Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is the bustling former capital and the
startling point of nearly all itineraries. 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 1920s.
In a country where the infrastructure is still developing, the
most comfortable way of travelling is along the Ayeyarwady
(Irrawaddy) River. The most common itinerary is a 3 or 4 night trip
between Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, and 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.
For those who wish to discover more, during the high water
season in the summer a handful of itineraries travel the Chindwin
or explore the wonderfully named Nagaland, with more in-depth
journeys focusing on the fascinating daily life of the Burmese
people rather than the country's iconic temples.
Inle Lake is also a must and makes an excellent add-on to a
short 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, allowing some river cruise
itineraries to operate, and bringing the temperatures down to a
more manageable 29-30 degrees.