The main cultural draws of Myanmar are the Buddhist temples and pagodas around Bagan and Mandalay and the extraordinary gold Shwedagon Paya in Yangon and they do not disappoint but the further off the beaten track, the more the country surprises: hill tribes and cultures spill over as they have for centuries from neighbouring India, China, Laos and Thailand.
 
In the south west, Myanmar enjoys the same beaches and Andaman Sea which have made its neighbour Thailand so popular – but it has a fraction of the visitors. It boasts the majestic Irrawaddy River which starts in the Himalayas, cuts through richly wooded hills and down into a wide fertile valley which possesses some of the most extraordinary and extensive temples and pagodas in the world. As it spills via a delta into the Andaman Sea, it is extraordinary that the journey of a river of its size and celebrity has taken place in one country.
 
Tourism is still in its infancy. The years of isolation and the concentration of wealth in a ruling elite have meant that the economy and infrastructure has been only partially developed despite the rich natural resources of teak, oil, gold and many other minerals. But the people you meet are amazingly open, friendly and proud.

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