Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is the bustling former capital and the
gateway to the rest of the country for visiting ocean ships. The
faded, and in places crumbling, colonial buildings stand shoulder
to shoulder with ornate stupas and the beginnings of new
developments in the city. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the highlight, a
towering gold pagoda topped with a huge diamond which is a dazzling
sight during the day, and equally splendid at night when lit up by
an array of flashy lights. The accommodation in the city is varied
but a particular favourite of ours is the outstanding Belmond
Governor's Residence, a colonial style mansion dating from the
Many itineraries will spend several days docked in Yangon,
allowing you time to fly inland to Bagan. Here over 2,000 temples,
stupas and monasteries are spread over some 26 square miles,
creating a magical landscape that's particularly stunning at sunset
and sunrise. Some expedition ships will also explore the unspoilt
Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea, home of the Mokken people or
'sea gypsies', who traditionally lived nomadically, moving from
island to island.
Inle Lake is another must and makes an excellent add-on to a
cruise. Surrounded by villages built on stilts to cope with the ebb
and flow of the waters, the appeal of just spending time relaxing,
travelling around by boat or bicycle and soaking up daily life
can't be underestimated. With the exception of the temples at
Bagan, this is our favourite place in the country.
There is also the burgeoning beach resort of Ngapali just a
short flight from Yangon, with a handful of small hotels on the
wide golden sand beach. Life is at a slower pace here and, like
most of the rest of the country, it's hasn't succumbed to the
commercialisation that mass tourism brings.
Getting around Myanmar is tricky, and flying internally usually
involves a coloured sticker rather than a boarding pass (both
charming and comical, but it seems to work) so we recommend booking
all arrangements with us, so that we can ensure you have support on
the ground in case you need it.
The best time to travel is between December and March when there
is little rain, however the temperatures do start to soar from late
March, reaching the high 30s in April (a trip to the cooler Inle
Lake at this time can provide a welcome relief from the heat). The
summer months see the most rainfall, and bringing the temperatures
down to a more manageable 29-30 degrees.