Looking for some advice and good tips re Myanmar.
- What's a good length of time to spend in the country?
- Highlights/places to avoid
- Advice re local customs or practices.
Its somewhere that I'm interested in visiting, even though I know little of the country. I'd be really interested to hear anyone's experiences or stories from travelling there.
Myanmar is an incredible country. For a first time visitor, I would suggest a trip of around 2-3 weeks, or a month if you have the time and are feeling adventurous. Due to time considerations I usually fly between most major cities, but road transport isn't so bad if you are patient and have the time.
Here would be my recommendation:
Two days to start with in Yangon, then fly to Bagan. Spend 3 or 4 days in that area. One nice thing to do while in the area - and this gives you a break from all the pagodas - is a visit to nearby Mount Popa. After Bagan, a very short flight to Mandalay. Again, I'd do 3 or 4 days in that town. Not for Mandalay itself, but more for the surrounding cities: Mingun, Amarapura (U-Bein's Bridge is a must), Sagaing, and maybe Inwa. Rent a bike and ride around town, getting off the main roads. Explore the "monk district" in the southwest part of town.
Pyin U Lwin is another option in that area. It's less than a two-hour drive from Mandalay. It's an old British Hill station town with nice old homes, botanical gardens, Shan market, etc. Spend two days there if time permits. Further "up the road" is Hsipaw. Laid back small town on the river, nice scenery, trekking in the area. Can get there by train or road. Even further north is Lashio.
After Mandalay, fly to Heho and then a car to the Inle Lake area. Another 3-4 days there should suffice to see the lake and canals. But if you like trekking, budget another couple days for a trek to Kalaw.
Beaches in Chaungtha and Ngapali are also an option. Others love the trekking and mountain scenery in the Kengtung area. East of Yangon are the historic towns of Bago and Mawlamyine. In between those two places is the amazing Golden Rock, or Kyaiktiyo.
So much to see and do in Myanamar, and the people are very kind and helpful.
Send me a message if you need more info.
[ Edit: Edited on Feb 8, 2007, at 10:55 PM by buzzard ]
I think the first thing to do, when planning a trip to Myanmar, is to read about the current political situation there.
The South East Asia on a Shoestring gives a good account of it.
If u dont have that book, then find information, about Aung San Suu Kyi on the internet.
If u decide to still go after that, u will be informed and able to be more sensitive, to the people there. I decided not to go.
Could you explain why you did not go, Mel?
My wife and I went to Myanmar for 3 weeks back in March/April 2006 and absolutely loved it.
When were you thinking of going?
We were there in the middle of the hot season and it was HOT!!
I thnik I still have the Myanmar notes I gave a friend of mine before he went last December.
Shall I send them to you?
I see that you posted some great pics of SA.
Isn't Cafe Tortoni gorgeous. We had dinner and the Tango show there one night.
Why I did not go to Myanmar.(And I am not saying Samsara should not go. From the pictures I have seen and from what I have heard, it is a beautiful place, unspoiled by mass tourism, and the people there are sweet an kind.)
The political activists and supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi want tourists to boycott the Myanmar government, by not visiting Myanmar. They hope this will put enough pressure on the government so the people of Myanmar can get more rights and freedom.
They say, that it is working. I am not so sure. I meet so many people who are going to or have been to Myanmar. My not going there is a drop in the ocean, but I feel too much respect for somebody like Aung San Suu Kyi, to do anything to torpedo the plan.
I can understand your point of view, and we thought long and hard before deciding to go.
The Burmese opposition are divided about the benefits of tourism.
Some agree with Aung San and some believe it's people need to interact with the outside world.
A very hard call.
We went as independent travellers instead of taking a tour.
There were lots of French, Italian and German tour parties around, and I would expect that their tours were financially helping the military dictatorship in a large way.
LP advises that being independent and using non-government accomodation, guides etc helps the locals far more than the government.
I'm sure that part of the money we spent went to the thugs in uniform, but I hope that in some way our presence and limited financial spending aided the ordinary people.
A number of Burmese told me that their country has become an economic vassel of China.
China supports the dictatorship militarily, and would not like to see a democratic country on their border.
The dictatorship won't relinquish power, so we decided that we either visit Myanmar in 2006 or never.
Did u talk with any of the people there?
I heard, that sometimes they talk about their political situation. It would be interesting to hear about.
I also heard that the monks are interesting to talk with and also speak quite well, in English.
Thanks for the interesting points of view.
I'll have the Rough Guide to South East Asia in my possession pretty soon so Ill be able to read up and be a bit more informed. ;-)
I should be there around Sept, hopefully it's a good time of the year to see Myanmar. I will spend about 2 weeks there I think so Buzzard you're advice has been great, thanks.
I too will be an independent traveller there. This is how I prefer to travel, and so hopefully my presence as a tourist there wont contribute to any problems in the country.
Thanks again for the info
The "to go or not to go" issue has been covered many times. I don't think any thoughtful traveler supports a brutal and rights-suppressing military regime. But I don't think that should stop people from visiting Myanmar, nor should Suu Kyi's "request" from many years ago stop them either.
There IS a lot that independent travelers can do to keep "some" of the money from getting into government coffers. The LP guide offers many good suggestions on how to spread your money around so that more of it stays in the hands of individuals and families.
Yes, monks are great to talk with, and some have access to banned books, e-mail (I just sent a note to one monk with a Gmail account!), and other ways of interacting with the outside world. Of the people that I've talked with in Myanmar (the few that will bring up the subject), most despite the government. But I get the impression that they view the governement as corrupt and inept. The people seem to hate such things, rather than living in fear of the military.
I've heard a wide range of opinions and experiences from people that have visited Myanmar. Some stick to the well-beaten tourist trail, and others venture to more out of the way destinations. The more you interact with the locals the more opinions you will hear. But keep in mind, some Myanmar people are quite satisfied with the way that things are going. Hard to believe from our western perspective, but it's true. Keep in mind, that westerners are bombarded by equally one-sided news coverage. Not everybody in the Myanmar, even the anti-government factions, love Suu Kyi. I may get flack for saying that, but from talking to people in the country that's what I hear. It 's evident that she doesn't speak for all of them. But many also feel that she is their "only option" so they go along with what she and supporters say.
I would absolutely recommend that anyone interested in the country should go for a visit, enjoy the sights, make friends with some locals, and keep an open mind to the situation over there. It's a wonderful country with many problems, but the people are very strong and resilient.