There’s a Kiplingesque cadence to numerous Burmese titles: Shwedagon, Rangoon, Mandalay, Irrawaddy, Chindwin, and Maymyo. Names that stir half-memories of Eastern romance and Imperial adventure.
Unsurprisingly, these are the places that still form the heart of the majority of itineraries to lac inle birmanie – and rightly so. There is Kingly Pagan currently rendered Bagan using its vast dry wash plain, with orange-coloured outcroppings framing an atmospheric skyline, crowded with all the domes and spires of temples and pagodas, and the Irrawaddy or Ayeryawady River flowing beneath.
Rangoon or Yangon remains Burma’s premier town, and also to love this quintessentially colonial town that still houses possibly the best collection of colonial buildings in the East, one has to spend a few days luxuriating at the Strand. Of course, the highlight of Rangoon stays the vast gilded, shimmering bulk of Shwe-Dagon pagoda.
For tours, I strongly advise getting away from the rutted track of the’highlights’ and experiencing the south from Mawlamyine (Moulmein), which is in the core of the Mon country. Enjoy a luxury cruise up the Salween River and navigate peacefully throughout wetlands of paddy in a kayak.
Mandalay has a renowned name but it is not a place I would urge – instead go east, into the Shan Hills. In the turn of the 20th century, Colonel May of the Indian Army established the favorite hill station of Maymyo (May Town), today more liltingly named Pyin Oo Lwin. Just take the train from here to Hsipaw crossing through the vast Gokteik Viaduct, which is one of the highest in the world – a true highlight. Even the Shan Hills are beautiful, and remaining at Hsipaw allows you to explore the magical rural communities around Kyaukme.
A cruise for a few nights down the Irrawaddy is a must. This fantastic river once knitted the nation together, as well as the steam-boats are replaced with progressively luxurious vessels that allow to get a beautifully relaxed exploration of those idyllic villages with their traditional ways, arts, and crafts across the river.
End your trip at Bagan. This is the point where the fantastic Bamar king Anawrahta embarked on a great spree of pagoda construction to indicate his conversion from Mahayana to Theravada Buddhism. His successor lasted this construction and the result is a great’Pagoda City’.
I do then, however, strongly recommend heading west to Arakan (Rakhine State) to delight in the enchanting old-world Sittwe and evocative and atmospheric Mrauk-U prior to spending several days chilling out on the silken sands of Ngapalli shore.
Adventure holidays to Burma are still an amazing chance to get up close and personal with all the history and culture of this fascinating country. We organise the most amazing holidays to Burma.