Are you planning a trip to Myanmar? Here's how to see the most of this fascinating country if you've got a good sense of adventure and two weeks to go exploring.
Day 1-3: Yangon
Yangon is the gateway to magnificent Myanmar. The major hub for international and domestic flights alike, it is not a bad place to start. As soon as you step out of the airport it is readily apparent that being cut off from the globalized world has allowed Myanmar to retain its cultural authenticity. Men wear sarong skirts, women wear pasty white thanaka paint on their faces, and the city is abuzz with a one-of-a-kind energy. The main sites in the tropical city actually cover a fairly small area and are manageable on foot, although taxis and public transportation are available. In a few days, you can cover the main sites of interest in Yangon including Sule Pagoda, Inya Lake, Shwedagon Pagoda, Kandawgyi Lake, Chinatown, and Bogyoke Aung San Market.
Day 4-7: Bagan
From Yangon, fly to Bagan on one of a few airlines that make the short domestic journey. One of the most enigmatic destinations in Myanmar, Bagan is home to literally thousands of pagodas and temples dating as far back as the 11th century. No sunset compares to that of Bagan, offset by inspiring landscapes and historical treasures. It is easy to spend the entire two weeks just exploring Bagan, and you can accomplish this on foot, or by bicycle, horse-pulled carts, or even from the sky in a hot air balloon.
Day 8-9: Inle Lake
From Bagan, fly to Heho, about one hour away from Myanmar's most incredible lake. Many tourists mistakenly skip over Inle Lake on their Myanmar vacation. It appears that freshwater lakes are hardly unique. However, Inle Lake is a subtle gem. You can happily get lost amid floating villages, floating markets, floating resorts (including some with five-stars), floating gardens, and even floating temples. Yet, there's still the serenity of the tropical sun shining on the still lake and the surrounding frame of mountains. The postcard-perfect image ofInle Lake typically shows fisherman working with their cage-nets in a similar fashion to 100 years ago.
Day 10-13: Ngapali Beach
It is best to end all vacations with a trip to the beach, if at all possible. There is nothing like relaxing on the beach, listening to the sea, and going for a daily swim or bike ride. Myanmar's beaches are often overlooked by tourists to Asia. However, Ngapali Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. Off the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Western Myanmar, it is an unsullied white sand beach with quiet, rural surroundings and clear blue water. Trips to nearby Pearl Island and the black sand island named Zalat Htone Island keep things interesting. Ngapali can be reached by land, but for the sake of time, it is easiest to fly in and out of the airport in Thandwe, about four miles from the beach.
Day 14: Yangon
A short flight takes you away from the beach and back to Yangon, where you can jet off to continue your vacation in other international destinations or return home with a new sense of wonder.
This article was written by Melissa Reichwage, an avid traveler and international development and health professional currently living in Colombia. She holds a Master's in Public Health from Emory University in Atlanta. With familial ties in Myanmar, she has a special affinity for the beautiful landscapes and the people there.