Tom is from England and works as General Manager at Thahara. Having lived in Myanmar for 3 years, he gives his top tips for travelling in Myanmar, along with a few of his own personal thoughts on what makes his perfect holiday.
What do you like to do when you are on holiday?
I go on holiday to relax and do things that I can't back home. More often than not this results in a holiday either in the mountains where I can hike and cycle as much as I want, or close to the sea where I can go diving or sailing. While I’m pretty active I also love to have some downtime too so the hotel or property I’m staying at is pretty important. Oh and it absolutely has to be close to some awesome food.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I’d love to visit New Zealand. I went to Australia early last year and loved it. I think New Zealand would be another level above that with the amazing landscapes that change so rapidly.
What is your favorite place to travel in Myanmar?
It’s a toss up between Inle Lake and Hpa-an for me. I love the outdoors and both these two places offer tons of things to do outside. Cycling around Inle Lake on a bike, stopping off at my favourite Dim Sum restaurant in Nyaung Shwe, and then finishing the day with a dip in the hot springs on the west coast of Inle Lake. That’s a great day.
In Hpa-an there’s obviously tons of caves to explore, but my favourite thing to do is just behind Kaw Ka Taung cave. Here there’s a little outdoor swimming pool which the locals love, and lots of great beer stations. Head to the one at the very end and they’ve got around 5 kayaks which you can take out onto the river and enjoy absolute tranquility. Then there’s also the fact that my favourite hotel in Myanmar is located here. Hpa-an Lodge is worth the visit just by itself. Absolutely amazing.
Where was your most recent adventure in Myanmar?
In April this year I made my first trip to Kawthaung and the Mergui Archipelago. Simply incredible. I headed out to Boulder Bay Eco Resort which we now feature in our hotels collection, to see what all the fuss is about. I spent 4 days exploring their own private island, snorkeling with sharks and jellyfish, eating incredible seafood and staying in rustic little cabins on the beach front. Sounds pretty special right? It was.
What’s your favorite food in Myanmar and why?
I love the salads in Myanmar. They’re not your classic salad with lettuce, these ones are more often then not pretty spicy with lots of onions and garlic. A good chicken salad in Myanmar is probably my favourite, or potentially a tomato salad. Make sure to ask for the chicken off the bone if you go for that option, and it’s probably a good idea to ask for only a little spice.
What do you want to see in Myanmar in 10 years?
I’d love to see some better roads connecting the harder to reach destinations and making them more accessible. At the moment it can take around 5 – 6 hours to drive 200km which is simply way too long.
Hopefully we will then see more family owned hotels springing up across the country as tourism begins to help build the economy in these remote areas. I’m a big fan of these smaller properties over the large multinational hotels with 300 rooms. I’d far rather stay in a place that is unique and individual rather than a hotel which could frankly be anywhere in the world.
Give your best tip for someone travelling in Myanmar.
My best tip would be make sure your itinerary contains lots of free time. Don’t pack it with tons of things to do every day. Firstly the early flights will begin to catch up on you and you’ll be pretty tired by the end of the holiday.
Secondly some of my best experiences in Myanmar have been completely unplanned. Being invited into a lovely families home as I was walking casually down the street, having a drink with a group of young men who were celebrating during a festival and much more. None of these would have been possible if I had stuck to my original plan.
Three words that describe why we should travel
Why wouldn’t you?