As hotels are opening up again in Myanmar you’re in a very unique situation to stay a week or so at a different location and absorb the atmosphere of an area in Myanmar without having to share space with hundreds of other tourists. Additional advantage; your Facebook friends don’t expect you to post exciting adventures every hour so you can relax, travel slow and simply hang out in the garden of your hotel or at the pool. Work from your “new home” becomes more enjoyable and your colleagues will love to see your new Zoom background.
Of course, always keeping physical distancing measures in mind, travel safely and follow common sense and government instructions when travelling around. Taste new regional flavours, really get to know the people and support the local tourism economy (it’s needed).
How to spend the next month in a meaningful, memorable and a considerate way at a slow pace. Here are some ideas what your next month could look like:
1 Bagan – for a week – stay at Heritage Bagan Hotel
It’s actually not that far by private car; leave at 6 am from Yangon and you will be in Bagan around 3 pm. I usually never stay a whole week at the same hotel so this time it actually makes sense to unpack, take it easy and get settled. My program for the next days is as follows:
Day 1: Arrival in Bagan – relax, stroll around and discover food options.
Day 2: I deserve a day of nothing; pool and read a book.
Day 3: Action – get up at 6 am for a 4 hours mountain trip amongst the temples like I have never seen it before; so quiet. Rest of day a bit of work and sip a cocktail.
Day 4: Support the local economy so I walk to the market and see what’s on offer.
Day 5: Food & culture; which one is most important? With a guide I get to taste a lot of “dry zone” food and see 2 pagodas in-depth with a good explanation – lunch is a real feast.
Day 6: Already my last day; staying in and finish the work I was supposed to do, read the book. Going around by e-bike for 3 hours and see the sunset.
Day 7: Driver is ready to get us back to Yangon (or onwards to the next destination).
2 Kalaw – for a week – stay at Kalaw Heritage hotel
Go for cooler areas, just like the British did in the old days. Come to think of it, even in a pre-COVID-19 period, it was very normal to “stay-in” for the whole summer. As I just came from Bagan (or Yangon) it’s fantastic to feel the cooler evening breeze and go for a stroll around town to check out different restaurants and cafes. My program:
Day 1: It’s a 6 hours drive from Bagan (or 9 hours from Yangon) so you will arrive in the evening when it is quieter and a good time to test the inhouse restaurant.
Day 2: Morning stroll to the market (known for its social distancing) while I spend the afternoon sitting in the garden working “from home”.
Day 3: A lazy day; sleep-in; enjoy a long breakfast and read.
Day 4: Time for elephant washing and feeding and help planting trees as the excellent Green Hill Valley is just 45 minutes from Kalaw
Day 5: Work day and get some things done
Day 6: Half a day trekking with a Kalaw guide and get back to Kalaw by train – feeling healthy.
Day 7: already the end of this week; driver is ready to get back to Yangon (or onto the next destination)
3 Nyaung Shwe – for a week – stay at Blue Vanda Nyaung Shwe
Day 1: Inle Lake here we come! It’s just 2 hours’ drive from Kalaw (or about 10 from Yangon) – on arrival we explore the hotel and get settled
Day 2: time to be active and we go for a day hop-on hop off” by boat and bike to discover villages around the lake – fantastic to see the lake so serene
Day 3: as we got the feel for it another day of action; 2 mountain bikes are ready at the hotel for some exploring in the morning on our own; afternoon is used to relax at the pool
Day 4: need to catch up with some more work
Day 5: in the morning we learn some Shan cooking at a local home; the afternoon is spend catching up with work.
Day 6: A last day to relax
Day 7: It’s already time to go back to Yangon.
Hpa An – for a week – stay at Keinnara Hpa An (open from 1 July)
Day 1: early departure from Yangon as it’s about 6 hours’ drive to Hpa An – stop on the way to buy some preserved fruits in Kyaikto or visit the Kelatha Wildlife Sanctuary.
Day 2: No rush, sleep out, go for a stroll around the area and relax
Day 3: go for a bike-ride with a guide and taste one of the bets vegan lunches you ever had in a traditional vegan Kayin village (nobody eats meat or any dairy products).
Day 4: stay in day to finish work and enjoy sunset from the balcony
Day 5: Early morning wake-up to climb Mt Zwekabin – rest of the day free till sunset when we visit water cave by boat and enjoy the fantastic view over the nearby paddy fields
Day 6: Last day in Hpa An area so we decide to go for some leisurely walking and kayaking through paddy fields and enjoy a home cooked lunch.
Day 7: drive back to Yangon
Slow Travel is probably going to be trendier in the future and as a Yangonite you’re the first one to give it a try. It’s refreshing to change the scenery and it doesn’t break the bank. Just keep the essentials in mind and wear a facemask, wash hands, keep a physical distance. To get an idea of costs; the above complete itinerary including private car transfers, entrance fees, accommodation including breakfast and activities mentioned would cost 1,500 Usd per person based on 2 persons travelling together for a month or about less than 500 Usd for a week package.
Don’t hesitate to go and change the background for your next Zoom meeting!