recommended Inle LakeThe crown of Burma's major attractions, lovely Inle Lake qualifies as a 'must' in the country, and a true highlight of Southeast Asia. Though its iconic leg-paddling fishermen are the face of Inle, ... read moreit's the stunning natural beauty of the water, ringed by soft green mountains, that makes this place truly special. Just being out on the lake in all of the various moods of the day is enough to love the place -- from dawn to bright midday, to sunset, to night-time. For the best results, skip the tourist 'cruises' through workshop after workshop, and take a hike or a cycle thru the surrounding hills, where it's not hard to get off the tourist trail.Matthew Crompton
Likewise, Inle is gorgeous, but given Burma's less than stellar transit connections, it's a toss-up as to if you want to try to reach it on your short itinerary.
- Lucky SevenYangon, Myanmar [Burma]recommended Lucky SevenThe quite large teahouse institution of Lucky Seven offers some of the best unpretentious local food in all of Myanmar. The fish mohinga is outstanding, the sweet milk tea delicious, and the ... read moreatmosphere -- pure laid-back old-school Burmese style -- is perfect for this time-warped city. Best breakfast in the city of Yangon, and a must experience in the city.Matthew Crompton
Also, in Yangon, don't miss breakfast at this tea house -- a fab local experience.
recommended Bagan TemplesTo really appreciate Bagan, you need to get high first. Seen from ground level, the endless array of brick temples here seem surprisingly similar, and their simplified interiors (usually a single ... read morecorridor traversing the perimeter) similarly unsatisfying. Climb up a zedi or stupa, however, and you're treated to a bird's-eye vista evoking what this temple city must have been like in its 13-century heyday -- a sprawling panorama of dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, of temples large and small receding off across the broad plain of Bagan -- making it clear that this is a place best appreciated in its broadest scope. On the downside, the shoddy reconstruction efforts of the Burmese government have led to a sense of serious inauthenticity to much of the site -- completely new temples constructed out of completely new bricks are unfortunately common, and very little here hasn't undergone these drastic "restorations". More, you won't have the wonderful "Tomb-Raider-style" exploration experience of the temples you would at Angkor or Tikal, and many of the temples are positively overrun with gnat-like vendors. Still, it's a must-see while in Myanmar, and getting lost with a bicycle on the dirt roads of the dusty central plain as the sun sets over the ancient city is pretty magical.Matthew Crompton
Bagan is a place worth a couple of nights. The vast field of temples is most impressive at sunset and sunrise, and from an elevation. Flying to Bagan *will* save you some time over an overnight bus, which won't be the most comfortable bus you've ever taken. Whether it's worth it depends on how much money you're willing to spend for convenience.
recommended Yangon (Rangoon)Though it's easily the best-connected place in Myanmar, dusty, disordered Yangon still feels pretty far out of the way. With the exception of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, it's without any ... read moreparticularly memorable sights, but the interesting back streets and tasty teahouse culture (have a fish mohinga and some diabetes-inducing sweet Burmese tea) make it a place worth a night of your time, if nothing more.Matthew Crompton
Yangon should only require one night. Check out my passport for ideas of what to do here.
recommended Myanmar/BurmaMyanmar (Burma is used more or less interchangeably, though locals seem to favor the former name these days) is a Southeast Asian country distinguished mostly by what it DOESN'T have: loads of ... read moretourists. In contrast to Thailand, Angkor or Vietnam, this nation at the crossroads of south and southeast Asia can seem positively empty of visitors, and that's part of its charm. People here -- be they Burmese, Mon, Indian or Shan -- are mostly friendly and smiling, without the scams or greediness you find elsewhere in the region; and the country has a kind of sleepy charm that's immediately appealing. Myanmar might lack blockbuster sights (virtually nothing in the country is a "must", though many things are certainly nice), but getting a little off the tourist treadmill and seeing a corner of the world that often seems forgotten is a reward more than worth the journey.Matthew Crompton
Five days is a short trip.