The charming and ancient country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for travellers seeking unspoiled landscapes, tropical luxury and ancient spirituality.
We don’t believe there’s a better way to take in the seemingly endless vistas of pagodas and fishing villages than to follow the route of the Ayeyarwady River. Flowing from the foothills of the Himalayas down to Mandalay, it meanders to the ancient temple town of Bagan, before ending at Yangon – Myanmar’s biggest and busiest city – and the Indian Ocean.
THE STRAND CRUISE
This luxury craft operates three-night cruises from Mandalay to Bagan, taking in tours of ancient temples and palaces as it goes. With a restaurant, cocktail bar, spa, gym and swimming pool onboard, the cruiser offers the same spirit of luxury as its parent hotel, The Strand in Yangon – including a 24-hour butler service. The floor-to-ceiling windows of each ensuite room will make the most of the stunning river sunsets.
AUREUM PALACE, BAGAN
Set in the eastern part of Bagan’s archaeological zone, this sumptuous lakeside hotel is the perfect location for guests seeking breathtaking views of the 2000 11th-13th century temples and monuments of the ancient town. Its 66m-tall Nan Myint viewing tower provides panoramic views from the 12th floor (with spectacular dining to be had on the 9th), and horse and carriage rides can be taken among the pagodas and temples themselves.
BALLOONS OVER BAGAN
The ultimate views of Bagan can be found from the air, and luxury firm Balloons Over Bagan should be the first port of call for sedate trips over the archaeological site. Guests are greeted with refreshments while being briefed on the journey ahead, then board for an expertly guided 45-minute journey over the ancient pagodas and temples.
NGAPALI BAY AND SPA
Travellers aiming to delve deeper into the natural landscape of Myanmar should break off from the Ayeyarwady midway between Mandalay and Yangon and head west to the coast, where a warm tropical climate reigns all year long. There’s even the chance to meet local elephants in their natural habitat. Nagapli Bay and Spa is a beachside collection of thatched roof, high-ceiling villas crafted with local white marble, teak wood and sandstone. Some boast sea views, and other private pools. The Frangipani Spa delivers bespoke healing treatments, and the Tamarind Restaurant offers seasonal local produce and seafood.
BELMOND GOVERNOR’S RESIDENCES
Travellers seeking immersion in the culture and history of Myanmar should head to Belmond Governor’s Residences. Set in the Embassy District, a tranquil enclave on the edge of bustling Yangon, this elegant hotel is just a quick walk from the National Museum. With carved teak and silk throughout, the furnishings of the Governors’ rooms and suites are sumptuous; the latter overlook a private lotus garden and boast extraordinary terrazzo baths.
SEEDS RESTAURANT & LOUNGE
Just outside Yangon, Seeds restaurant – the creation of a Swiss Michelin star chef and an experienced sommelier and Reiki healer – offers an enchanting private lakeside dining experience. Choose from three unique private dining spaces, each of which seats up to four. The Air Pavilion has been crafted from bamboo, high above the lake; the Fire Pavilion is an antique gazebo with figures carved into each pillar, and the Water Pavilion floats in a stunning lotus pond. Alternatively, take a seat at the Chef’s Table to watch your meal being crafted in front of you. Pictured is Sarawakian pepper roasted Angus beef tenderloin with morrel canneloni and green pea mousseline.
SAVOY HOTEL YANGON
For a central yet restful location in Yangon, the Savoy hotel is built around a serene pool and overlooks the Shwedagon Pagoda. With rooms and suites featuring Myanmar antiques and teak furniture, it very much leans towards old-world charm, especially with the naming of Kipling’s Restaurant (after the English author who immortalised the country in his epic poem ‘Mandalay’). Kipling’s serves a Pan Asian cuisine, while Le Bistro offers poolside dining with traditional European bistro dishes.