For a long time, Myanmar (or Burma) has been an attractive name for travelers all around the world, however, this is not really easy to visit the country. The complicated politics, the below-average infrastructure, and all the valuable resource for travel which is not well exploited make this charming land slightly downgraded to travelers’ bucket list. However, there are significant changes in the national tourism the recent years. And this is the most spectacular time to make your way to Bagan, Yangon and Inle Lake before they get too crowded.
The country still remains in its originally authentic charm
… Which means you will not be able to find McDonalds or Starbucks here. The strong internationalization force has spread its wings almost all over Southeast Asia but still does not touch Myanmar. Actually, Yangon has a KFC, but the Golden Arches are – to date, and mercifully – entirely absent, and in a country with some great food, long may that last. The strong Buddhist relief, the unique culture which saturates into the atmosphere and the typical Burmese way of life are what really manipulate here. Therefore, you can enjoy the miracle of Myanmar in the perfect way. This is a great news, especially for culture lovers.
While the fast food giants have so far been kept at bay, one pleasant modern convenience has arrived – the ATM. Even a couple of years ago, travelers to Burma would have had to bring their body weight in US dollars to feed their newfound lacquer work habit, but now there are – gasp – cashpoint machines in Yangon. They even work occasionally.
Besides the wonderful main sites (Bagan, Inle Lake etc.), now you can pay your attention to the local markets. And with a good guide (on which more later) who can bring the whole experience even more to life, these markets will reveal their magic really soon. Burma is particularly famous for fabulous lacquer work, the foods are also a highlight, plus many handicraft products with the super-lovely price level. A walk around a local market will be as amazing as an art-tour. The first time entering the market in Inle Lake can overwhelm anybody in their Myanmar vacation.
(Even) better Guides
As a former colony of England, Burmese have a strong background and skills in the English language. Plus, their attitude towards the hospitality and services fields is among the world best class. After a few years’ experiences of dealing with Western visitors under their belt, the best got even better. It’s absolutely true what they say about Burmese charm (you may never open a door on your entire Myanmar trip), and a knowledgeable guide who can add the cultural context will always enhance the trip. A good guide should be able to explain Buddhist beliefs, change an itinerary on the hoof if required, order the local specialty in a teashop and talk with passion about the region because most will likely be local. What the guidebooks don’t always mention is the famously wicked Burmese sense of humor, which you’ll soon experience from an English speaking guide!
The classic sights
… Will be the most memorable things after your Myanmar tour ends. It is hard to erase the stupa and temple covered plains of Bagan; the stilt villages of Inle Lake and sunset at U Bein Bridge near Mandalay from your head when you leave. You will be amazed for a long long time.
The thrilling activities
There are also now a number of memorable ways to explore these memorable places. Think to explore Inle Lake by kayak or, for the ultimate in photographic safaris, taking a dawn balloon ride over the temples of Bagan with one of the world’s most highly regarded hot air balloon companies.
The truth is that Myanmar is not all about temples. This country also hides a number of breathtaking beaches. Ngapali, the most famous premier beach in Myanmar is described as “ Koh Samui back in the 70s”. For anyone old or lucky enough to remember then, that’s a good thing, but like its Thai comparison, it’s unlikely Ngapali will remain untouched forever.