The 2010 It List
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This off-the-beaten-path stunner—officially called Myanmar by its ruling military junta—has been on travelers' wish lists for years, but conscientious types have avoided the destination for political reasons. Until now: The country's long-detained dissident leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, recently dropped her long-standing calls for a tourism boycott. She is now encouraging visits from Westerners to aid the country's impoverished citizens and bring attention to Burma's political issues. Custom trips with Remote Lands, a high-end outfitter that specializes in Asia, might start with a stay in the former capital, Yangon (pictured), where you can rest up at the Strand Hotel, the former haunt of Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham; tour the astonishing gold-leafed pagodas; and take a kickboxing lesson (like the Thai version, sans gloves).
If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of the Irrawaddy River's endangered dolphins while sailing to Mandalay on a luxury teak yacht. Hot-air balloon rides above Pagan's hundreds of temples, treks through remote villages, and pristine beaches along the Bay of Bengal round out Burma's unexpected pleasures. Concerns about the human rights situation remain, but politically sensitive travelers will learn in advance how to make certain their dollars end up in the hands of everyday Burmese, not government coffers.