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This month it’s all about families at Inside Asia Tours! Today we’ll be introducing three of our favourite destinations in Burma and exploring what they have to offer adults & kids alike. For more inspiration, see our dedicated family page.
If I could give you one piece of advice for planning a family holiday, it would be to remember that pace is absolutely key. Give yourself enough time to relax and settle into each destination, mix culture and sightseeing (for the grown-ups) with fun activities and novel experiences (for the children), and generally just try not to be in a rush. Whatever the ages of your children or the size of your family, this is what will ensure you all have a great trip.
The following destinations provide – in our opinion – the perfect balance: rest and relaxation supplemented by history, culture, and lashings of adventure. If you want to find out why, you’ll have to read on…
Bagan is at the heart of Burma – the old capital from which King Anawrahta first unified the regions that would form the country as it is today. In its heyday, during the 11th-12th centuries, Bagan was one of Southeast Asia’s most important cultural centres, akin in power and influence to the great cities of the neighbouring Khmer Empire. Its rulers used their wealth to construct thousands upon thousands of brick stupas and shrines across the dusty plains, creating one of the most memorable landscapes in the world today.
For adults, the appeal of Bagan is clear: stunning views, beautiful temples, and the opportunity to learn about the rise and fall of a great empire that few in the West have even heard of.
Traipsing around temples is tiring work – even for grown-ups – and younger adventurers are likely to run out of steam before long if you don’t plan accordingly. One thing to remember is that Bagan is generally very hot, so you’re well advised to make an early start for the temples then retire to your hotel around lunch time for a few hours’ relaxation around the pool. If your budget stretches to it, a dawn hot air balloon ride over the plains is the most impressive way to take in the region – or if it doesn’t, hiring bicycles is a fantastic way to turn sightseeing into a proper adventure.
If you have time, we recommend spreading your templing out over a couple of days, avoiding the dreaded temple fatigue by mixing in plenty of downtime, and perhaps a cooking class or a visit to the local lacquerware workshops.
Surrounded by green hills and dotted with stilt villages, Inle Lake is one of Burma’s most beautiful destinations. Here, every aspect of life is conducted on the water, from marketplaces crowded with boats to floating farms anchored to the lake bottom with bamboo poles.
Inle Lake offers a unique chance to come into contact with a culture whose way of life is entirely different from anything we know in the West – and in some of the most beautiful surroundings in Burma. The local floating markets are sure to fascinate, and there are plenty of pleasant walks to be had in the surrounding greenery of the lakeshore. You might like to pay a visit to Sagar, one of the least-visited and most interesting parts of Inle, where 108 overgrown stupas stand part-submerged for several months per year. And if all this leaves you hankering for a glass of wine at the end of the day, why not take a tour of one of the vineyards and enjoy a glass of the local red as the sun sets over the lake.
As you might imagine, the best (and, indeed, only) way to get around Inle Lake is by boat, which is an excitement in itself for younger children! Just seeing other kids with such different lives to their own – perfectly happy without technology or modern conveniences – can be an eye-opening experience. More active children can head out on the water in a kayak, which gives you more freedom to explore quiet waterways away from the buzz of boat motors.
Located on the western coast of Burma, looking out over the turquoise waters of the Bay of Bengal, is Ngapali: Burma’s premier beach destination. With all the tropical weather, palm-fringed coast and white sand of the Thai islands but with hardly any of the crowds, dirt or development, this is the perfect place to plan for a few days of R&R.
If you’re visiting Burma, you’ve probably carved out time for the big cities of Yangon and Mandalay, the plains of Bagan and perhaps a couple of days on Inle Lake – in short, you’re probably in need of a rest. Ngapali is the perfect place to slow the pace with a range of excellent beachside hotels to choose from. What more do I need to say?
And while you’re taking some to kick back and relax, your children will have the beach to enjoy! Besides the normal swimming and sandcastle-building to be done, there is some fantastic snorkelling, scuba diving (if your children are old enough), bike rides and boat trips to partake in. You might like to head to the fishing village of Muang Swe Lay to meet the locals, or even take a balloon flight over the jungles of surrounding Rakhine State.
For more advice on planning a family holiday to Burma, take a look at our family travel page, where we’ve collected all the hints, tips and advice from our family travel experts.