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Packing

What I Packed: Myanmar in Winter

The challenge: to pack adaptable, modest, and brightly colored travel-friendly clothing.

I spent 11 days in Myanmar aboard Avalon River Cruises’ Avalon Myanmar in December.

Where: Myanmar (you may know it as Burma)

When: Mid-December

Weather: Hot in Yangon, where I spent three days. Cool in the mornings and hot during the day on the Irrawaddy River between Bhamo and Bagan.

Type of Trip: Cruise

Trip Length: 11 days, including three travel days

Mouse over the items below for detailed explanations of what I packed. Any time you see the Thinglink icon on a photo (bottom right), you can mouse over it to interact with the image.

The Clothes

The Airplane Outfit

The Shoes


Packing Challenges: This is the only time I’ve ever needed to basically acquire a totally different wardrobe for a trip. I wanted to respect cultural practices around color, modesty, and also stay comfortable in the climate (which at this time of year, ranged from cool in the mornings and hot during the day along the northern stretches of the Irrawaddy River to hot nearly all the time in the capital city of Yangon).

In this predominately Buddhist country, colors have great significance, so I opted for brightly colored fabrics that were light enough to be comfortable on hot days. Since in my daily life, I mostly wear black, gray, and browns—and a lot of jeans, this presented a logistical challenge. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money buying clothes that I likely wouldn’t wear back home, but I wanted to be culturally respectful while traveling in Myanmar. I also needed modestly cut clothing—no tank tops or skirts that showed any leg—which meant I couldn’t use my usual hot-weather wardrobe.

So I did a lot of clearance shopping. Those Target skirts you see above were $6 each. The Gap T-shirts were under $12. Ultimately, I got everything I needed for less than $100.

For my travel outfit, I wanted something that would adapt to different temperatures (cold flights, hot airports, etc.) and would be comfortable enough to sleep in for a series of overnight flights (on the way back, I spent two overnights in a row on planes).

And for shoes, I chose two pairs that would be comfortable for walking, breathable, and protect my feet from rough ground.

What I Should Have Left Behind: The LOLE pants were useful, but they ran large so I needed to pull them up a lot and they weren’t as flattering as they might have been in a size that fit better.

What I Should Have Packed: Since I was traveling with items that largely weren’t part of my usual wardrobe, I didn’t feel entirely at home in my clothing during the trip. I wish I had brought a few more items that I really liked wearing, instead of opting only for cheap and practical. I saw a lot of people wearing some black, so I probably could have gotten away with a few of my standard travel favorites.

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By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.