Burma is a cultural gold mine: the Bagan plains are strewn with thousands of temple ruins stretching as far as the Irrawaddy River; Mandalay and Yangon are heaving with colonial buildings and glittering stupas; Inle Lake is a place of heart-stopping beauty where no electricity flows; and the gorgeous golden sands of Ngapali provide a quirky beach break to complete your adventure.Rudyard Kipling wrote that Burma is 'quite unlike any land you know about', and this still very much applies over a century after it was written. With a civilisation that is more than 2,500 years old, Burma is a mysterious and magical land with magnificent temple architecture set in timeless and sublime landscapes. Trips to Burma (also known as Myanmar) have been largely off-limits to tourists for decades ensuring that its astonishing natural beauty and charm have remained one of the world's best-kept secrets. Ox carts, locals dressed in traditional longyis and women with tree-bark paste decorating their faces all add to the sense that time has stood still here, even in the cities. Once again opening up to the world, this intriguing country is blessed with a unique natural environment of snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes, mighty rivers, lush tropical forests and unspoiled beaches. Bordered by China to the north-east, Laos to the east, Thailand to the south-east, Bangladesh to the west, India to the north-west and the Bay of Bengal to the south-west, the Andaman Sea and its 1,199 mile uninterrupted coastline define Burma's southern periphery.
The Burmese culture, heavily influenced by neighbours, is based on Theravada Buddhism intertwined with animist elements called nats, which are spirits that hold dominion over a place or person. Burma's diverse population (there are over 135 ethnic groups) has played a major role in defining its politics, history and demographics in modern times. Since 2011, Burma has fully opened her doors to travellers from far and wide, there is now extraordinary demand for a limited range of luxury hotels, and recent investment has meant that some wonderful new luxury properties have opened up. Burma's hospitable, open, inquisitive and friendly people provide visitors with their most memorable moments, and despite limited access to the internet or (for many) a proper education, the Burmese are remarkably well informed about outside events. From the busy city of Yangon to the royal city of Mandalay, the thousands of temples and pagodas in Bagan to the natural grace of Inle Lake, Burma is indeed an intriguing and beautiful land.