OTTAWA - Canada will open an embassy in Myanmar in recognition of the country's moves to improve human rights and democracy.
The move follows the Conservative government's loosening of most of its sanctions against Myanmar earlier this year.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday he hopes that opening an embassy in Myanmar, once known as Burma, will encourage progress.
"Although the Burmese government has taken positive steps to improve human rights and democracy over the past year, we continue to urge more progress on reforms. Canada stands ready to assist in any capacity to build on the democratic fundamentals, and the freedoms and rights of their people."
Earlier this year, Baird visited Myanmar to confer honorary Canadian citizenship on former political prisoner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who won a parliamentary seat in historic elections there.
As if to underscore the challenges still facing Myanmar, the foreign affairs minister's announcement fell on the same day as the United Nations said authorities in the country detained 10 UN staff and foreign aid workers.
"There's been an incredible amount of reform in the country over the past 18 months,"Baird said. "We're impressed by that reform.
"Obviously, although they've taken some very positive steps, there's still more progress required. Obviously, what I want to do on learning this is two things: one is to find out what the exact facts are, what the reason for the detention was. And then we'd certainly be prepared to respond on a more fulsome basis."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap on Friday to meet Myanmar President Thein Sein ahead of a gathering of top American businesses leaders.
The United States gave American companies permission this week to invest in resource-rich Myanmar. But Clinton made it clear they intend to continue pushing the country to improve its human-rights record.
— With files from The Associated Press
Nestled in the heart of the former capital, Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda's gleaming stupa greets its visitors with a golden exclamation. Visible from almost anywhere in the city, the pagoda is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites in Myanmar. A great contrast from Yangon's commercial vibe, the interior of this temple is eerily quiet and solemn, fit for those looking for tranquility in a crowded city. Don't forget to bring your sunglasses as the golden stupa and white marble can truly shine light on any pilgrim! <u><strong>The Trip:</strong></u> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/7-Day-Myanmar-Discovery" target="_hplink">7 Day Myanmar Discovery </a>
A world of watery wonders, Inle Lake possesses the ability to woo its travelers in a variety of ways. Let yourself be charmed by the unique leg-rowing techniques of the local fishermen as they effortlessly paddle the calm waters of Myanmar's second biggest lake. Immerse yourself in Intha's way of life as you behold stilted houses surrounded by floating vegetable gardens. Make sure to visit Nga Phe Kyaung, where monks have taught cats to jump two feet from the ground! The best time to visit is in September and October during the Hpaung Daw U Festival -- a religious Buddhist festival which highlights a parade of golden royal barges and the exciting leg-rowing race <strong><u>The Trip:</u></strong> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/12-Day-Highlights-of-Thailand-and-Myanmar " target="_hplink">12 Day Highlights of Thailand and Myanmar </a>
Travel back in time to be amazed by the sublime beauty of Bagan's ancient kingdom. Home to a sea of thousands of pagodas, the plains of Bagan -- the size of Manhattan -- is a "must-see" on any adventure to Myanmar. For an unparalleled view of Bagan, float on a hot air balloon at sunrise to truly appreciate the scale of this ancient realm. Rent a horse or cattle cart and stop at your own leisurely pace to see different pagodas, each with its own character. Or simply grab a bike to cycle off the beaten path and pick your own favorite pagoda to explore. <u><strong>The Trip</strong>:</u><a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/9-Day-Prayers-Pagodas-and-Arts " target="_hplink"> 9 Day Prayers, Pagodas & Arts </a>
