Stepping off the Tourist Trail in Myanmar

Beyond Myanmar’s glittering temples, historic facades and bustling cities lie rural villages rarely visited by tourists. At Odyssey, we believe that no Myanmar journey is complete without stepping into one of these villages. Spending a few hours- or days- in these villages is the best way to experience local life and forge a deeper connection with Myanmar and its people.  Read on to learn more about our favorite villages, how to get there and what you can experience there.

Salay- Bagan is stop on every traveler’s Myanmar holiday itinerary- and for good reason! The UNESCO-heritage temple complex is incredible. After you’ve had your fill of temples, Odyssey suggests checking out Salay. Located 1.5 hours south of Bagan, this tiny town has a fascinating history and mix of sites to see. The sleepy, laid-back atmosphere is a nice change from the tour-bus filled streets of Bagan and the quiet streets provide the perfect opportunity to stroll and observe daily life.

There are colonial buildings left over from Salay’s time as a British Oil outpost in the late 19th century, many of which are now residential houses.  The town also has a lovely morning market, lush farmland and, of course, a handful of pagodas. Even if you are templed-out from your time in Bagan, it is worth visiting Salay’s famous teak monastery, named Yoke Sone Kyaung.

Salay can be combined with Mt Popa as a day trip from Bagan. Or, if you have an extra day in on your Myanmar holiday travels, we highly suggest staying overnight at Salay Riverview Inn. This charming 12-room hotel is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and surrounded by lush gardens. The hotel can organize cooking classes or boat trips to nearby river islands. It is so peaceful at Salay Riverview Inn, you may just want to stay another day! Check out our Salay Riverside Retreat tour for more inspiration!

Pinlaung- Take the road less traveled between Kalaw and Inle Lake to discover Pinlaung. This tiny town doesn’t look like much when you arrive but there is so much to discover! The lush highlands are filled with farms and hamlets, mostly inhabited by the Pa-Oh people. One of the smaller ethnic groups in Myanmar, the Pa-Oh have their own customs and traditions that differ from those of the Burmese people.  Located a few kilometers from the center of Pinlaung, Behind the Leaf is a coffee plantation with a wonderful café. The business is run by the Pa-Oh people and while sampling coffee, you can learn more about the coffee growing process. If you seek more adventure, there are limestone caves, hot springs and waterfalls in the hills around Pinlaung.

Although there are some simple guesthouses in Pinlaung, it is best visited as a stopover between Kalaw and Inle Lake or Kalaw and Loikaw. The secondary roads connecting these towns are beautiful and worth the journey! You’ll have plenty of photo stops along the way, and combined with the visits in Pinlaung, this is sure to be one of the most picturesque days of your Myanmar holiday! Our Myanmar Overland Journey includes a visit to Pinlaung and many other wonderful destinations!

Pindaya- Pindaya is considered a town but it is on our list as it is an ideal base for exploring remarkable villages.  Put on a comfortable pair of walking shoes and set out to discover the rhythms of local life.  Spend time in tea-growing villages, seeing how the product is harvested and roasted. Meet with weavers making traditional hats, using the same techniques as their ancestors. Mingle with farmers in the highlands, learning how their life changes with the seasons.  All of this- and more- can be experienced in an easy half day trek from Pindaya. However, if you seek more adventure, more immersion then we suggest an overnight trek.  You will not only get further off the tourist trail, but you will also truly experience local life when you dine and sleep in a village monastery or family home.

The team at Odyssey Travels loves Pindaya and we suggest including a one or two night stay at the charming Cottage House Pindaya on your Myanmar holiday.

If you’d like to include some village visits on your next Myanmar trip, let’s start planning! Send an email ([email protected]) or give us a call on 09 269869090.

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