- 53 million
Travellers may be deterred by Myanmar’s bad rep, the continued bickering over the military government’s renaming of colonial-era cities and the argument of protesting the regime by non-visitation. But really, you’re just denying the locals income and yourself an experience you won’t forget.
The Burmese are some of the friendliest people you can imagine (and often the funniest, given their propensity to consider humour high art) and they’re always willing to show you around town.
The faded grace of cities like Yangon (Rangoon) is matched by markets where everything is hawked with colourful banter. There are beautiful beaches to the south that remain untouched by the tragedy of Nargis, the cyclone that hit the south, and in Bagan more than 3000 temples and shrines sit on a treeless plain. If the idea of sailing through tropical water floats your boat (we’re not going to apologise so forget it) book a tour of the Mergui Archipelago in the country’s south. More than 800 islands can be found here, many of them isolated if you don’t count the gibbons who live there. You can sometimes sail for days and see no one else apart from the occasional fisherman in a dugout canoe.
Buddhism is the main way of life – golden Buddhas and monks in their red robes are everywhere. Buffalo and farmers wading through rice paddies are the plodding essence of the rural regions and it’s here that you’ll uncover a Myanmar very much at odds with the nation’s harsh international reputation.