Intriguing Burma (now more commonly known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the name given to it by its military government), was, for most of the 20th century, subjected to a long period of inaccessibility. Today, more than a century later, the utterly beguiling nation looks hopefully towards a more modern and democratic future, whilst still maintaining its unique traditional values and simple pleasures.
Embark on an adventure and discover for yourself the beautiful landscapes, entrancing river journeys and the incredible, sometimes surreal, sites reflective of the country’s rich and refreshingly unspoiled cultural heritage – such as the stupa-studded plains of Bagan on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River, the romance of Mandalay, and Yangon's giant Golden Pagoda. But, after all this, it will be the genuine delight, wonder and hospitality of the Burmese people that will leave you with the greatest impression of this captivating country.
A land of Buddhist faith, Burma is dotted with countless striking, intricately designed pagodas and temples. Visible from almost anywhere in Yangon, the utterly mesmerising Shwedagon Pagoda is one of Buddhism's most sacred sites; housed within the 325ft zedi – adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf and thousands of diamonds and other precious gems – are eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha. Explore the World Heritage-listed temple town, Bagan, known as the ‘City of 2,000 Temples’; the shimmering gold Ananda Pahto is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples.
A land that was, until very recently, fixed in the past, Burma remains a rural nation of traditional cultural values that will continue to beguile you the more you discover it. Pass local men in their skirt-like longyi and sporting traditional make-up as you meander through the streets aboard a rickety trishaw. Live like a local at one of the vibrant markets – visited by a diverse mix of indigenous hill people and selling heaps of fresh, unusual produce – before relaxing for the afternoon in one of Burma’s countless traditional teahouses, an embracing nod to the British colonial affectation.
Oozing serenity, the beautiful, highland Lake Inlè – at 13.5 miles long and seven miles wide – sits 900 metres above sea level and is home to stilt-houses and striking Buddhist temples that rise from the water. The shimmering lake supports over a staggering two-hundred villages in the surrounding hills and their fascinating inhabitants. Among them, the Intha fishing people are famed for their unique leg rowing; with an acrobat’s agility they lock one leg around a long oar, whilst the other foot firmly grips the stern of the boat, allowing them to glide across the water.
Embark on the unforgettable (barefoot) ascent up the covered staircases of 760-feet-high Mandalay Hill, passing numerous stunning temples and pagodas, before absorbing breathtaking views from the summit viewpoint – particularly striking at sunset. Nearby, discover the striking Shwenandaw Monastery – also called the Golden Palace Monastery – that originally formed part of King Mindon's apartments in the Royal Palace. Following Mindon’s death, the new king, Thibaw, had it dismantled and rebuilt on the present site as a monastery; it is now the only teak wooden building left of the original Mandalay Royal Palace complex, which was destroyed by fire during the Second World War.
Belmond Orcaella travels hundreds of miles north along the Chindwin River, the main tributary of Burma's largest river, the Irrawaddy. Its clever design means it can travel along a previously unexplored stretch of the silty, Chindwin River – which becomes too shallow to navigate in the dry season, making the trip possible only five times a year and therefore extremely special.
The best time to visit Yangon is during the cool season (late October to late February) with November to January being particularly appealing as the weather is still warm and rainfall is low - good conditions for touring.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Burma (Myanmar).
British Airways and Thai Airways from London Heathrow to Bangkok. Qatar Airways from London Heathrow and Manchester to Yangon (via Doha).
From London Heathrow to Bangkok: 11 hours, 15 minutes. London Heathrow to Doha: 6 hours, 40 minutes.
Onward connecting flights from Bangkok to Yangon: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
From Doha to Yangon: 5 hours, 50 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
On-line e-visas can be obtained for $50 USD per visa, at http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/index.aspx valid for 3 months with a maximum permitted stay of up to 28 days. The process currently takes 5 working days to complete. Alternatively, you can apply through CBIT online at www.uk.cibt.com or by telephone 0844 800 4650.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.