Regarded as the premier beach hot spot in Myanmar, this stretch of paradise is a perfect place to unwind on your travels. Miles of pure white sand beaches bordered with tall coconut palms and mesmerizing turquoise waters reaching towards thatched huts along the shorelines -- this is Ngapali Beach. Leisurely activities such as snorkeling, cycling, kayaking and golf are among the favorites but many choose to simply watch local fishermen moor their boats and show off their day's catch as the sun slowly descends below the horizon. <strong><u>The Trip:</u></strong> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/12-Day-Myanmar-Exclusive " target="_hplink">12 Day Myanmar Exclusive</a>
U Bein Bridge
Walk alongside local farmers, fishermen, monks and nuns as they cross the world's longest teak bridge. Easily one of the most photographed image in Myanmar, this 1.5 km stretch of wooden wonder is a perfect silhouette at sunset (or sunrise) for photographers looking to capture that money shot. For unmatched angles, rent a boat and set out by water to get a panoramic view of the entire structure. You haven't really experienced Myanmar unless you've witnessed Burmese everyday life taking place along the enchanting U Bein Bridge. <u><strong> The Trip:</strong></u> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/11-Day-Myanmar-Family-Adventure " target="_hplink">11 Day Myanmar Family Adventure </a>
Mrauk U Ruins
A great ancient civilization once ruled this land but unlike other ruins of historical importance, daily life around the Mrauk U moves on. The rich collection of 700 pagodas and temples now stands as the backdrop of the slow-everyday rural lives of nearby rice farmers and goat herders. According to legend, over 6,000 temples once stood in Mrauk U but harsh weather conditions and fallen dynasties turned this former Rakhine Kingdom into ruins. Walk the ancient pathways past hundreds of stone figures of Buddha inside hidden chambers connecting the grandeur of the past and the simplicity of the present! <u><strong>The Trip:</strong></u> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/14-Day-Vietnam-and-Myanmar" target="_hplink">14 Day Vietnam and Myanmar </a>
Accessible by a five-hour drive from Yangon, Ngwesaung beach embodies the definition of a hidden paradise. While many tourists would rather soak the sun in Ngapali beach, those who are looking for peace and tranquility outside Buddhist temples can find their souls rejuvenated by miles of empty white sand beaches on the shores of Ngwesaung. Tucked under the lush tropical forest of the Rakhine mountain range, this hidden beach spot can bring you one step closer to nirvana! <strong><u>The Trip:</u></strong> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/12-Day-Myanmar-Exclusive " target="_hplink">12 Day Myanmar Exclusive</a>
Golden Rock Pagoda
This gravity-defying boulder has more to it than golden splendor! According to legend, the Golden Rock manages to sit atop Mt. Kyaiktiyo without tumbling (despite being on the verge of falling) because it is perched on a strand of Buddha's hair. To many Buddhist devotees, this miracle is worthy of pilgrimage making it the third-most important Buddhist site in Myanmar. Best admired late at night before the sun settles, the Golden Rock's magical and mystical aura is believed to be an inspiration for travelers to believe in Buddhism! <u><strong>The Trip:</strong></u> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/11-Day-Temples-and-Treasures-of-Myanmar- " target="_hplink">11 Days Temple and Treasures of Myanmar</a>
Home to more than 8,000 Buddha images of different time periods, the Pindaya Caves attracts more tourists than all the caves in Myanmar. Many travelers will find themselves astonished by the overwhelming number of Buddha figures that quite literally blankets the walls of these caves. Make sure to walk slowly and silently when going through the labyrinth of sacred golden icons as monks still use these caves for prayer and meditation. <strong><u>The Trip:</u></strong> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/7-Day-Myanmar-Discovery " target="_hplink">7 Day Myanmar Discovery</a>
An inspiration to literary greats such as Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell, the Irrawaddy River is one of the great rivers of Asia. The Irrawaddy River is a great passageway for those looking to visit Myanmar’s former capital of Mandalay. Cruise past small fishing villages and admire everyday life of the river as you hear the morning bells of nearby monasteries, watch elephants and water buffaloes extracting timber from the forest, bargain with local market vendors and spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins! <strong><u>The Trip:</u></strong> <a href="http://www.kensingtontours.com/Tours/Asia/Southeast-Asia/Myanmar/11-Day-Myanmar-Family-Adventure " target="_hplink">11 Day Myanmar Family Adventure </a>