After three decades of self-imposed isolation, the unspoiled beauty and tranquility of Myanmar are to be treasured. We think it is one of our most interesting destinations, not only because of the remarkable things to do and see there, but because the country's cultural integrity has remained largely intact, somewhat frozen in time by years of sanctions. Burmese are devoutly Buddhist and spectacular pagodas seem to dot every landscape. High quality handicrafts are still inexpensive in Myanmar, so shoppers always go away happy. With our expert guides and insider knowledge, our Myanmar travel programs are nothing short of extraordinary. Unlike neighboring Thailand, foreign fast food outlets and mini-marts are conspicuously absent, and most Burmese still wear traditional dress, but that is going to change quickly. KFC has already opened its first store in Yangon, and other burger/pizza/convenience store chains are already making plans. See the unspoiled Myanmar before it fades away.
It Is No Longer a Sin to Visit Myanmar
There was a time when anyone contemplating a trip to Myanmar faced a dilemma of western critics, the fate of the non-violent resistance there, and the appearance of supporting a tyrannical military government.
That has all changed now that Myanmar has something closer to a democratic government and western countries lifted embargos that did much to hurt every-day Burmese people and forced forced the military junta to seek the friendship of countries like Libya and North Korea.
We were sinners for more than a decade since we obviously have a much different opinion about visiting Myanmar. We were long on the "dirty list" of The Burma Project and other well-meaning groups that also hope for the best of the Burmese people. However, we have seen what trade and tourism have done to change other countries where we work, and strongly believe that visitors and the money they spend make a significant and positive impact on the lives of people there.
Planning Your Holiday
Before you start packing your bags, it is well worth reading stories about Myanmar in several of our newsletters: www.clubsanook.com/newsletters/. Myanmar's new openness has caused a virtual stampede of foreign visitors who no longer have to feel guilty about traveling there. This has put a good deal of stress on the tourism industry there and hotel rooms have been hard to come by lately. So our best advice to prospective visitors is to plan as far in advance as possible. (We suggest six to nine months in advance if you want specific hotels or are inflexible about your itinerary.)
With nearly two decades of experience and inside knowledge, our attention to all of the details, and Myanmar's best local guides, you are sure to have a much more rewarding experience in Burma than if you spend your time attempting to deal with transportation, language and other logistics on your own.
Convenient Modular Programs
Whether you are a first time visitor to Myanmar or return guest. Purple Dragon offers all-inclusive travel programs to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake and beyond. Our Classic Yangon package is great for guests who have limited time but want a taste of Myanmar. These four packages, Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle lake, plus numerous optional side trips and other options. A luxury cruise between Mandalay and Bagan? Absolutely!
Classic Yangon ▸ Our two-night introduction to Burma's colorful capital. In addition to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, you will see traditional markets, the National Museum and some of Indochina's loveliest colonial architecture. If you make advance arrangements you can even visit the country's School of Fine Arts.
Royal Mandalay ▸ A three-day, two-night tour of an exotic ancient kingdom. Mandalay is probably Myanmar's most colorful, most interesting city. We take you to monasteries, pagoda's and a magnificent palace as well as Amarapura, which was twice the capital when Burma was a kingdom. Or you may want to see Mingun, a massive, abandoned pagoda.
Bagan, Wonder of Asia ▸ One, two or three days in a breathtaking lost city. You can see Bagan as a one-day side trip from Yangon. However, there is so much to see that you will want to spend at least two days there. This ancient, abandoned metropolis of massive temples is vast and on the scale of AngkorWat, Borobudur and Khajuraho.
Shimmering Inle Lake ▸ Take a three-day dip into the Shan States' great lake. Inle Lake's shores are dotted with ancient and colorful villages.
Grand Burma Tour ▸ This extended itinerary merely illustrates how you can combine the packages above to create a longer tour. We can customize this itinerary just about any way you like by adding other destinations and activities. To see the most you should plan to spend ten to fourteen days.
Custom Tour Options ▸ Choose from many options to make your visit to Myanmar everything you hoped for. Look here for many additional places to visit and transportation options.
Incidentally, we do not deal with government-owned airlines, hotels or transportation companies.
Optional Side Trips
Purple Dragon has designed unique side trips that fit easily into your Myanmar itinerary:
Mandalay ▸ Mingun, Amarapura and Inwa are offered as optional add-ons in Myanmar's second largest city.
Mount Popa ▸ A day trip to one of Myanmar's most sacred sites can be added to your Bagan adventure.
Also see our Custom Tour Options page for plenty of additional suggestions and a suggested "Grand Burma" itinerary.
Gay Life in Myanmar
Gay and transgendered people in Myanmar are rarely openly apparent, except for spirit mediums who channel the energies of revered and feared nat spirits. You will likely not see people expressing their sexuality through dress or behavior. Ladyboys, commonly seen and tolerated across the border in Thailand, are virtually absent here. The government works hard to prevent the rise of a sex industry and to control nightlife which encourages this. It is common to see men holding hands as they stroll. Charming, yes, but they are probably not sisters.
There are no specifically gay nightlife venues in Myanmar. Cruising does take place and some nightlife venues provide social opportunities for gays and lesbians. Myanmar is not a place to visit with the expectation of a romantic encounter. That said, a cheerful smile and good humored flirtation are a great way to make new friends anywhere.
Flying to Yangon is easy. A few of the airlines serving Myanmar are: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, SilkAir, MAS, Air China, and Indian Airlines. There are also flights directly to Mandalay from Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
A visa is required to enter Myanmar. Visas are now easy to arrange online. You can read details on our Visas page.
Myanmar has three seasons: rainy, cool, and hot. The rainy season is from May to mid-October, with temperatures 25-30 centigrade. The cool season is from November to January. Average temperature swill be 20-24 degrees centigrade. The hot season is March through May, and average temperatures are 30-35 C.
What We Do
Purple Dragon is Asia's oldest, largest and most respected tour operator specializing in programs for discerning gay and lesbian travelers. All of our tours are private and include private transportation and one of our legendary private guides. We do not offer group tours. The big advantage to a private tour is, of course, that you do not have to put up with other people or compromise your own schedule or activities to suit others in a group. You can spend a bit more time at places that really matter to you, avoid places that do not, and go at your own pace. We use gay-owned or LGBT-friendly hotels wherever possible and show our guests the local gay nightlife where it exists. Since very few people in Myanmar self-identify as homosexuals yet, we cannot guarantee that your guide(s) in Myanmar will be gay. You do not have to be gay to enjoy one of our all-inclusive tour packages. A growing number of mainstream guests travel with Purple Dragon because they know they will get something better from a gay tour company.
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