Though, the perceived lack of tourist infrastructure may be a reason holding most people back from exploring the country as it originally was for me.
There was something about Myanmar that didn’t excite me. I’d made plans to visit a number of times but never followed through.
Eventually, after three cancelled visits, I finally made it. I discovered most of my preconceptions were at least in part wrong and it fast became one of my favourite Southeast Asian countries.
Formally know as Burma, returning to Myanmar again recently for the second time, I was curious to see how much had changed in the last few years. First time round, intercity transport information was quite tough to find anywhere, the local communities weren’t used to handling foreigners and SIM cards for foreigners were a total hassle to purchase — needless to say, Wi-Fi was rare and even rarer when it actually worked.
These factors made the country a little challenging yet fulfilling to travel through (when I eventually arrived at my destinations).
Fast forward to my recent trip and there is so much more to see and do. New western run accommodations have popped up in major cities, receptionists speak a good standard of English and are well equipped to answer those awkward touristy questions, tickets were hassle-free to purchase (most of the time), and data SIM cards are now easily available.
Often referred to as one of the last lost paradises on earth, my journey this time took me to The Mergui Archipelago (or Myeik as referred to locally), consisting of some 800 islands, is truly a natural treasure to behold. Remotely positioned in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Southern Myanmar, this is not the easiest place to reach as only accessible by boat (2-3 hours by speedboat) from Kauwthaung.
This is one the best reasons to go as you will be amongst some of the most intrepid and privileged travellers if you choose to venture to these mysterious islands.
The most exciting part of this adventurous destination is that now there are options of how to explore this intriguing part of the world. There are several luxury yacht charters available including the exquisite Lamima for up to 14 guests; a traditional Indonesian style boat, which comes with a full crew and on a fully inclusive basis (including all sea sports equipment on board).
Then there is Wa Ale Island, due to open fully in October 2018, in the Lampi Island National Park, the only completely protected area within the region. Wa Ale is a privately owned eco-resort, built in a sustainable manner using reclaimed materials and using alternative energy sources for power. In addition Wa Ale has a strong emphasis on supporting the local community through various charitable contributions and projects as well as donating a percentage of profits towards funding wildlife and nature conservation projects such as sea turtle conservation and coral protection.
Here are my top five reasons why you should visit Myanmar:
All pictures by courtesy of 'Wa Ale Island Resort'