It vies for the title of most photogenic country on earth. Bigger than Thailand, with a similar size population, Myanmar has through years of international financial sanctions fallen behind the rest of the region in terms of influence and standing, with a military government that didn't tolerate threats to its authority. Nevertheless it has some of the region's most variegated scenery _ from mountain trekking to pristine beaches _ stunning temples and sites, delicious food, and the great sincerity and beauty of its people.
On April 1, national elections put Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi _ whose National League for Democracy party won the 1990 elections only to be barred from power as Mrs Suu Kyi was subjected to 21 years of on-off house arrest _ in parliament, the military continued to loosen its hold on government somewhat, and the US and Europe began easing sanctions.
While the transition to democracy will likely be long and fraught with difficulty _ such as last month's flaring of ethnic violence in Rakhine State _ the stage is set for a unique travel experience, to a place that is truly different, with a rich culture and tradition less tempered by hectic postmodernity than most of Asia, making it both very foreign and very familiar.
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