If there’s one place that you simply must visit before its on everybody radar, it is Yangon (once known as Mynamar), the capital of Burma. Romantic, historic and now peaceful, Yangon is the top emerging Asian destination of the moment. Once upon a time it was known as the Pearl of South East Asia but after decades of turmoil, the country was closed to the West. Now it’s reclaiming its crown. Still, the lack of tourists is palatable, you really feel as if you’re one of the first people to visit and discover the incredible number of colonial buildings and fairy tale Buddhist shrines, such as the Shwedagon Pagoda, whose golden spire dominates the skyline.
After seeing how mass cheap tourism affected their neighbouring counties, Yangon has very much targeted high-end travellers. We stayed in three five stars hotel to check out the range on offer. First off, we visited Governors Residence, part of the Orient Express group. Next, we moved to Hotel Strand, built by the Sarkie Brothers hotels in 1901, during the same period they were redefining luxury hotels with Raffles in Singapore and The Oriental in Penang. Finally, it was onto the first big five star hotel of Yangon Shangri La.
For all the beauty and luxury, what we will remember will be the abundant, high quality food. A sophisticated, highly original food culture exists incorporating British, Indian, Chinese, and Thai to make a fresh Burmese mix. Whether that’s buying from hawkers selling a fragrant noodle soup called Thoke for 50c at the food markets, or at the top end colonial era restaurants such as Monsoon Myanmar, or, the recently-opened luxurious Water Library in a colonial mansion. Other favourites include the hotspots for expats Union Restaurant or Le Planteur. Meanwhile, a perfect example of where Yangon is heading is the Bar Boon Dutch Deli and Expresso Bar, which expresses the cool trendy European deli á la NY style.
Top tip: Make a difference while you shop at the Helping Hands Loft Fashion & Accessories
This fair trade shop that opened in early 2012 and carries a variety of accessories, gifts and fashion whose proceeds directly benefit Myanmar artisans whose work supports local initiatives such as healthcare, housing and education. 85-87 Thinbyu Road