San Khoo is a colourful character around the Peregrine offices. We could sit and listen to his stories for hours. San has a long history with Burma, and was actually asked to put together our very first Burma program back in 1995.
“It was a real cinch as I’d been going there for years and really loved the place,” he said. We think today’s trip is one of the most exciting on offer. There’s never been a better time to visit Burma.
San on Burma
Peregrine’s Burma itinerary hasn’t changed much; even to this day we still visit places like Maymyo, Mingun and Pagan. In the early ‘90s Burma was seen as a really “out there” destination. Passengers walked away thinking, “This is the most amazing place I’ve ever seen” and it blew them away. It still does.
"Pagan is unbelievable. I love going to one temple at sunrise and another temple at sunset to get a different perspective. Everywhere you go, you take your shoes off. So you go up these stairs in the dark and all of a sudden you come out and see the sun rising and all the other spires of the temples start to light up.
"The boat trip up to Mingun is fascinating. You’re going along the Irrawaddy, upriver from Mandalay. And you get to this space that isn’t even a village but it’s got this great big structure which is the world’s biggest unfinished pagoda. It was going to be the biggest pagoda in the world, but then there was an earthquake so it’s only half finished. You can climb right up to the top of it and on the way back down you’ve got all these kids following you, laughing and chatting away.
"Maymyo, the hill station, is fantastic and you take a horse and carriage ride which is just like going back in time. You go around the town centre, which is very small; you’ve got the clock tower stemming from the British days and all these markets and people coming from the hills to buy and sell.
"There’s a market in Rangoon called Bogyoke Aung San Market where you can get all sorts of things on sale. But right up the back there’s a food area you can’t miss. Burma isn’t renowned for its cuisine. Burmese food is fantastic, but when you actually go there you don’t see a lot of Burmese restaurants because the locals mainly cook Burmese food at home.
"The restaurants are generally Chinese or Indian, because Burma is the halfway house between south and east Asia. So you go to the food area at the back of the market where there’s fantastic local cuisine. They’ve got this noodle in a laksa soup, with a really strong coconut-flavoured broth. Having a meal there with the local people is a real highlight. I always make a point of going there and having one of those laksas.
"This sudden opening up of Burma right now is amazing. It is changing, and modernising in a way, but there’s a long way to go before it catches up with the rest of the world.
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