Planning your next vacation, but don’t want to go too far? Singapore is a short flight away to many great destinations in the region, including Myanmar. Known for its towering gold pagodas and rich Buddhist culture, in the recent years, the country has became more open to tourists. Instead of visiting popular touristy spots like Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay or Inle, why not head off the beaten track to one of these stunning less-visited destinations?
Located in Shan State, this small, laidback town offers fresh air and beautiful views. Take to the hills for a day of trekking and explore local hill tribe villages of the Shan, Danu, Palaung and Pa-O people. You can drop by one of their coffee, tea or fruit plantations, and you’ll also want to plan a visit to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp that cares for sickly and ageing elephants. The town itself is relatively small, but there are plenty of pagodas, markets and colonial architecture to admire.
Home to the famous Golden Rock, this town is popular among Buddhist pilgrims. The huge rock gets its distinctive colour from gold leaves pasted on by male devotees; it has a pagoda sitting on top of it and balances precariously on the edge of a cliff (said to be held in place by a strand of Buddha’s hair). You’ll definitely want to see it for yourself, and to take in the unblocked views of the Mon State mountains.
Just can’t tear yourself away from the sun and sea? Escape to Ngapali for its pleasant sandy beaches and clean water. Located on the Bay of Bengal, the area has many resorts and hotels to choose from, plus loads of water sports and activities on offer including kayaking, snorkelling, scuba-diving and fishing. If you love surfing, there are some great waves here too, though be warned that the monsoon season brings strong currents. If watersports aren’t up your alley, relax in your beach chair with a drink and watch the sun set.
This quiet town beside Boutaloke Lake is gaining popularity as a centre for trekking. As you walk, you’ll traverse across farms and lush fields, and stop by small local villages. Be sure to visit the Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, a famous limestone cave that’s home to an overwhelming number of Buddha statues – in gold, silver, brick and cement, all brought by pilgrims from across the world. To get a bird’s-eye view of the area, hop on a hot balloon and take in the views of the countryside.
Flights: Scoot, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir fly to big cities such as Mandalay and Yangon; from those, you can take domestic flights or land transfers.
Best time to visit: November to February
Currency: Burmese Kyat
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