Burma might not seem an obvious choice for travelling families, but with instant online visas, ATMS now operating throughout the country and a travel itinerary linking four wildly child-friendly destinations, this alluring, easily accessible nation is rapidly climbing the must-see list.
The country’s people are generous and welcoming, the sights intriguing and surprising, and the experiences affordable and authentic. Your child will be well cared for and adored (be prepared for lots of attention and an excess of sweets!).
Most travel itineraries begin in Yangon where you can kick-start your adventure at the city’s magnificent Swedagon Pagoda, arriving at dawn to join Buddhist faithfuls at the seven special alcoves devoted to the day of the week that you were born. To the soft chant of monks all around, we shared the company of our three-year-old’s fellow ‘Monday Tigers’, offering roses, bathing small gilded Buddha statues and striking enormous brass bells to welcome the new day.
Later, cycling rented bikes along quiet, motorbike-free city streets, we discovered Yangon’s playgrounds and fishponds, and slurped breakfast bowls of sweet coconut noodle soup at a makeshift roadside stall. A surprisingly restful, overnight sleeper bus transported us to Inle Lake to fill a week with zippy boat rides through stilted villages and floating gardens where beaming flower sellers threw us bright pink chrysanthemums. We played ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ amongst crumbling 17th century zedis, enjoyed cycle rides, puppet shows and seafood dinners, and even chanced upon an inflatable castle for a much-needed bounce.
What really thrilled our family about our month in Burma – quite apart from the generous, kid-loving people – were the child-thrilling ways in which we could experience adult-stimulating sites. We cycled off the map at Bagan, losing ourselves in a sea of 1000-year-old temples, playing with local kids and holding conversations with parents who might otherwise have seen us as customers. We donned head torches to climb the precarious stone steps up Bupedi’s ancient pyramid in the dark to watch the sun rise as a dozen hot air balloons drifted overhead.
A week later, chilling out in a beachfront bungalow at Ngwe Saung Beach, we surfed gently body-breaking waves on tyre tubes rented for a dollar a day, and sipped fresh green coconuts and chilly bottles of beer while building pagodas on the sand. There was full moon fun – firecrackers and a campfire, stirring oversized pots of sticky rice pudding devoured at tables on the sand.
There is so much to explore in Burma, but since bus trips can be rigorous for kids and the expense of plane flights can quickly tip the budget, it’s reasonable to limit your pick of destinations. Armed with a 28-day e-visa, we filled our stay with visits to Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay and Ngwe Saung Beach, but could have added detours to Hsipaw (east of Mandalay) and Mt Kyaiktiyo (near Yangon) had we not been quite so leisurely.
Apply for a 28-day Myanmar visa instantly online at evisa.moip.gov.mm (USD$50pp). ATMs are located at major tourist destinations and banks everywhere can exchange major currencies (as the country’s alternative currency, US dollars are recommended). For travel information head to www.go-myanmar.com.