Quick! The longer you leave it the more it will change. And right now, Burma (or more correctly, now known as Myanmar) is an absolute must-see destination, an overflowing treasure trove of natural beauty, culture and history.
On a Myanmar holiday with Yonder, you’ll discover a land of rich diversity. There is enough history and culture to keep you enthralled for years. In the cities, there is a wealthy urban elite but everywhere else in this essentially rural nation, you will encounter stoic peasants tilling the fields. There are high mountains and plateaus with rolling pastures and densely forested hillsides. There are fertile lowlands producing vegetables and fruits in abundance. There are mighty rivers and dry arid plains.
The cities and forests are peppered with gilded pagodas.
And on a holiday in Burma with Yonder you’ll find picture-perfect beaches and archipelago islands that even some of the most dedicated travellers don’t know exist.
As Rudyard Kipling wrote in his Letters From The East at the height of British colonialism: ‘This is Burma and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.’
On our Myanmar Burma travels, we’ve climbed the narrow staircases of the temples of Bagan to catch the sun as it sets over the ancient spires and the mighty Irrawaddy river beyond. We’ve trekked in the cool mountains above magical Inle Lake where the Intha people dwell in stilt houses, and we’ve embraced the pleasures of the simple life, staying overnight in remote but hospitable monasteries amid majestic scenery.
Yonder’s luxury hotels in Myanmar
We’ve been pioneers (or very willing guinea pigs depending on how you look at it) for some exceptional new hotels in Myanmar. . Whilst the more superlative extremes of Western hotel luxury are in short supply for Myanmar holidays, unique experiences are offered in abundance. If you want to explore the emerging Myanmar boutique hotel scene, we have journeyed far and wide on our Burma travels to find worthy candidates. And it’s these Myanmar hotel adventures make Burma holidays true Yonder territory.
There is still a sense of the old Orient about a Myanmar tour. Mobile phones remain a novelty in some corners and few people own cars. Rickshaws are still an everyday form of transport and many of the 100 different ethnic peoples continue to wear their traditional dress (and not just for tourists).
If you only do three things in Burma…
- Visit the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. Dazzling with gold, it is the ultimate symbol of Myanmar and a mandatory stop on any itinerary.
- Explore the ancient royal city of Mandalay. There’s more history here than you can possibly consume.
- Leave Indiana Jones in the shade by exploring the temples complex of Bagan, ideally by hot-air balloon. It is mind-bogglingly spectacular.
In 2015 Myanmar voted in its first democratically elected government in over half a century. ‘The Lady’, Aung San Suu Kyi, has achieved saint-like status. Sanctions have been dropped and the world is eager to do business here. Large areas of the country once off-limits can now be freely visited.
Exiles are returning. Energy, hope and expectation hang in the air.
On your Burma holiday with Yonder, Prepare yourselves for dazzling gold pagodas, floating villages, cave temples, the world’s biggest book, saffron robed monks and pristine white sandy beaches lined with swaying palms that would shame the most clichéd travel brochure. A Myanmar holiday is one hot ticket.
Thoughts on a postcard
With a whoooosh of the huge flame, we took off in our hot air balloon into the still early morning air, expertly captained by our Australian pilot Kerry. Soon the jaw-dropping temples of Bagan came into sight just as the sun rose over the horizon. A highlight of our Myanmar holiday.
Burma Holidays : OUR FAVOURITE PLACESYangon / Bagan / Inle Lake / Mandalay / River Cruises / Ngapali Beach / Kalaw / Pyin Oo Lwin /
Burma Holidays : The map
Our Escapologists only recommend hand-picked, delectable properties we have sampled and savoured ourselves. We judge all our hotels by their excellence, the sheer hedonistic pleasures they have to offer. And we reject a lot that don’t meet our exacting standards.
Some of our selections are classics, with reputations recognised the world over. Others are discoveries: boutique havens where hospitality, relaxation and fine cuisine have been distilled into a rare art form. You’ll find a few options for the budget conscious too, where Yonder’s principles are still to the fore. And for those who just need an airport stopover on their way to paradise, there’s one or two convenience choices, too.
We provide in-depth descriptions of every property, based upon our own experiences there, along with our unique Yonder rating and icons that will give you further insights into what’s on offer. We even tell you the types of clientele you might soon be rubbing shoulders with!
Now that’s choosing a hotel Yonder style!
In each of Yonder’s main destinations, we have selected a range of highlights you might like to include in your personalised Yonder trip.
Whether they are fabled regions, resorts or cities, single destinations or entire itineraries, these are the Yonder ingredients we know will help you begin to piece together the ideal trip…
Rangoon – now Yangon – lingers long in your thoughts, evocative for all the right reasons. From the beauty of some of southeast Asia’s most impressive colonial architecture to the frenzy of street corner cafes, there is an overwhelming sense of old-world Asia here.
- Stare in awe at the Shwedagon Pagoda, unquestionably Yangon’s number one place to visit. The photos just don’t do this astonishing spire justice.
- Drive around Yangon’s centre and absorb the beautiful colonial architecture. Much is crumbling but there is now a sustained attempt to restore some buildings to their former glory.
- Stroll round Inya Lake. Not only are the best addresses in town here (you might even catch a glimpse of ‘The Lady’, Aung San Suu Kyi) but it’s also the city’s most romantic spot, where young Yangonites come to canoodle.
