Myanmar is rapidly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia, but crucially, it remains a rural and devoutly Buddhist nation of traditional values. Its commercial capital, Yangon, boasts a beguiling mix of gold-gilded pagodas, old British architecture and modern hotels. The Shwedagon Paya, believed to enshrine strands of Buddha’s hair, is undoubtedly the highlight. Watch its gold-leaf veneer glint under the setting sun, or go at dawn to avoid the crowds.
Beyond Yangon, there are more wonders waiting. Gawk at the Golden Rock of Mount Kyaiktiyo, perched precariously on the edge of a chasm. Glide down the Irrawaddy River in an old steamboat. Discover the stilt villages and floating gardens of Inle Lake. Or trek through rolling countryside to remote mountain towns in the Shan Highlands.
And then there’s Bagan.
The 3,000 or so temples scattered across this historic plain are the result of a frenzied wave of pagoda building that took place between the 11th and 13th centuries. Venture inside the great brick and stucco frame of Ananda Temple to find four standing Buddha statues with bodies of solid teak, and later, watch the sun sink beyond the stupa-pierced skyline from a hot air balloon – a perfect finale to an adventure-packed break.
The people of Myanmar are very friendly and eager to introduce visitors to their culture. You can stay with them in guesthouses across the country, or indulge in a luxurious hotel or villa in cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s administrative capital.