getaway.
At least two other routes are already slated for lesser-known destinations, those being the ones that will hover over the Irrawaddy Delta. Flights traveling the Pathein-Ngwehsaung-Chaungtha-Pathein and Pathein-Ngwehsaung-Mawtinson-Pathein routes are set to begin on Oct. 18, according to an announcement in state media.
Myanma Airways was established in 1948 as the Union of Burma Airways. The airline serves all major domestic airports in Burma and began offering regional international flights through its joint venture, Myanma Airways International, in 1993.