As seasoned travellers, we have seen many wondrous sights. But even for us, every now and then, we come across a destination that makes us gasp out loud. You know, those rare moments when only the word ‘Wow’ seems adequate. Bagan is one of those places.
- At sunset, head to Shwesandaw pagoda, 328 feet high, with westerly facing views over the archaeological zone towards the Irrawaddy river in the distance.
- If you have the luxury of time, one of the most rewarding ways of experiencing Bagan is by bike. The whole site is flat and with little traffic, it is a fabulous way of getting around.
- The classic: hot air ballooning over Bagan. It counts amongst the most spectacular experiences we have had… ever!
Arrive at the vast tranquility of Inle Lake and it feels as if you have been transported to a world altogether more serene. Here, surrounded by marshes and floating gardens, villages built on stilts and Buddhist temples rise from the water, while the local fishermen propel their boats using a unique one-legged rowing technique. It’s bizarre but true.
- Acquire some lotus flower silks. Inle is famous for its ancient weaving crafts, using the silks of the lotus flower. There are a number of weaving factories around the lakes which create fine shawls and ties.
- Take a boat up the narrow winding creek towards Indein village. You’ll find a hillside covered with hundreds of stupas, some in complete ruins with the jungle taking over. See if you can spot Lara Croft.
- Spend time just pootling around the lake and its many fascinating villages. It’s like nowhere else you’ve ever been so savour the moment.
Mandalay. It is one of those few names that alone evoke the charms of a lost past. Kipling immortalised it in a poem many still know by heart (On the road to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play, and the dawn comes up like thunder out of China across the bay). Sinatra sang about it on Come Fly With Me. Kay Francis starred in a gloriously ill-acted 1934 black and white movie named after it.
- Visit the morning market on the outskirts of town which run over a train track. Guess what happens when the train comes…
- March up (or drive depending on your energy levels) Mandalay Hill. Its got a stunning temple on top, amazing views and is rich with history including being the last pocket of the Japanese occupiers during World War Two.
- A rickshaw has to be the ultimate symbol of Mandalay. We love them and the conversations with the “Kings” are amongst the best insights we’ve had into life in Burma.
Is this the ultimate experience in Burma? A magical Myanmar river cruise of a few days down the mighty and fabled Irrawaddy River, charting a course between magical Mandalay and mysterious Bagan is one of life’s greatest journeys.
- Lie back on deck and from the comfort of your sumptuous lounger snap away at the amazing scenes unfolding in an endlessly fascinating procession.
- Whilst the boat is superb, don’t take the lazy option. Get out on the shore excursions and walk amongst the villages, golden stupas and smiling locals.
- Eat, eat, eat! The food onboard is amongst the best we have eaten in Myanmar, with both high quality Burmese food prepared with the finest ingredients and Western dishes cooked to perfection by talented international chefs.
It seems there is a tendency for visitors to Myanmar to overlook Ngapali Beach. We are baffled. What is there not to like about a long, wide, fine sandy beach, with gently lapping warm turquoise waters and superb seafood?
- Walk to the southern end of the beach to see the fishing boats dock and thousands of fish being laid out to dry in the sun.
- If you’d like a traditional Burmese foot massage, of the robust variety, then Ngapali beach is the perfect place. There is a row of massage tents in the middle of the beach with expert masseuse.
- Ngapali tiger prawns are famous for being large and succulent. Our favourite dish is tiger prawns with chilli and tamarind.
A former hill station, set high in the cool, rolling countryside, Kalaw is a precious gem, but of the unpolished variety. Quite unlike anywhere else, a holiday in Kalaw is charmingly authentic and unsophisticated.
- Hunt down Aung Chan Tha Zedi, the dazzling mirrored pagoda in the centre of Kalaw. It’s a glittering stupa covered in gold- and silver-coloured glass mosaics.
- Enter the natural cave called Shwe Oo Min Paya just a few minutes outside town. It’s filled with Buddha statues donated by devoted local families.
- Go down to the wholesale vegetable warehouses to see the colours, smells and frenetic energy that surround this ancient trade.
Imagine you are in a period drama set in the days of the empire. Pyin Oo Lwin (or in those days known as Maymyo – literally, May Town – after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal infantry) is the kind of place you would want to hang out. Pyin Oo Lwin is cool (in both senses of the word), its refined and it is beautiful.
- Take a selfie at the waterfalls around the Peik Chin Myaung caves. It makes the perfect screensaver.
- Hunt for the giant (and we mean giant) bamboo in the Pyin Oo Lwin botanical gardens.
- The Gokteik viaduct is as amazing today as it was when it was first built. Don’t pass up on a chance to trundle across.
Here at Yonder we have devised some exciting itineraries that will illustrate just what amazing journeys you could enjoy through Yonder’s exciting far-away destinations.
Of course every one of Yonder’s clients is a unique individual and we only create personalised itineraries that reflect those personal desires and wishes. So your Yonder journey will be as individual as you are. But to help you envisage just what amazing adventures might be possible, we have devised sample itineraries that we are confident will inspire you. You only have to pick up the phone to explore how any one of these ideas might be adapted to create your own perfect journey Yonder.
Chat to your dedicated Escapologist about the latest offers available.
Notes In Our Journal
A focus on Shwedagon Pagoda as part one of my two part article on Burma's must see pagodas
In my first article I discussed Shewedagon pagoda in Yangon. But there are many more fascinating pagodas to discover. Here is a round up of the best
Out with the old and in with the new. A Yonder Escapologist recasts a familiar phrase.