To visit Myanmar is to step back in time in Southeast Asia, where tradition still stands as the country slowly throws off the previous restrictions to tourists. One of the few Starbucks-free countries in the world, modern conveniences are on the rise and mobile phone coverage, internet and ATM’s are increasing.
Only recently opened to tourism as the country moves towards a democracy, the lifting of the 15 year tourism boycott has meant that the tourist numbers have been steadily on the rise. The country is sill coming to terms with the rising numbers of visitors and the infrastructure struggles to keep up, which means that it can sometimes be hard to find a cheap place to stay. A good alternative is to rent a holiday house or villa instead of trying to find a hotel.
There is still plenty to delight the traveller, such as taking a trip down the Ayeyarwady River, leaving from Bhamo and cruising slowly in a river steamer over several days, taking in the slow pace of life. The incredible Central Plains and city of Bagan are home to the temples of previous kingdoms, Stupas and temples rise from the mists and provide the backdrop for some of the countries most famous landscapes. The old capital of Yangon is still the commercial centre of the country, and has a charming mix of decaying colonial buildings, markets, a lively Chinatown and Hindu temples. Rent an apartment downtown, where most travellers spend their time, as it’s a good jumping off point to visit Shwedagon Paya which is a huge golden stupa located 3km northwest, and can be seen from throughout the city. The other city that’s well-known is Mandalay, which despite the congested traffic warrants a visit.
The west coast of Myanmar holds some nice places for visiting, and while the region was closed after the cyclone, most people tend to head straight to the coast past the fertile delta region of rice paddies and fields and delightful villages. Rent a villa at Ngapali Beach or head to Chaung Tha or Ngwe Saung beaches and relax. Located near the southeast coast, the holy site of Bago is worth a visit. One of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country, Kyaiktiyo Paya, is also found in the southeast.