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Myanmar has shot to the top of myriad travel hot lists of late, putting this emerging Southeast Asian destination top of mind for travelers in search of tourism’s next “it” spot. Since word is widely out on the country’s big-league attractions (from temple-speckled Bagan to the floating villages of Inle Lake), herewith an insider’s tip for travelers looking for more off-the-path, slice-of-life authenticity. Coordinate your 2013 visit with the auspicious full moon of Tazaungmone (or, November, according to Myanmar’s traditional calendar), when the country is set aglow during its heralded annual Tazaungdaing Festival (or, Festival of Lights).
Fresh from attendance at this year’s exceptional edition, I can firmly declare the event to rank amongst the world’s most wonderful, weird, and wow-factor festivals, exceeding my wildest expectations. Just be forewarned: One look at this balloon-, lantern-, and pyrotechnic-fueled spectacle and home-front Fourth of July celebrations to come will be condemned to comparative yawn-worthy status. Read more
Perhaps too often, travel takes place on roads laden with unavoidable tourist traps and cheesy souvenir shops. For a true sense of time travel and cultural immersion, get off the man-made roads and use a traditional method of transportation: waterways. Such an experience can be found along the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, where riverboats carry passengers to authentic Burmese villages and Buddhist living centers.
Channeling Rudyard Kipling’s infamous poem, the luxury tour provider, Orient-Express, calls this once-in-a-lifetime voyage “The Road to Mandalay Bay.” After suffering damage from Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, the Road to Mandalay river cruiser remained docked for more than 12 months, re-emerging in August 2009 with a fresh new look, and fewer, more spacious cabins. Anxious passengers have welcomed its return and are setting sail on 3- to 11-night itineraries, with the 7-night voyage remaining a guest favorite. On this journey, the ship will stop each day at fascinating sites along the river, including Bagan, where over 2,000 temples and pagodas await, and a full-day excursion to Mount Popa, a sacred national park that is home to numerous monasteries.
Cruise fares start at $2,900 a person for the 7-night itinerary embarking from Mandalay. Bookings made by October 31 will also include a free overnight stay in the five-star Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon before or after the cruise. Travel is valid through December 20. Use the code RST1.
For more information, visit www.orient-express.com.
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