A&K has been exploring every corner of Myanmar since long before it was fashionable. Ross Pakes sheds some light on how to get the best from this fascinating destination
Myanmar is a beguiling country in so many respects. It isn't surprising that its tops many wish lists. However, this level of demand brings challenges – you can almost hear the country's infrastructure creaking during peak season (November and December), when everywhere gets booked out. In 2014, several internationally renowned hotels opened, improving capacity considerably.
A great time to go is April, just outside the key tourist season, when the weather is perfectly pleasant and not disruptively wet, and there is plenty of water in the rivers.
A distinct tourist circuit has now been established in Myanmar. Instead I wanted to explore some of the more untouched areas. I would recommend going off the beaten track to get an authentic feel for the country away from the crowds. Myanmar is a large country. There are many places to explore in relative solitude.
Hot off the press
We're excited to announce the launch of our very own river cruiser in Myanmar, Sanctuary Ananda (pictured above) The boat will include enjoy eight cruise itineraries from three to eleven nights on both the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin rivers.
The place to be
Cruising in Myanmar
Undoubtedly the best way to see this country is a cruise along its rivers, which provide you with a completely different view of the lesser known gems. Whilst most boats cruise the Ayeyarwaddy, a journey on the Chindwin takes you to unspoiled and unexplored regions. It is considered by many to be more scenic.
Sagar, located at the southern tip of Inle Lake, is still an undiscovered gem. The area was only opened to visitors in 2003. Few tourists make the 2-3-hour trip south to these villages. Sagar is home to the Pa-O, Shan and Inthar people. Ancient stupas dot the green hills. You can see rice wine being produced and traditional handmade pottery being made.
One of the most interesting experiences on offer in Myanmar is the trek across the Shan Hills from Kalaw to Inle Lake. You can sleep en route in a monastery and a village chief's house. This is a beautiful (if rustic) way in which to experience the slow and tranquil pace of rural Shan life.
Peik Chin Myaung caves
Situated near Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo), these caves are a place of interest for locals and pilgrims. They flock here to worship the Buddhist stupas within these impressive hidden passages. The entrance to the caves also provides a great opportunity to cool down. Many people enjoy a swim in the water that cascades from the 600m cave.
- Travel off-peak. A key advantage is cost. You enjoy the same facilities and levels of service but you might pay just half the price. In addition, it will be less crowded and perhaps even more authentic. The essential character of a country is a constant – life continues regardless of the weather.
- The former Yangon home of Myanmar's most esteemed diplomat, former UN Secretary General U Thant, has been turned into an interesting political museum for visitors.
- Mix comfort with adventure – trek from Pindaya Inle. Include an overnight stay in a monastery or local village, before relaxing in the serene surroundings on Inle Lake.
- Escape the tourists and temples in Bagan. Let our expert guides take you to the unspoiled little villages on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River nearby.
- As the sun rises over misty Inle Lake, watch the locals start their day in tranquil Myenigone Village (meaning red earth).