After book presentations and during conversations with friends upon returning from a trip, this question invariably comes up: What was your favorite place?

My count of countries visited now totals over one hundred. So how can I possibly choose just one? One year after returning from my travels, I realized that I had been struggling with this “favorite place” question because I had been approaching it all wrong. There is a simple and obvious answer for a traveler afflicted by wanderlust: my favorite place is always the place where (a) I haven’t been or (b) my visit there was too short.

So this year, my next favorite place is Burma (Myanmar). Back in 2006, I traveled there by bus from Phuket, Thailand on a one-day visa run. All I experienced after a long, bumpy ride was crossing a river in a panga, walking a block to the border station to have my passport stamped, and returning to the bus. Our yacht, Pacific Bliss, was docked in Phuket, undergoing repairs before crossing the Indian Ocean, so the following month when the once-a-month visa renewal was due I decided to fly to Yangon for a three-day weekend. That trip gave me a taste of Burma I’ll never forget. But it was just an appetizer. Now I’m preparing for the main course.

Map of Burma

This autumn, Gunter and I are looking forward to a three-week Burmese adventure, to be conducted in our typical “slow travel” style. We’ve selected a standard 10-day country tour and added a special Paukan cruise down the mighty Irrawaddy River and three days at a seaside resort to write and relax before crossing the International Date Line again during the long flight home. We’ll begin our tour at the Inya Lake Hotel where I stayed in 2006 and repeat my visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. We’ll travel on to view the ancient temples of Bagan. And we’ll see Mandalay and the famous Pindaya Caves.

In addition to sightseeing, I want to catch up on the opening of reclusive Myanmar to the western world and to find out first-hand how it’s working. When I was last there, the street to the home of Aun Lang Suu Kyi, Burmese Peace Prize Laureate and opposition leader, was blockaded and she was under house arrest. She has since been released but she says, “As long as the military does not stand for the people I cannot guarantee that democratic processes will not go backwards in Burma. When the military is ready to stand for the people and not take part in politics, then we can say our transitional period is concrete. Of course, problems will still remain – but the road to democracy is open.” —

Enjoy these slides from my visit in 2006:

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For a report on my 2006 visit to Burma, click here.