Top 5 Myanmar Destinations for 2018
Had your fill of Myanmar’s most popular attractions? We asked the team from Sampan Travel to list their top five off-the-beaten-track destinations in the country to make 2018 the most adventurous year yet.
Indawgyi Lake, Kachin State
Indawgyi is Myanmar’s largest and—in our opinion—most beautiful lake. With reflections of Noah’s Ark, its mythical origin is of a sinful village flooded by a punitive dragon. Today, over the site of the drowned village is the Shwe Myitzu Pagoda, which in March is accessible via two sandy causeways. Foreigners can stay in a quirky guesthouse in the
village of Lonton, meet the Shan Ni (Red Shan), and kayak on the lake with the organisation Inn Chit Thu—‘Lovers of the Lake.’
Getting There: From Kachin capital Myitkyina travellers can take a train to Hopin and from here a motorbike taxi or shared pick-up truck. Trains to Hopin can also be boarded from Mandalay and Katha.
Mindat and Kanpetlet, Chin State
There is nowhere else in Myanmar quite like Chin State, where redbrick churches instead of shimmering pagodas sit atop the hills. From the scruffy town of Mindat, fortified with thick Chin coffee (best taken with a wedge of lime) travellers can scale Chin’s highest peak, the rhododendron-strewn Mt Victoria—Nat Ma Taung in Burmese, Khaw Nu Thone in Chin dialect. One can clamber down to the town of Kanpetlet for a plate of mithun meat in one of the wooden lodges, breaking bread with intrepid birdwatchers on the look out for black-naped woodpeckers and the Chin Hills wren-babbler.
Getting There: There are daily busses and minibuses from Pakokku near Bagan to both Mindat and Kanpetlet.
Kyaing Tong (Kengtung), Shan State
Once a royal town of Tai kings, the palace of Kyaing Tong (‘Walled City of Tung’) was demolished by the Junta in 1991, and in its place now sits a hotel, looking over the serene Naung Tung Lake. Set in the heart of the Golden Triangle, one can hike up into the surrounding hills and visit the diverse smattering of ethnicity. Travellers can meet the Akha, the Lahu, and the Eng; one’s arrival in the villages of the latter will be heralded by the ululations of ragamuffin children in the trees, slingshots stuck smartly into their scraggly trousers.
Getting There: Besides from reaching the town via Tachileik on the Thai border, there are flights from Mandalay and Heho. The road from Taunggyi is now thought to be open once more for foreigners with a permit.
Gaw Yan Gyi, Ayeyarwaddy Region
Actually not an island, Gaw Yan Gyi is perched at the end of a peninsula bent crooked into the Bay of Bengal. The beach on one side is reserved for fishing boats and beer stations, while the other offers clear bathing water, although the odd bulb from a lobster boat may be spotted lodged in the sand. Not quite barefoot luxury, there is both chic and budget accommodation available. There are no merchandise shops, and no restaurants serving pizza and frozen daiquiris, but travellers can slip into the village for laphet thoke and a bottle of Grand Royal.
Getting There: Busses run from Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal via Pathein. It is also possible to travel by motorbike down the coast from Ngwe Saung.
Dawei, Tanintharyi Region
Lonely Planet describes Nyaung Shwe on the edge of Inle as Myanmar’s only proper backpacker hub. Dawei looks to become the country’s second. For a few years, for travellers the town has served purely as a means to get to either the nearby beaches, however it is time that Dawei is regarded as worthwhile destination in itself. In addition to the colonial architecture and Shwe Thal Taung Daw Mu (the country’s second largest Reclining Buddha) one can take traditional cookery classes and aromatherapy treatment at the newly opened Ayinsa Gardens. After swimming in nearby watering holes and jumping down waterfalls, weary travellers can enjoy sunset on ‘Health Road’ sipping on local toddy wine.
Getting There: There are daily flights to Dawei from Yangon. Busses can be picked up from Yangon, Mawlamyine, and Ye.
Sampan Travel is a tour operator based in Yangon, creating tailor-made journeys through Myanmar.