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Burma Now!

Temples at Bagan, Burma © Charles & Mary Love

This largely unvisited land of Buddhist temples and exotic landscapes, officially called Myanmar, is back in the news!

Improved relations between the U.S. and Burma, signaled by Hilary Clinton’s 2011 visit, has aroused interest among U.S. travelers and rapidly made the country a tourism “hot spot.” (Tourism increased by 30% over the last year).

So far, Burma remains mostly untouched by Western infuences—and that’s no small part of its appeal. Some travel industry pros are even referring to Burma as “the new Bhutan”—another fascinating, mysterious Buddhist land that only recently opened up to visitors.

New, high-end hotels are popping up, including the Amara Ocean Resort (www.amaragroup.net) and the Malikha Lodge (http://www.malikhalodge.net) in the Himalayan foothills. And, this year, Abercrombie & Kent, the high-end travel company specializing in customized independent travel, has started offering group trips to Myanmar from the United States (www.abercrombiekent.com).

Our choice, however, for a first-rate experience is to cruise the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s major waterway, on Orient-Express’ small, luxurious boat, the Road to Mandalay. Several years ago we made this journey, a wonderful experience that took us from Yangon, the capital, to the river town of Mandalay, the ancient temples of Bagan, the not-to-be-missed Inle Lake, and more.  Orient-Express also offers an unusual cruise northward through remote villages and gorges to Bhamo, near the Chinese border.

Before and after the journey, travelers relax at Orient-Express’ colonial-style, teakwood mansion, The Governor’s Residence. Set in a beautiful garden with lotus pools, the accommodation, dating back to the 1920s, once served as home to the ruler of Burma’s southern states.

You might consider combining the Road to Mandalay cruise with an independent land trip. In any case, go now and see this pristine country before the crowds arrive!

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