From its bustling cities like Yangon to its stunning Buddhist pagodas and serene countryside, Myanmar has lots to explore. We asked Pamela Lane, one of our Luxury Custom Travel consultants, to share her recent experiences from scouting this less-traveled but fascinating country in Southeast Asia.
Where did you go?
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), including Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon and Hpa An.
Where should our guests start for unique experiences in Myanmar?
With the opening of Mandalay International Airport, travelers can now begin their trip in Mandalay instead of flying in and out of Yangon. Hop on a motorbike with a driver-guide for an evening tour of the city’s Buddhist temples and lively night markets, ending at a local barbecue restaurant for dinner. If you do start your trip in Yangon, however, you’ll find an abundance of great shopping and restaurants, as well as the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist pagoda.
If you’re interested in seeing the quieter side of life in Myanmar, Hpa An is a laid-back town in the picturesque countryside. It’s notable for its unique caves, many of which can be explored. Visit its famous bat cave, where you can witness hundreds of thousands of bats flying out of the cave at sunset.
What are some can’t-miss experiences and destinations?
Make sure to try on a Longyi, the classic sarong worn by men and women everywhere. I also loved the chance to wear the traditional bark paste known as thanaka, which locals have used as a sunscreen and skin-smoothing agent for over 2,000 years.
Inle Lake is known for its floating markets and stilted villages. I’d definitely recommend spending a night there because both the sunset and sunrise views over the lake are incredible. Time permitting, visit the Burmese cat sanctuary at Inle Heritage House. Burmese cats had all but disappeared in Myanmar until 2009 when some were brought from the UK and Australia for breeding. If cats aren’t your thing, Inle Heritage is still a great spot for lunch and a cooking class, in which you can pick your own fresh ingredients from the garden.
In the Mandalay region, Bagan is a spectacular destination with over 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas constructed between the ninth and 13th centuries. Don’t miss the opportunity to go hot air ballooning over the city—the bird’s-eye views of the landscape are breathtaking.
You stayed in some remarkable properties. What made them special?
The Hotel at Tharabar Gate in Yangon has beautiful grounds surrounded by thousands of pagodas, and is only a five-minute walk to the spectacular Ananda Temple. Mandalay Hill Resort Mandalay also boasts a fantastic location, with panoramic views of the city’s pagodas and the moat-lined Royal Palace.
For a great stay in Hpa An, I’d recommend the Hpa An Lodge. Not only are the bungalows eco-friendly, they come with all the modern conveniences that you wouldn’t expect to get in this more remote area.
Describe some of your favorite food experiences.
I loved getting to try the local food. In Mandalay, Mingalabar Myanmar Restaurant is a great introduction to regional dishes and Burmese beer. If you’re staying at Inle Lake, we can arrange a kayaking excursion followed by a visit to a local home for traditional snacks and drinks.
Those with an appetite for fine dining won’t want to miss Seeds, a Michelin-star gem in the heart of Yangon. The lobster pasta is divine.
What surprised you about Myanmar?
People wear traditional dress from their local area, and there are virtually no Western clothes at all. Countryside towns like Hpa An have a distinct dress from bigger cities like Mandalay and Yangon. Also, interestingly, there are no surnames in Myanmar. Family names are not inherited, nor do women take their husband’s name when they marry. Rather, people have the freedom to invent their own names depending on their preference.
This is just a taste of the memorable experiences that we can curate for you in Myanmar. Our travel specialists would be delighted to design a personalized itinerary for you in this must-see country.