Central Burma (Myanmar)
The magnificent Bagan.
Central Burma (Myanmar) traverses the country from west to east. Bordering Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal you have Rakhine State, with Magway Division to the east, then Mandalay Region (and Naypyidaw), Kayah State and finally Shan State, which borders Thailand and stretches well into Northern Burma.
Outside of the country's commercial capital of Yangon, this is the most visited part of Burma as it hosts the "top shelf" attractions of Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake and also, for the far more intrepid, rustic and remote Mrauk U in the upper reaches of Rakhine State. So regardless of whether you're doing a quick "best of" tour or are bent on exploring the more remote regions, you'll be spending some time in Central Burma.
The largest of the administrative areas in this region, Shan State, with its newly opened border crossing with Thailand at Mai Sai, offers huge potential with the possibility of overland travel into and out of the country now possible. Inle Lake and trekking between Kalaw and Nyaung Shwe are highlights for many visitors to the state, but things are changing fast and "new remote areas" are being pushed -- similar to what happened in Chiang Mai decades ago.
Beyond Shan State, Mandalay Region hosts both the same-named northern capital and, one of the true highlights of the country, the magnificent (albeit very dusty) ruins of Bagan.
While violence between Burma's Buddhist majority and Muslim minority has been simmering across large parts of the country, Rakhine State to the far west has been ravaged by serious religious violence, with the State's Muslim Rohingya population bearing the brunt of the attacks. As such, travel in this region is safe on a on-again, off-again basis, but recent trips to Mrauk-u prove it is doable -- just a bit more time consuming -- and be sure to keep up with current affairs.
The region is reasonably well connected with flight connections at key destinations such as Mandalay, Heho (for Inle Lake) and Sittwe (for Mrauk-u) and there is also a primary railway connecting Yangon with Mandalay and, of course, bus services of varying comfort and quality.
Get orientated with a map of Central Burma (Myanmar)
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