Myanmar in Review

Here Claire and I review Myanmar (Burma).  We traveled here for 1 month and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  Enjoy!

Review Guidelines

5 Stars: Incredible

4 Stars: Very Good

3 Stars: Average

2 Stars: Not Good

1 Star: Very Bad

 

Safety  

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Buses can become very…crowded (understatement)

While a few streets in cities feel sketchy, most of Myanmar is safe for travel.  Many areas are restricted due to their politically sensitive nature or due to government battles with rebels.  These areas can be easily avoided however.  At the time of writing, there has been an escalation in violence in the Rakhine state as the persecution of the Muslims in the region sadly continues.  It is best to avoid this area at this time, despite its rich history.  Traffic safety is also an issue in the country.   Overall, people are extremely friendly and we never ran into anyone who tried to take advantage of us during our one month stay in the country.

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A beautiful 19th century Mosque in Sittwe sadly destroyed and abandoned due to the violence against the Muslim minority that lives here.

Food

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This cold dish is at the top of one of my favorite foods whilst traveling… the only problem is it is mixed by hand right before you eat it.

If you are a fan of curry, you will enjoy Myanmar cuisine very much.  One of the larger issues with food in the country is hygiene.  Dishes are often made and served by hand on dishes that are not the cleanest that they could be.  While much of the food is delicious, you run the risk of racing to the bathroom in many places that you go to.  In our opinion, the risk is totally worth it!  Food options can also be very limited in many places that you will travel to, particularly in the smaller cities.  This often means having the same dish for several days in a row.  In local restaurants, food is extremely cheap.  Many restaurants give you many side dishes along with your order which fill you up pretty quick.

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Local markets are everywhere.  Pick up some fruits and veggies!

Sights

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The temple of temples… Shwedagon… that’s all solid plates of gold and gold foil behind me

Myanmar offers a variety of sights for visitors to explore.  Ancient Buddhist temples are around every corner in places like Bagan and Mrauk U and local fishing villages are a sight to see.  Cities offer a look into a struggling, yet forward moving Myanmar and rural life gives insights into Myanmar’s not so distant past.  Inle lake’s villages are a must see and Shwedagon pagoda (with its tons and tons of gold) will most likely be the most incredible temple complex you will ever visit in your life.

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Ancient temples dot the landscape in many places in Myanmar

Culture

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Local Fishermen at Inle Lake

The culture in Myanmar is a fun one to dive into.  Go buy yourself a Longyi and start chewing on some Betel Nut and you’ll start to blend right in!  As Myanmar has only recently opened up to the world, it has avoided much of globalization to this point.  Unfortunately however, many of the minority groups are discriminated against in Myanmar.  This is especially true for the Muslim minority that lives in here as they have essentially been driven out of their homes and into refugee camps in Rakhine state and Bangladesh.

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Moving deep into Rakhine state, one discovers a dying practice.  People of the Chin tribes in Myanmar traditionally tattooed the faces of women but the practice has been outlawed by the government.
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Adopting the local way of dress in a Longyi (probably the only Mets shirt in Myanmar though…)

Nature

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Sunset along the beach

With beautiful lakes and mountains to trek, Myanmar has many wonderful natural sights.  But with rapid development, many of these sights are being tarnished due to overuse and pollution.  If you are looking for pristine and untouched landscapes, look elsewhere.  As for beaches, there are some very quiet and nice beaches that come at a very affordable price.  You can also splurge near Thailand on some pristine islands but this will cost you hundreds of dollars a night (live-aboard only).  (Sadly, I lost my SD card with half of my Myanmar photos so I have none of our trekking photos)

 

Cost

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Food is the least expensive part when visiting Myanmar

While food is extremely cheap in the country, accommodation is not.  All places, no matter how small, post two prices for rooms; one price for locals and another for foreigners.  Guess which one is higher?  Transportation is cheap between locations but getting a local price on a trike within a city can be downright impossible.  Admission fees are usually required at most major tourist areas (including natural ones).

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Local street views

Hospitality

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Claire learning a cleansing ritual from a local

Myanmar was one of the friendliest places we have visited in the world.  People here always seem to have a smile on their face and are always willing to give and help despite having so little themselves.  We never encountered any problems during our travels and people were very curious and eager to communicate with us.  Throughout our stay, we could not get over how hospitable locals were to us along our journey.

Overall

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Claire chatting it up with some of the locals, learning their stories and sharing ours.

Myanmar is one of the more culturally rewarding experiences that we have had throughout our travels.  Globalization has yet to creep into the country which is becoming more difficult to find in this ever shrinking world of ours.  Although you may become tired of temples, there is no doubting their beauty (particularly Shwedagon).  They are still very important to the people of this country as they are still active places of worship  While natural sights are lacking, this is a country you come to in order to take in and learn about people rather than the places you visit.   For intriguing and slightly off the beaten path travels, add Myanmar near the top of your list!

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Joining in on the fun at a local village in Rakhine state

Let us and others know what you think!