Kempinski Blog Article
Tropical South East Asian destinations are becoming ever more popular as flights grow cheaper and more widely available, and word travels back from travellers who have been lucky enough to experience crystal-clear waters, fantastic food and stunning scenery.
Of all the countries in South East Asia however, there are two that truly stand out, but for completely distinct reasons: Thailand, the spiritual, developed home of South East Asian travel, and Myanmar, which still retains much of its rural charm and allure. Read on to find out how to get the most out of these magical countries.
Myanmar’s former royal capital, Mandalay is the first stop on our journey, reached via the modern Mandalay International Airport, which connects with a range of international and local destinations.
A grand city, it is the perfect starting point for any trip through the country, bursting with beautiful religious sites like Kuthodaw Pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery and Mingun Pahtodawgyi, and Mandalay Palace, a beautiful, sprawling and unforgettably regal complex. Touring these hotspots or wandering the banks of the Irrawaddy River, there is something magical about the city, especially when admired from the peak of Mandalay Hill.
Next up is Bagan, a beautiful city along the Irrawaddy River. From Mandalay, you can either drive (three and a half to four hours), take a night train for a few hours, or take a boat – longer, at between six and 12 hours, but a totally unforgettable experience!
One of the world’s leading archaeological sites, Bagan is home to 2,230 temples, built between 1057 and 1287 by local kings. This is a little short of the 4,450 temples that once covered the plain, but it is still a spectacular sight!
One of Myanmar’s more touristic areas, but one that doesn’t feel crowded by travellers, Bagan is all about the temples. Take some time to wander through the plain and discover the pagodas, or alternatively, head up into the skies to view thousands at once in a hot air balloon.
From Bagan, it’s time to head to Nay Pyi Taw, via air (40 minutes, six flights per week), car (taking around four and a half hours), or bus (four to six hours, depending on the service).
Nay Pyi Taw
Myanmar’s capital is an auspicious and newly founded city, but one that deserves a visit, thanks to its luxury locations and gigantic state architecture – Nay Pyi Taw translates as ‘abode of the king’, after all.
Staying at the elegant and beautiful Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw, enjoy the finest foods and best service in the city. From here, you can take in all the sights, including the gigantic Uppatasanti Pagoda, a reproduction of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and the Gem, Defence Services and National Museums.
Next up is the bustling city of Yangon, easily reached via a 50-minute flight from Nay Pyi Taw International Airport to Yangon International Airport, or on the road via Ah Myan Lan, a journey that takes a much-longer five hours.
The biggest city in Myanmar, Yangon is simply magnificent. Golden steeples make the horizon shimmer above the busy and bustling streets, most lined with some of the more elaborate colonial architecture you will find. For a taste of this old-world elegance, stay at The Heritage Hotel Kempinski, a splendid hotel due to open soon.
One of the first things every visitor should do during their trip to Yangon is to go and see the various Payas, Buddhist stupas covered in gold leaf. The holiest is Shwedagon Pagoda, built between the fourth and tenth centuries on a site that has hosted a pagoda for 2,600 years, according to legend, and houses eight of Gautama Buddha’s hairs! The best time to visit is during sunrise or sunset, where the gold takes on a rich hue.
Away from the religious sites, Yangon offers plenty in the way of shopping, dining and nightlife – one of South East Asia’s boomtowns, it is a wonderful melting pot of cultures, and a lot of fun to simply wander through.
After you have visited the beautiful monuments and exciting markets, it is time to jump on a plane to Chiang Mai in Thailand, a flight that takes around an hour and a half.
In Thailand’s mountainous and densely forested north is Chiang Mai, a traditional and beautiful city that is one of Thailand’s leading destinations.
As well as festivals including the lantern-filled Loi Krathong and vibrant Chiang Mai Flower Festival, the city has plenty of museums and cultural centres, a famous night bazaar and a wonderful culinary heritage. Based on the northern Thai tradition of khan tok, guests receive an extravagant meal comprised of many delicious dishes.
Then there are the temples. Located on hilltops amidst manicured gardens, they are the perfect place to relax and contemplate the world, taking in the countryside stretching off into the distance.
From Chiang Mai, it’s time to head southeast to Phitsanulok, by car down Route 11 (five hours), or by train, a seven to nine-hour journey.
One of the country’s oldest cities, Phitsanulok is home to lots of temples, including the Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat – the ‘Temple of Great Jewelled Requilary’. This glimmering structure is a must-visit, with fantastic architecture and an on-site art gallery with pieces dating back to the 1300s. Away from the sights, be sure to take a day to wander the backstreets and markets, getting a feel of authentic Thailand.
Our final stop is Bangkok, easily reached by train (it is at one end of the railway to Chiang Mai) in around seven hours, by car in five, or by plane in an hour or so.
A sprawling metropolis, Bangkok is the definition of hustle and bustle. Whether you are haggling at a night market, dining on some of the world’s best street food or checking out the palaces and temples located across the city, there is no place in the country more exciting. It might be an overload of the senses, but that is part of the joy of the place!
It might seem gigantic, and there are various contrasts in this ever-growing place, but navigating all this is helped along by incredibly welcoming and fun locals who are happy to help, despite any differences in language.
After such an intrepid trip through Myanmar and Thailand, stay at Siam Kempinski Hotel. Situated in the city’s downtown, close to the Siam Paragon Shopping Mall, it is the perfect place from which to explore the best the city has to offer, and a luxurious hideout to unwind in after-hours.