One of the poorest countries in the world and under a military regime, Burma is definitely one of the most intriguing countries to visit.
Your journey begins in Yangon (formerly called Rangoon). Yangon is a city decked out in colonial architecture - though their state is not at all pristine - and temples, temples and more temples. Apparently, the Buddha himself has 8 strands of his hair enshrined in the Shwedagon Paya.
You can hop on a bus to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda for a day trip from Yangon. If you’re short on time, don't feel too bad about skipping this because it’s essentially just for a view of the Golden Rock balancing precariously over a cliff.
The city of Mandalay is your next big destination in Burma. If your legs are up for it, go on a hike to the top of Mandalay Hill for a gorgeous view of the city. Don’t forget to check out the Buddhist Bible at the foot of the hill – it’s known as the largest book in the world. The infamous Moustache Brothers also perform their stand up comics in Mandalay. Support them for their rogue voice against oppression, but humor is slapstick most of the time. Don't miss to head over to Amarapura for a day trip out of the city and admire U Bein's Bridge, the world's longest teak bridge.
Next on your travel itinerary is Bagan – Burma’s version of the Angkor Wat, though with significant differences in aesthetics and vibe. Rent a guided horse cart for your temple-trawling – and temples are all you’re likely to trawl here. The area is also known for its lacquerware so head to some of the family-run workshops for your souvenirs.
Lastly, spend the last few days on a relaxing trip at Inle Lake, peppered with monasteries, village markets and temples. But if you’re in need of a change in scenery, head to the hot spring north of Kaundaing or cycle to the village itself to talk to the locals.
When you’re in Burma, be conscious of where exactly where your money goes to – avoid the government-owned business (lots of hotels are government-owned) as it financially feeds their military regime in the country, and spread your wealth amongst the family-owned businesses instead. You can also donate straight to monasteries or schools for the children or villages seeking aid for health clinic.
In the end, some of your money will go to the government (not only your visa fees), so decide wheather to visit this country early, before starting the detailed planning.
(This itinerary is based on our Burma/Myanmar Backpacker CheatSheet, a visual guide available for free download. We offer Backpacker CheatSheets for many more countries.)