Burma (Myanmar) is hot right now. In fact it is so in demand that hotel accommodations are have to be wrangled by tour operators far in advance. New luxury hotels and river cruises are on the rise, giving tour operators who know the region that much more opportunity to show off its treasures. Cox & Kings might be considered a specialist in this region. As the world’s longest established travel company, its history stretches back more than 250 years to 1758 when Richard Cox was appointed regimental agent to the Footguards (later the Grenadier Guards).
Burma’s “Not to Miss” List according to Cox & Kings
Sunrise balloon ride over Pagan
No Burma tour would be complete without seeing the myriad pagodas and temples of Pagan and what better way than in a hot air balloon at sunrise. The Pagan Archaeological Zone is one of the country’s top attractions, covering an area of 67 sq km. Tea and coffee are served while the crew prepare the balloons and a light champagne breakfast is served on landing. In 2014, balloon rides over Inle Lake will also be available.
The country’s third largest city was once a busy seaport and the administrative capital of British Lower Burma known as ‘Little England’. Today it is a pleasant and quiet town with a rich history lying off the normal tourist trail. Plenty of colonial-style architecture can still be seen, along with brilliantly coloured mosques, built for Indian immigrant workers decades ago. Moulmein is also home to Burma’s first Baptist church.
Located between Mandalay and Inle lake, Kalaw was a popular hill station during the British rule and remains a peaceful place to relax and explore the surrounding countryside. At an altitude of 1,320 metres, temperatures are pleasantly cooler offering wonderful hiking opportunities through rugged mountains and bamboo groves to remote hill tribe villages. Kalaw has a charming and quaint atmosphere created by its unique mix of ethnic tribal minorities, Burmese, Nepalese and Indians.
Burma’s most famous beach, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, has 3km of palm-fringed white sand. Still maintaining its fishing community, there are charming villages nearby that are waiting to be explored, and almost deserted offshore islands that can be visited. Rumour has it that the beach was named many years ago by a homesick Italian sailor from Napoli.
Golden Rock Pagoda, Kyaiktiyo
According to legend, the golden rock is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair, seemingly defying gravity as it permanently appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. Situated at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, it is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. The Golden Rock Pagoda is built on the top of the granite boulder and covered with gold leaves, which are pasted on by the flow of devoted pilgrims. A glimpse of the ‘gravity defying’ golden rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration to turn anyone to Buddhism.
Lined with ancient palaces and pagodas, the fascinating Irrawaddy river has stirred the imagination of some of the world’s greatest writers including George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling. There are a variety of boats that cruise the river, ranging from smaller traditional Burmese boats to the two luxurious Orient-Express boats – the Road to Mandalay and the 25-cabin Orcaella, which launched this summer and sails to the remote villages and ancient monasteries in the north of Burma.