For the new couple, it is a significant task to consider where to their honeymoon. And while powdery sand, turquoise water, and sunshine are all wonderful things, they’re not the only signs of a worthy locale. One up-and-coming place to consider: Myanmar. And while the must-go parts of the Southeast Asian country are not on the coast, there are loads of coconuts, plenty of sun, and super-cheap massages. But keep in mind that it’s a mostly Buddhist country, so you’ll want to cover your shoulders and knees when you’re out and about.
Myanmar is absolutely exotic. Wedged among Thailand (beach lovers can easily pair a Burmese trip with a picturesque island next door, like Koh Samui), Bangladesh, India, and China, it’s a country that’s been influenced by many cultures, including British, since England ruled until the mid-20th century (and called it Burma). This comes through in the food; you can taste flavors from at least half a dozen countries and even try cooking lessons in many different cuisines, all in the same town. As is often the case in Southeast Asia, the dollar goes far, meaning an ultraluxurious honeymoon isn’t too much of a splurge. (The flight is by far the biggest expense.)
Although it’s a relatively large country, visiting the trifecta of Yangon (the capital), Bagan, and Inle Lake will give you a strong sense of the local culture as well as sufficient opportunity to experience incredible beauty. All flights enter through Yangon, and it’s a good place to spend a day or two and get over any jet lag. Take note that traffic is terribly gridlocked, so the more you can walk, the better. Dip a toe into the markets or shop for locally made crafts that support at-risk communities at Pomelo boutique, near the excellent and intimate Vietnamese restaurant Rau Ram. Don’t miss golden hour at Shwedagon Pagoda, a series of blindingly bright gilded stupas and temples that is the Buddhist spiritual center of the city. As the sun sets, light candles, make an offering to Buddha, snap photographs, or simply take in the massive, buzzing complex. As far as hotels, plush, five-star pampering is available at a relatively low price at the Belmond and Strand hotels.
Take a short flight to Bagan and you’ll quickly realize you’ve entered an entirely different world. Old Bagan is an ancient city and archaeological zone on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, home to more than 2,000 Buddhist pagodas—including temples, stupas, and other monuments—that are scattered around lush green jungly plains. It’s an incredibly fun place to explore by bicycle (check out Bagan Urban Adventures’ Beyond Bagan Bike Tour, which is educational and fun and includes lunch at feel-good eatery Sanon, a training restaurant for marginalized local youth) or electronic motorbike. Dress conservatively if you plan to enter the awe-inspiring temples. But it’s pure magic at sunrise.
No experience here is complete without a crack-of-dawn wakeup call and journey up one of the taller pagodas (Shwesandaw is a popular one; Buleti is smaller and usually has less people) to see the golden sun emerge and silhouette all the graceful pagoda pinnacles in its glow. Bagan is an iconic place to take a hot-air-balloon ride, and anyone watching daylight take over the sky will also see the massive balloons slowly rise and float over the horizon. If there’s one splurge that’s absolutely worth it, it’s one of these rides. Balloons Over Bagan is an excellent provider, and while it’s far from cheap, it will leave a lasting impression. Stay in New Bagan Blue Bird boutique hotel, where you can book a private, romantic dinner hidden away in a quiet corner of the property.
In Inle Lake, the sincere friendliness and kindness of locals is heartwarming. Stay on the lake, like at the cozy Myanmar Treasure Resort, for the best sunset shots—truly spectacular, fiery scenes that reflect like a Rorschach test on the lake’s surface and burn into your memory forever. There are fun cycling trips to take under sunny skies around the water, past fields of wispy sugarcane and through the nearby town of Nyuangshwe. Stop at Inle Heart View restaurant for local eats using the freshest ingredients (including juicy tomatoes grown atop the lake), and hit up Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery for a perfect view of sundown over the beautiful body of water. (Just don’t expect the best wine of your life.)
The biggest thrill might come on a private boat trip on the lake, during which you’ll witness fisherman standing on the tip of their boats’ bow and balancing on one leg while “paddling” using the other, as well as floating gardens, colorful homes on stilts, dozens of inspiring and talented artisans and craftspeople, and even floating markets. It’s a window into another way of life, and it’s absolutely beautiful.