Unsurprisingly, these are the areas that still form the heart of most itineraries into Burma – and rightly so. There’s Kingly Pagan now rendered Bagan with its vast dry wash plain, using orange-coloured outcroppings framing an atmospheric skyline, packed with the domes and spires of temples and pagodas, and the Irrawaddy or Ayeryawady River flowing below.
Rangoon or Yangon stays plage birmanie premier city, and also to love this quintessentially colonial town that still houses perhaps the greatest collection of colonial buildings in the East, one has to spend a couple of days luxuriating at the Strand. Obviously, the highlight of Rangoon stays the huge gilded, shimmering bulk of Shwe-Dagon pagoda. Situated on Singuttara Hill it dominates the skyline.
For excursions, I strongly recommend getting away from the rutted trail of the ‘highlights’ and undergoing the south from Mawlamyine (Moulmein), which is in the core of the Mon nation. Enjoy a luxury cruise up the Salween River and navigate peacefully through wetlands of paddy in a kayak.
Mandalay has a renowned name but it is not a place I would recommend – rather proceed east, into the Shan Hills. At the conclusion of the 20th century, Colonel May of the Indian Army established the popular hill station of Maymyo (May Town), now more liltingly called Pyin Oo Lwin. Take the train from here to Hsipaw crossing through the huge Gokteik Viaduct, which will be one of the highest on earth – a real highlight. Even the Shan Hills are beautiful, and remaining at Hsipaw allows you to explore the charming rural communities around Kyaukme.
A cruise for a few nights down the Irrawaddy is essential. This great river once knitted the nation together, and the steam-boats are replaced with progressively luxurious vessels which allow to get a fantastically relaxed exploration of the idyllic villages with their traditional manners, arts, and crafts across the river.
End your tour at Bagan. This is where the fantastic Bamar king Anawrahta embarked on a great spree of pagoda building to mark his conversion from Mahayana into Theravada Buddhism. His successor continued this building and the result is a great ‘Pagoda City’. Kalaw and Inle Lake are other must see highlights.
I do then, however, strongly advise heading west to Arakan (Rakhine State) to enjoy the charming old-world Sittwe and evocative and atmospheric Mrauk-U before spending a few days chilling out on the silken sands of Ngapalli shore.