Where to stay and what to see in Myanmar
Monday, 17 Dec 2012
Travel in Myanmar isn’t a walk in the park. Overbooked hotels, highly unreliable Wi-Fi, poor mobile reception (the horror!), and even a complete lack of credit card facilities are some of the gripes that people come back with. While all of the above is true, Myanmar is a truly magical country and one of the few places in Asia where you still have the sense of stepping back in time.
With that said, crowds are steadily creeping towards Myanmar, so before the dusty streets of Yangon come close to resembling anything like the chaotic mess that is Bangkok’s Khao San Road, we think a visit is in order.
All the hotels above are fully booked for Chinese New Year so make sure to plan ahead and get in early for Easter!
This article was brought to you by Lightfoot Travel p. 6438 4091, firstname.lastname@example.org, a Singapore-based luxury tour operator offering expert travel advice & inspiration, tailor-made itineraries & full booking services.
Despite the country’s administrative capital moving to Naypyidaw in 2005, Yangon is still very much the pulse of the country. The after effects of the military junta’s iron-tight grip on power and widespread corruption have been heart-breaking to see – amazing old architecture on the verge of falling down and crippling traffic due to poor infrastructure among others.
On the upside (or downside for traffic), motorbikes are banned in the city which makes walking a whole lot more pleasant. The grand dame of the city is most definitely the golden Shwedagon Pagoda.
Just ten minutes away from the Shwedagon Pagoda is the 46-room Governor’s Residence by Orient Express - our favouite hotel in Yangon. Located in the quiet Embassy district and away from the frenzied town center, the hotel has a spa, swimming pool, high-quality restaurant and an old colonial bar that serves as a gleaming reminder of a bygone age. Rumour has it that the bar serves up a pretty decent gin and tonic – the perfect treat after a tiring day of sightseeing.
Lightfoot Tip: Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda at dawn or dusk because you need to remove your shoes, and during the day the floor heats up under the scorching sun.
A stunning natural lake ringed by pristine villages and giant banyan trees; this is our favourite spot to catch a glimpse of the real Southeast Asia. There are about 25 unique villages on the lake itself, all supported on stilts, where farmers and fishermen live and eke out a livelihood. Farmers grow crops on floating gardens and visitors can take boat trips stopping at the different houses and shops as they choose.
Of course you’d want to live right on the lake like the boat people (but with a few more amenities), and the 46-room lakeside Inle Princess Resort is our absolute favourite. Rooms are full of character with walls decorated with flower etchings, boat-shaped wooden baths, and lovely old clay fireplaces, which are exceptionally cozy in the winter as the region can actually get pretty chilly! Boasting all round stunning views – lake, mountains, and paddy fields with service to match, the icing on the cake is the absolute calm and serenity of the place away from the sound of noisy boat-engines on the lake.
Clever-minded management has ordered all approaching boats to turn off their engines and navigate the final stretch using the traditional rowing style – standing at the front of the boat on one leg and wrapping the other around the oar. This unique practice evolved on Inle Lake because tall reeds and plants make it difficult to see while sitting. It just shows how the little touches make all the difference.
Lightfoot Tip: Mountain View rooms are better for families as they’re not right on the water. Private Lake View rooms are the biggest and have the boat-shaped baths and outdoor showers. While they’re the most expensive, the Lake View Villas takes the biscuit with spectacular sunset views over the lake.
Seen one pagoda too many and in need of a little beach time? In the up and coming seaside destination of Ngapali Beach, Sandoway Resort takes the prime spot amidst half-built hotels that have been left forgotten. Set on a 500m stretch of beach, this lovely European-styled hotel boasts great food and all the trappings you’d expect of a modern resort with a cinema to boot. With only 42-rooms you get the undivided attention of the excellent staff who amazingly for Myanmar, have received overseas hospitality training.
Lightfoot Tip: Spend some time jumping between the little seafood restaurants that line the beach and go on an island hopping tour around the isles that lay off the coast. We love Ngapali Beach because it’s a great way to unwind at the end of a fab trip.