Bagan Sunset with Hot-Air Balloons
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The ultimate escape in Burma

This new year we can’t think of anywhere we would rather escape to than the mysterious and magical land of Myanmar, with its serene atmosphere and wealth of experiences on offer: from floating high above the temple plains of Bagan in a hot air balloon for the most striking of views over this iconic landscape, to drifting peacefully along the iridescent Inle Lake, and enjoying rustic tropical island life at the hottest new luxury hotel, Wa Ale Island Resort. Yangon For the perfect itinerary, we recommend beginning your adventure in the ex-British capital of Yangon. Not only will you gain a sense of place amid the flurry of everyday life here, as you pass crimson-robed monks and the steaming cuisine of street stalls, but you will also get the chance to explore wonderful architectural sites and local markets bursting with local produce. From crumbling colonial buildings to gleaming Buddhist pagodas, the buildings do not disappoint – the most impressive of all being the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda, especially at sunset when it shines like liquid gold. Also, worth visiting here is the gigantic Reclining Buddha (Chaukhtatgyi Paya) and Bogyoke Market, where Burmese antiques are showcased in eclectic market stalls, as well as Mingalar Market, home to rich colourful fabrics and a lively atmosphere. After shopping, you will be hard-pressed to resist refuelling on sizzling street food as you breathe in the air of fragrant aromas. We recommend staying at The Governor’s Residence, the hottest postcode in the city, for the most luxurious stay. Yangon Shwedagon Pagoda Bagan Of course, no trip to Myanmar would be complete without visiting one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world: historic Bagan and its romantic temple-dotted landscape. It is bound to captivate your imagination at first glance – for the most memorable experience, we recommend admiring the thousands of ancient crumbling ruins, pagodas and stupas by hot-air balloon, for floating high above the atmospheric plains captures the scale of this wonderous and dramatic site to full effect. Overlooking the sweeping landscape from a bird’s eye view also affords you a panoramic vista that stretches right out to the horizon, where the mystical land meets the banks of the Irrawaddy river. Step inside the cool of the pagodas and stupas to find statues of the Buddha as well as intricate frescoes and carvings that envelop you in spiritual calm. The finest place to stay in this city is the Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, with its tranquil pool and luxurious amenities. Bagan Sunset with Hot-Air Balloons Inle Lake The idyllic Inle Lake is a crystalline calm body of water that guarantees a truly mesmerising sight at any time of day. For the most staggering views, we recommend visiting at either the crack of dawn or in the evening, when the golden sun casts its glow over the vast mirror-still body of water as far as the eye can see. As you glide through the soothing riverways by private boat, you will find floating local markets and tribal villages dotted around, as well as the odd fisherman going about their daily work. Originally part of the Intha (meaning “sons of the lakes”) community, these fishermen are a sight to behold in themselves as they masterfully balance on one leg while casting out their beautiful nets retaining traditional techniques. Those who visit this scenic spot in mid to late November can witness the unique and joyful Tazaungdaing Light Festival, which sees myriad different sized balloons made from bamboo and Shan paper take to the skies and a spectacle of fireworks under the cover of darkness. We recommend enjoying a stay at the beautiful Inle Princess Resort here, as it provides the ideal retreat in this peaceful setting. Fisherman on Inle Lake with Sunset Wa Ale To end your trip on a high, you need look no further than Burma’s hottest new property, Wa Ale Island Resort, where you can spend your final nights blissfully relaxed in an exclusive tropical island setting. Heralded as the hottest opening in the country in the last year, Wa Ale is the first exclusive property to be found on the previously untouched Mergui Archipelago and claims a prime position surrounded by nothing by aquamarine water, pristine white sandy beaches, majestic rock formations and lush vegetation. You are bound to feel at one with nature here, for this eco property blends seamlessly into its rugged surroundings and its rustic-style yet luxurious accommodation sits either right upon the beach or tucked under a leafy canopy of treetops. To add to this, the activities and excursions offered here all embrace the tropical environment with open arms as they range from snorkelling and diving among the archipelago’s exotic marine life to kayaking through the mangrove jungles among beautiful birdlife – just heaven for adventurers. Wa Ale Island Resort Exterior James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel. Ampersand Travel create bespoke and luxurious travel experiences to Asia, the British Isles and Southern Africa. 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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    1. Hi Allegra – thank you for your comment.

      Burma is incredibly magical and unlike any other Southeast Asian country. There is a rich history, beautiful ancient culture and crumbling colonial buildings to be seen.

      Do get in touch with us if you need help planning your trip!

      Best wishes

  1. There are so many exciting hotel openings that are really taking the travel industry forward in 2019. Though Wa Ale has the potential to be very special. I like the idea of being one of the first to enjoy the tropical island beauty of the Merguila archipelago. Whenever possible I like to finish off with a spot of luxurious relaxation. It is good to reflect on what you’ve seen and experienced before memories fade on the flight home.

  2. Hi Lesley

    I couldn’t agree more! There are so many new hotels on our radar that we are so excited about – in particular Wa Ale which I think is set to be a game changer, opening up the Mergui Archipelago to travellers. If you are thinking of travelling there and need help with your arrangements, then do drop us a line and we’d be happy to help.

    Best wishes

  3. Bagan is magical and a must visit when in Burma. I recommend visiting around December or January for a more reasonable weather. It can get hot and humid there with temps reaching 110 F (43 C).

  4. I’ve travelled a lot in South-East Asia but some of my old favourites are becoming crowded and I’m getting a little jaded. This post has aroused my interest in Burma. I like magical and mysterious. It’s time that I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Myanmar has a very rich culture and it’s really present in the structure of their buildings as well as their lifestyle. I agree with this, there are really wonderful architectural sites in the country especially in Yangon. The nature is also breathtaking and very peaceful. Hoping to visit the country someday!

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