If you love touristy, commercialized super contrived and straight up fake places then look elsewhere. This is a list of places that I loved in Myanmar. I like small villages, learning about local style, culture, food, and lifestyle. I embrace the struggle that comes form being surrounded by people who don't speak any of my languages. If you also enjoy these kinds of things then read on. But, if you are into the more normal and comfortable path of a tourist then look at other lists or skip to the bottom of my list where it describes places to not go.
GWA - My number one pic is for sere GWA. I went to Ngapoli which is a few hours from Gwa and booked a bus from Ngapoli to GWA. At the bus station I was asked by the booking agent why I wanted to go to GWA. He said, "Nobody goes to GWA, not even we". I replied that was precisely why I wanted to go to GWA. There are only 2 guest houses in GAW and they have the same name but not the same owner or management. One is a total dump without even a hint of charm and the other is the literal definition of charming and is located at the beach. Hard to find though as it is on a road that does not exist on google maps because a dirt road turns into a cow pasture that turns into a goat path which leads to this little beach-side dormitory style hotel. The owner operator has ducks, chickens, cows, goats and pigs and speaks exactly 3 words of English. He is however very kind and very patient. We used hand gestures to communicate. Mostly I just handed him money and he was happy. He offered me food and help a plenty, a lovely man. His little beach spot is rustic and gritty and your room will likely have the company of jungle critters as you are in the jungle, literally. I had some pretty big spiders in my room but I left them alone to eat the mosquitoes and other smaller more irritating bugs. I have found that jungle spiders are mostly interested in insects and don't much care about you as long as you give them space. The beach at Gwa is desolate and beautiful. You will likely see a few local kids playing here and a few fishermen and women hauling in nets full of Andaman sea tuna and the like. You can rent a busted old scooter in the main area of little town and ride it northward about 30-40 klicks. Sunset along this stretch of road is spectacular and there are several small beach villages with no tourists or systems for dealing with tourists. But, in these lovely little villages you can meet locals and eat some very local style Myanmar curry and fish. The road winds along the seaside and drifts up over small mountains. Amazing views and air. It is a busted old road and dodgy as... and your rented bike will likely feel like it is going to fall apart. But a lovely stretch of road and a lovely adventure
Pyay is a town on the way to the sea and is otherwise nowhere and nothing. This middle of nowhere towny village is wonderful because it is nowhere and has nothing of interest. These aspects keep the tourist from having any interest in going here. Because of this the town remains straight up Myanmar. Lovely people, food, and style. There is a really historic old Pagoda here as there are in most places in Myanmar but this one has an incredible view. There are few places to stay so that can be an issue if other people are passing through town. My favorite two places in Pyay are the night market which is tiny as night markets go but is quaint and the people here are very nice. It has a very local feeling. Nobody spoke English that we met in this town. The other place I really enjoyed was the morning market. Dirty, and gritty and in places kind of gross, but that is the way I like my morning markets.If you thought you weren't going to get an upset stomach in Myanmar you can just go visit this little market and you'll quickly understand why your tummy is upset all the time. Best advice ever while in Myanmar, stick with a vegetable only diet while in country and you'll be better off.
Hpa An is out of the way for sure but is rich with amazing places to check out. The morning market and night market in Hpa-an are amazing. In addition to these local delights there are caves, temples, waterfalls, under-water temples, treacherous climbs, vistas and swimming holes a plenty in Hpa-an . This place is a treat but it always rains, even when it is dry season elsewhere it is likely raining in Hpa-an. But never mind because this place is really a treat. Rent a bike and go out to the sunken monastery hot spring or go on a tour of the many tempe deep inside mountain caves. Te one downside in Hpa-an is that there is little to no internet here. even if your hotel says they have WiFi, they very likely do not have internet. So be prepared for that. I think it is just a little too remote and the rain might play a role in why they haven't yet developed internet backbone here.
Maybe my favorite place in Myanmar was Myawaddy . This town is growing so quickly and was so recently destroyed by violence and civil war that almost everything here is being built anew from the jungle and in the jungle. A city of the jungle surrounded in green. The morning markets of Myawaddy are amazing and full of the most interesting things I saw in Myanmar. Wonderful people and food and fresh clean mountain air. As of this writing October 2017 Myawaddy has been designated as special economic zone and will soon be a manufacturing center for both Myanmar and thailand. So, if you want to experince this town as I am describing it you will need to hurry. Within a few years this will be a much larger much dirtier place. get over there and enjoy it.
Here is quick list of places that can be skipped.
Inle Lake, Began, Mandalay All three of these places are the most famous destinations and were the least interesting because they were either super commercialized for tourism and had little authenticity or were just a boring city or as in Began just a really dusty uncomfortable environment with little of anything of interest except for the many many many travelers themselves. If you are limited in time for your visit to Myanmar I would highly recommend not wasting time in these places or wasting time traveling to these places.
I met a few travelers that didn't have fun in Yangon but I did. It was dirty and gritty and often gross as... but I loved it and I'd go back in a heartbeat because it is real and has a lot of reality to observe and participate in.