5 alternative places to visit in Burma

Burma-born author James Chilton suggests five little-known places where you can still escape the tourists

5 mins

Burma's burgeoning popularity as a tourist destination is making it harder to find its authentic, untouched corners.

Author James Chilton grew up in Burma and lists the places he goes to avoid the maddening crowds – and get in touch with the country he knows and loves.

1. Moulmein (Mawlamyaing)

This charming multicultural town in the south east corner of the country has a lanquid air. Once an important port for the teak trade, the early morning ferries bustle with street sellers coming in to sell their wares and food.There are many lovely old merchant houses.

Take two days to drive to the town, stopping off to visit the famous Golden Rock at Kyaito.

Pagoda at Pyin-u-Lwin (shutterstock.com)

Pagoda at Pyin-u-Lwin (Shutterstock)

2. Maymyo (Pyin-u-Lwin)

A cool, ex-colonial hill town only a 1½ hour drive from Mandalay, with interesting colonial homes and horse-drawn carriages that are the local taxis. There is also a large and wonderful botanic garden.

3. Hispaw

If you're venturing to Maymyo, consider going on to Hispaw, a laid-back town on the old Burma Road. There is a good central market, cheroot factories and tea drying warehouses. Take a trip down the adjoining Dokhtawaddy River. If you get the train from Maymyo (an experience in itself) you go over the famous Goteik Viaduct, the tallest trestle bridge in the world.

Dusty road to pagoda, Kyaing Tug (Shutterstock.com)

Dusty road to pagoda, Kyaing Tug (Shutterstock)

4. Keng Tung (Kyaing Tung)

There are regular flights to this town – it's the capital of the Shan state, but has a sleepy air to it. The large market attracts local tribal people, and the town is also a base to explore the nearby villages.

Ngwe Saung beach sunset (Shutterstock.com)

Ngwe Saung beach sunset (Shutterstock)

5. Ngwe Saung

This resort is a five-hour drive from Rangoon and has wonderful empty beaches on the Bay of Bengal and four excellent modern hotels. Most tourists go to Ngapali because it has an airport, but it is crowded and expensive. On the way to Ngwe Saung, look in on the town of Pathien (Bassien), the centre of the local parasol-making industry.

James Chilton's new book, The Last Blue Mountain, has been described by Michael Palin as 'a rich and rewarding read'. You can order your copy on Amazon now. 

Main image: Statues of Buddhist monks collecting alms (Shutterstock)

Related Articles