The most majestic and picturesque vistas available to travellers on Burma holidays have to be those that can be viewed across the Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady) Valley. Passing through tangled jungle, rugged gorges and fertile farmlands, the river brings life and precious resources to today's cities and villages, just as it provided them to the country's first settlers.The story of Burma starts with the Irrawaddy, some 3500 years ago, when the Pyu people established settlements along the river's fecund banks. The ethnic group that would become the most prominent of the country - the Bamar - were also drawn to the valley. After thousands of years of settlement, cultivation, conflict and trade, it is hardly surprising that the route along the river is as rich in stories as it is in natural wonders. Those thinking of embarking on Burma holidays may be interested to learn more about some of the legends that surround this life-giving river.The Irrawaddy starts in Kachin state, where two smaller rivers join - the Mai Kha and the Mali Kha, both of which have their source in the Himalaya. Kachin legend holds that the Great Spirit of the world sits among the lofty Himalayan peaks, and that these twin rivers were formed when he poured out water from a pair of golden cups (which explains not only their origin but the gold that they carry, bringing many to pan for it on the banks of the Irrawaddy). The two rivers are thought of as brother and sister, very different from each other in character, but they eventually join up to become the great Irrawaddy - an essential sight on Burma holidays for lovers of beauty and adventure.
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