This new year we can’t think of anywhere we would rather escape to than the mysterious and magical land of Myanmar, with its serene atmosphere and wealth of experiences on offer: from floating high above the temple plains of Bagan in a hot air balloon for the most striking of views over this iconic landscape, to drifting peacefully along the iridescent Inle Lake, and enjoying rustic tropical island life at the hottest new luxury hotel, Wa Ale Island Resort.
For the perfect itinerary, we recommend beginning your adventure in the ex-British capital of Yangon. Not only will you gain a sense of place amid the flurry of everyday life here, as you pass crimson-robed monks and the steaming cuisine of street stalls, but you will also get the chance to explore wonderful architectural sites and local markets bursting with local produce. From crumbling colonial buildings to gleaming Buddhist pagodas, the buildings do not disappoint – the most impressive of all being the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda, especially at sunset when it shines like liquid gold. Also, worth visiting here is the gigantic Reclining Buddha (Chaukhtatgyi Paya) and Bogyoke Market, where Burmese antiques are showcased in eclectic market stalls, as well as Mingalar Market, home to rich colourful fabrics and a lively atmosphere. After shopping, you will be hard-pressed to resist refuelling on sizzling street food as you breathe in the air of fragrant aromas. We recommend staying at The Governor’s Residence, the hottest postcode in the city, for the most luxurious stay.
Of course, no trip to Myanmar would be complete without visiting one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world: historic Bagan and its romantic temple-dotted landscape. It is bound to captivate your imagination at first glance – for the most memorable experience, we recommend admiring the thousands of ancient crumbling ruins, pagodas and stupas by hot-air balloon, for floating high above the atmospheric plains captures the scale of this wonderous and dramatic site to full effect. Overlooking the sweeping landscape from a bird’s eye view also affords you a panoramic vista that stretches right out to the horizon, where the mystical land meets the banks of the Irrawaddy river. Step inside the cool of the pagodas and stupas to find statues of the Buddha as well as intricate frescoes and carvings that envelop you in spiritual calm. The finest place to stay in this city is the Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, with its tranquil pool and luxurious amenities.
The idyllic Inle Lake is a crystalline calm body of water that guarantees a truly mesmerising sight at any time of day. For the most staggering views, we recommend visiting at either the crack of dawn or in the evening, when the golden sun casts its glow over the vast mirror-still body of water as far as the eye can see. As you glide through the soothing riverways by private boat, you will find floating local markets and tribal villages dotted around, as well as the odd fisherman going about their daily work. Originally part of the Intha (meaning “sons of the lakes”) community, these fishermen are a sight to behold in themselves as they masterfully balance on one leg while casting out their beautiful nets retaining traditional techniques. Those who visit this scenic spot in mid to late November can witness the unique and joyful Tazaungdaing Light Festival, which sees myriad different sized balloons made from bamboo and Shan paper take to the skies and a spectacle of fireworks under the cover of darkness. We recommend enjoying a stay at the beautiful Inle Princess Resort here, as it provides the ideal retreat in this peaceful setting.
To end your trip on a high, you need look no further than Burma’s hottest new property, Wa Ale Island Resort, where you can spend your final nights blissfully relaxed in an exclusive tropical island setting. Heralded as the hottest opening in the country in the last year, Wa Ale is the first exclusive property to be found on the previously untouched Mergui Archipelago and claims a prime position surrounded by nothing by aquamarine water, pristine white sandy beaches, majestic rock formations and lush vegetation. You are bound to feel at one with nature here, for this eco property blends seamlessly into its rugged surroundings and its rustic-style yet luxurious accommodation sits either right upon the beach or tucked under a leafy canopy of treetops. To add to this, the activities and excursions offered here all embrace the tropical environment with open arms as they range from snorkelling and diving among the archipelago’s exotic marine life to kayaking through the mangrove jungles among beautiful birdlife – just heaven for adventurers.
James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel. Ampersand Travel create bespoke and luxurious travel experiences to Asia, the British Isles and Southern Africa.
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