Myanmar is a country that invites very relaxed, almost lazy travel. “Sleepy in Myanmar” was the term we quickly coined to describe both our fatigue after so long moving around, respite from the busy pace we had been setting previously. Of course you can seek out a very active experience, but after being away for so long, fourteen days of taking it really slow suited us just fine!
As Myanmar only really opened up to tourists in 2012 it retains a special something that you don’t find in other Southeast Asian countries. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that ‘something’ is, but I think it is a combination of it being a much less developed country – even in the major cities; the incredibly friendly people who are enthused by the presence of foreigners; and the fact there are still not a huge number of travellers.
Despite talk that Myanmar will ‘change’, I would say it is currently at a great level of tourism and still has a long way to go before it is, as some say, ‘ruined’ – although I am of the belief that places like Thailand and Vietnam are still are fantastic place to travel despite a huge level of tourism. Speaking to people that have been previously the things that have changed are an availability of more comfortable, clean and reasonably priced accommodation; more restaurants that cater to Western tastes (and sometimes this is just necessary); and cheap cocktails in some of the more tourist heavy areas – who can say no to a mojito for £1 /$1.5(aud). Of course these is still a huge amount of space to get right off the beaten track in Myanmar just by heading away from the 4-5 major tourist spots (Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay and Yangon).
Despite the tourism stepping up there is still not a huge amount going on after dark and the streets are often not particularly well lit. Unless you’re in a major tourist spot (Inle, Bagan or Yangon), then you’ll probably gravitate back to your hotel fairly early anyway.
For people with food intolerances, specifically gluten, then the changes that Myanmar has undergone in the last four years are definitely a blessing. The ability to eat good quality food, often more Western in style, makes for a much more enjoyable experience. In my coming posts I will provide tips on how to find gluten free food here, but a warning it still isn’t always easy and often communicating your allergies is a huge challenge.
Politics, change and other tourists aside Myanmar is an exceptionally beautiful country. It is full of huge jungle covered mountains, neatly shaped fields and huge bodies of water. Even the major cities, Yangon and Mandalay are incredibly green and seeing the old, tattered colonial buildings is quite interesting. There are thousands of religious symbols around the country, mainly white and golden pagodas and stupas that quickly become monotonous, but when viewed as a whole are great.
Overall a holiday to Myanmar can be a little more expensive than your average backpacking in Southeast Asia trip and it certainly has its trying moments. However, my two weeks here have certainly been some of the most eye-opening and heart warming during our entire time in Asia.
My articles will cover:
- Common Myanmar travel myths;
- Surviving Myanmar gluten free.