Start your Myanmar adventure in Yangon (formerly the capital Rangoon). Outside on the busy streets you’ll see sights that will make you look twice, maybe three times, from buses literally overhanging with locals, to men with horribly red-stained teeth from all the betel nut they’ve chewed.
Amid Yangon’s crumbling, 19th-century British colonial buildings you’ll find many that are beautifully restored, but it’s the diamond-studded Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda that are the star attractions in town. As is Karaweik Palace, the royal-style barge on the shore of Kandawgyi Lake. Feast your eyes on Burmese royal regalia and cultural relics at the National Museum and pick up your own treasures – local handicrafts, art and jewellery – at the sprawling and somewhat touristy Bogyoke Aung San Market. If you know what to look for, there are bargains to be had on antiques and gems.
Meanwhile in Bagan, the archaeological Buddhist temples total more than 2,000, many of which tower above the green landscapes and treetops – a spectacular sight. Visit the impressive Ananda temple and pick up some souvenir lacquered bowls or parasols. The lacquerware art has been a tradition here for centuries. Bagan is also the starting point for several luxury cruises along the Ayeyarwady (also known as the Irrawaddy) river, where you can spend several days on board enjoying guided cultural tours ashore. Not to mention travelling through captivating rural and jungle scenery; passing locals working the fields with ox and cart; fisherman going about their daily catch in little wooden boats; and village kids playing in the shallows – it’s like stepping back in time. The cruises are usually on their way to Mandalay, the last royal capital of Myanmar, where there’s more Buddhist heritage to discover. Visit the Mahamuni Buddha temple and take a trip to Inwa, where you can tour the temples and monasteries of the ancient imperial capital of Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries.
Tempted by what you’ve read? Need a few more ideas about where to go, what to see and how to go about it? Contact us – we’re always happy to help you choose your dream stay.