Burma Travel HighlightsMyanmar Travel Highlights
Burma: 5 alternate highlights - InsideBurma Tours
Travelers to Burma have been following the same old, proven route for years: a bend that begins in Yangon, goes northwards to Inle Lake and ends in Bagan via the historical town of Mandalay. Undoubtedly, these are still Burma's unmistakable highlights. However, with more places in Myanmar opening up to travelers every year, there is so much more to discover these day.
In view of the abundance of possibilities, it would be a great disgrace not to deviate from the well-worn paths at least once or twice when travelling. Against this background, Kate and I have chosen to blend the classical travel destination with some extraordinary turns on our last three-week journey to Myanmar.
Surprisingly, these lesser-known places were not only interesting distractions, they were some of our favorite parts of the whole itinerary! The following places are all great complements to the classical Burma loops, which means it couldn't be simpler to blend the familiar with the extraordinary on your first time in Myanmar.
If you think about Myanmar, I'm willing to wager that the beach is not the first thing that comes to my head. Admittedly, if you've done your Myanmar research, you may have learned about Ngapali Beach. What about the remainder of Burma's two thousand kilometers of coast? Unspoilt, palm-fringed sandy for miles; perfectly airy, sun-drenched meteorological conditions; hot, blue water: in a word, the archetypical paradise of the tropics.
It may not be the most interesting place, but with many great fish and cheap drinks (see Lux Hotel happily hour!) it has everything you need for a beautiful seaside holiday. Inle Lake is probably the "most touristy" of all Myanmar's major attractions (although it is questionable whether the concept is really deserved somewhere in Myanmar).
Boating trips and travel-centered'workshops' are omnipresent, and sometimes it can be as if you don't get the right deals. However, it is still a "real business" on Inle Lake, and we would be cursed if we left without noticing it. To get here by ferry from the southern side, get into the long tail cab in Pekon and drive the six hour drive to Nyaung Shwe.
This may not be the bosom of indulgence (you will be on the ground with your pockets and the locals), but there is no longer any real inle-feeling. From Moebyel Lake, a few kilometers southwards of Inle, the trip takes us upstream through the landscape, past swimming ranches, cattlefields, gorgeous hills, dilapidated churches, fishermen' yachts and stilts communities, before we cross Inle itself and end up in the Nyaung Shwe city.
Mandalay is at first sight a rather inconspicuous town - but you only have to drive a little out of the town to explore a multitude of intriguing places - from the uncompleted Mandalay of Mingun to the mounds of Sagaing. Among these, the antique town of Ava (also known as Inwa) was our clear favorite.
Inwa, from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries, was home to several of Burma's empires, but since then the antique town has been slowly disintegrating and its remains are now in a tranquil, rural, bucolic area. I and Kate took the Irrawaddy River boat and meandered through rice paddies and palms, stopped at timber abbeys, old towers from the colonies, old ramparts and stone stamps reminding of a smaller, calmer Bagan.
This was a wonderful quiet place to discover and the ideal place for a remote picknick in the shadow. Monywa is the ideal place to interrupt your trip from Mandalay to Bagan or the other way round. Although most famous for his huge Buddha stand, Laykyun Setkyar, who appears as the second highest sculpture in the whole wide universe, Kate and I were glad that Monywa had much more to show than we first thought.
There are also the fantastic Shwe Ba Taung and Po Win Taung: the first a row of artfully fenced caves ( "Burmas Petra"); the latter a seemingly never-ending row of Buddhist caves that have been cut into the slopes. Then Monywa itself has an exquisite night out, the stomach-busting and tasty Zawe Marn restuarant, the evocative Shwezigon Paya (a small scale of Yangon Shwedagon and the great place to bar with the locals) and Kan Thar Yar Lake - the place for a few sun-downercocks.
Monywa is an ass! Well, although all the places I mention here were highlights of our journey to Myanmar, I kept the best until the end. Loikaw, a modest little city in the high country just off Yangon and just off Inle Lake, is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been to.
Lovely, tranquil roads bordered by roomy timber buildings and blossoming bushes; a lively early bird markets that sell everything from banana reds to the freshest seafood; green riverfront eateries that serve good meals and beer; a gorgeous lakeside area, encircled by rainforest leaves right out of the jungle book - and to cover it all, the hills were covered by breathtaking hillside sanctuaries that extended through the outskirts and overlooked the whole area.
Each passer-by smile and wave, folks run out of their homes to say hello, students imagine themselves practicing their English, and if you get bogged down, half the city comes out to lead you where you want, safe and sound. We' ve only been in the city one night, but what a great one!
Three weeks' journey to Burma was the ideal mix of classical attractions and alternate locations and let us die to come back. When you are interested in one of the places listed here, do not delay in contacting one of our travel advisors and he will help you immediately with the plan!