A land of pagodas

rangoonOnce part of the Indian Empire and known as Brahmadesh which was shortened to Burma by the British who once ruled this Buddhist country.  After independence, it's name was changed to Myanmar which has become one of the worlds newest tourist destinations although the infrastructure struggles to cope with the rapidly growing tourist numbers.

Stretching about 2000km from north to south and surrounded by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand (Siam), Myanmar's natural beauty was revealed recently by Top Gear's (three idiots abroad) who drove trucks from Yangon, (a river city and the capital of Myanmar) to Thailand. Myanmar is accessed by road and air from all these countries.

Many political and ethnic opposition groups and countries continue to use the name "Burma" because they do not recognise the legitimacy of the ruling military government or its authority to rename the country, so please understand that politics here are not open for discussion.

The Rohingyas who feature in the news as a persecuted people are mainly illegal immigrants who migrated into Arakan following Burmese independence in 1948 or after the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. As Muslims, their aim is to take over Myanmar and convert the entire country to the Islamic faith. The indigenous Buddhist population has been squeezed and in areas where the Rohingya through their breeding program have begun to outnumber the indigenous population, the Rohingya have instituted forced conversion and massacres of those refusing to convert to Islam. The people of Myanmar are simply defending themselves by getting tough with their unruly guests who are bringing disaster on themselves.  Of the Rohingya who have been expelled from Myanmar, India has been taking them in as the Muslim Bangladesh refuses them.

A travel overview 51 mins

Much of the country is off-limits to tourists, and interactions between foreigners and the people of Myanmar, particularly in the border regions, are subject to police scrutiny. But today you can drive through Myanmar from Thailand to India which makes for a two week adventure.

Where to go?

It is a big and beautiful country, but the most popular and available tourist destinations include big cities of Yangon and Mandalay; the religious sites in Mon State, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An. The nature trails at Inle Lake, Kengtung, Putao, Pyin Oo Lwin. The ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; as well as beaches:



Ngapali Beach

A laid back beach good for swimming and you can take a trip to Pearl Island and snorkel in the pristine waters of the Bay of Bengal. A short flight, 250kms north east of Yangon and there are some nice resorts.


The name means silver beach, it's a quiet village developing into a popular tourist destination and as well as swimming, you can go horse riding. Locared about 200km east of Yangon.


Accessed from the harbour town of Myeik some 7580 kms south of Yangon and 480 kms north of Phuket, Mergui is an archipelago of islands and one of the better sailing and dive places in Myanmar. Mergui has miles of unpopulated beaches, whale sharks, orcas and much more.


Located in the heart of Upper Myanmar, the city lies at the hub of river routes between China and India with land routes from the Shan massif and Thailand beyond. Mandalay is the economic and religious centre of Upper Myanmar.

It' almost 570 kms north of Yangon, you can get there by ferry from Yangon, but it can take a week and cost more than your airfare to get to Myanmar, but it's a great way to go and the stupas seen from the river look spectacular.

Mandalay is sometimes referred to as 'the City of Gems' due to the jade and other precious stones traded there. You'll also find a wide range of accommodation thanks in part to the cities British history.

The best time to visit is between Myanmar is between November and February when daytime temperatures are around 30C (86F). Avoid March to May as the temperatures can reach 43C (110F). Rainfall is highest in June and October. If you like festivals, visit during the full moon.


A 100 kms east of mandalay, Bagan is the location of one of Myanmar's sprawling historic sites that some say is as good as if not better than Ankor Wat in Cambodia.

11 Things to Do in Yangon

Getting about:

Choose from boat, car, train or plane remembering that once you are out of the main cities, signage is not always in English.  If you're driving, you can hire rental cars at reasonable rates, and you can also hire drivers.

Trains and boats can be slow, they may break down and in the case of boats, get stuck on sand bars. So if you have a itinerary to keep to, you may want to fly. but you'll miss a lot of adventure.

Please remember that Myanmar is a great place to visit, but please note that the locals are not to discuss politics with foreigners under penalty of imprisonment. The Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board has a standing order for local officials to protect tourists and limit "unnecessary contact" between foreigners and ordinary Burmese people.

Don't expect any internet or mobile phone coverage, just be grateful when you find it.


Leave a Reply