Tourist Hordes, Thataway


Opening up Burma will be constrained by the lack of tourism infrastructure. There aren't many flights, or many hotels to sleep people who find their way in. Bangkok and Singapore are the main gateways. You can fly international carriers from Kolkata and KL. Vietnam Airlines has flights now, there are flights from China and Taiwan, and Doha via Qatar Airways is coming in October. All these flights, though, are to Rangoon.

Once you're in the country it's all day on the roads or rails (or the overnight train) to Mandalay or Bagan – or a domestic flight – and some people avoid domestic flights in places like Burma. But wait: China Eastern has a daily flight from Kunming. Takes about an hour.

Building out Burma will take some time, but not necessarily too much. Think of Luang Prabang, Laos, where scarcely more than a decade ago a room with a loud, lumbering wall air conditioning unit was luxury. Or its sister Siem Reap, which didn't use to claim all the world's most pretentious hotels. Honest.

In fact, if Burma makes good choices on building out all the things it needs, which is everything – road and rail and cell phone towers, to start – it has a shot at being the shiniest new jewel in the region. I found this look at the state of tourism in Burma to be interesting.

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