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Undiscovered Burma… return to the Golden Land

The hype for Burma has been irrefutable, overwhelming and international tourism has boomed. The well-trodden tourist trail of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake has attracted discerning travellers from far and wide. But there is so much more to this bewitching and beautiful country, you cannot visit just once. So full of off-the-beaten-track discoveries it has the ability to charm any traveller away for a second time. Below are our favourite of Burma’s lesser known, but equally worthwhile spots… Kalaw The hidden gem of Kalaw is a former British hill station, located along the western edge of the Shan plateau. Just 50 km from Inle Lake, Kalaw is often overlooked by travellers who stick to the usual tourist trail. Back in the day, British civil servants escaped to Kalaw for some much-needed respite from the heat of the plains, but today travellers come to experience some of the best trekking in Burma, unique flora and fauna and arresting vistas of the stunning landscape. The air is cool, the atmosphere calm and the streets leafy, the colourful and vibrant market attracts villagers from nearby Palaung, Danu and Pao, and the surrounding hills are the only place in Burma where visitors can trek overnight without prior permission. Kalaw is also the perfect base from which to visit the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, a family run camp which was set up to provide care for retired elephants that are no longer fit to work. Stay: Amara Mountain Resort This cosy colonial-style cottage feels more akin to an English countryside family home rather than Burmese boutique hotel. kalaw Hpa’An Tucked away in the south eastern part of Burma, close to the border of Thailand, Hpa’An is home to some of the most tranquil and beautiful scenery in the whole of Burma. The quaint city is Kayin State’s riverside capital, and far from the well-trodden tourist trail, this small and energetic hub exudes classic Burmese charm. The region lays claim to such local gems as the Kawgun and Yathaypyan caves, notable for their Buddhist art, some of which dates back to the 7th century, Mount Zwegabin and the Kyauk Kalap, a truly unique pagoda perched on top of an unusual rock formation. But if nothing else, the setting itself is as good a reason as any to visit, if only to witness the ever diminishing rural Burma, where ox carts plough the fields and a Western face is a rarity. Stay: Hpa’An Lodge Surrounded by unrivalled scenery, this authentic Kayin hotel is the best and most charming hotel in the area. hpaan-lodge Pyin Oo Lwin A small hill station founded by the British in 1896 to escape Mandalay’s oppressive summer heat, Pyin Oo Lwin is a colonial town of Old World charm and peaceful calm. The crumbling colonial-era cottages, impressive mansions and elegant churches have largely remained, in various conditions, following the British departure in 1948. Some of the best preserved structures, with their verandas, grand staircases and teak floorboards, provide an illuminating window into this almost forgotten time of a bygone era, and an afternoon visiting some of these homes is certainly time well spent. With abundant greenery and a cool climate, today Pyin Oo Lwin is best known for its fruit, jams, vegetables and fruit wines. It is also home to the National Kandawgyi Gardens, a lovingly maintained 435-acre botanical garden which opened in 1915. Bursting with over 480 species of beautifully colourful flora, it is the perfect place to indulge your inner horticulturist. Stay: Pyin Oo Lwin Hotel Deep within the Shan Highlands, tucked away in the scenic hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin, lies Pyin Oo Lwin Hotel, a classic hotel which exudes the ancient colonial style that once dominated this region. Pyin oo Lwin Mrauk U Unusual, striking and almost surreal, Mrauk U is one of our favourite locations in the country. Tucked away in the northern Rakhine State near the Bangladeshi border, it is a bit of a hop, skip, flight, boat and jump away, but with only 4,000 visitors a year, the area remains blissfully unspoilt and undiscovered. Mrauk U is the country’s second most famous archaeological site after Bagan, but unlike Bagan, Mrauk U’s temples are scattered amongst a lively backdrop of bustling villages, rice fields and round hillocks. And also unlike Bagan, you will have the added advantage of having the amazing natural and historical sites to yourself. Wander around the temples at sunrise or sunset, taking in the luscious virgin surroundings, and mingle with local farmers who remain very much a part of the temple area. Stay: Mrauk U Princess The charming sister property of the Inle Princess, Mrauk U Princess is a sustainable haven set on the banks of the Kaladan River with verdant rice fields and luscious gardens on either side. img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-57725″ src=”https://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Mrauk-U-1.jpg” alt=”Mrauk U” width=”460″ height=”385″ /> Mergui Archipelago The Mergui Archipelago is a scattering of 800 uninhabited, remote and sparsely populated islands in the Andaman Sea, off the southern coast of Burma. Fundamentally unknown to the outside world, the archipelago is blissful in its authenticity. There are no such luxury hotels to speak of, so the best way to experience these islands is by luxury sailing yacht. Each yacht in Burma Boating’s fleet has an expert crew with an acute attention to detail, a deep routed passion for sailing and a matchless knowledge of the area. Plus the food (which is freshly prepared by your chef each day) is to die for! Sailing through these untouched waters will introduce you to a whole new biodiversity, and as you slide into the glassy waters at sunrise, gaze at the virgin white sanded shores or play with the wind as you sail swiftly over the waves, you will see that this stunning archipelago remains one of Earth’s most unspoilt destinations. Stay: SY Meta IV A classic yet chic yacht, Meta IV offers a unique experience for any luxury explorer wanting to discover this stunning part of the world. img class=”alignnone wp-image-57724 size-full” src=”https://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Mergui-Archipelago-3.jpg” alt=”Mergui Archipelago” width=”460″ height=”385″ /> James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

James Jayasundera

James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel in London. Ampersand Travel is an award-winning tour operator specialising in tailor-made holidays to Asia and Africa. James was raised in Rome by a Sri Lankan diplomat father and British mother, and from an early age he was travelling throughout the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Although he loves comfort, he is not blinded by five-star luxuries – the Ampersand motto is “luxury is in the experience” and it is that indefinable quality that makes something special which James is always on the look-out for. James founded Ampersand Travel in 2003, and since then the company has developed an excellent reputation for in-depth knowledge of its destinations, candid and impartial opinions on hotels and locations and a formidable network of contacts within the industry and its destinations.

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One Comment

  1. You had me at ‘Elephant’! The Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp sounds like my sort of place and good to know those wise creatures get to enjoy a relaxed retirement. I would also like to see the the 4000 sacred stupas scattered across the plains of Bagan, some day, and the unspoilt Mergui Archipelago.

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