How and where to travel in Myanmar

Golde Buddha statueTravel in Myanmar

Myanmar was once known as Burma, but is now called “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar” but a few years ago  it was “The Union of Myanmar”.

Why Myanmar – There are so many things that are so bizarre, exciting, unique, and different  about this country. All things are done the Burmese way, so in that respect it is all correctly done but  it is not the Western way. Burma is a great place to go and experience a real cultural difference.

Booking Flights and Hotels

Flights – Air Mandalay or Air Bagan are the best. The other one is the known government airline and it is a better travel policy to avoid known military government owned businesses. Use the web to book internal flights or a travel agency once in Myanmar (the prices are the same although the same). Do not get the business class the seats are bigger but most times if you get the cheaper flight the stewards will let you sit in the business seats anyways.

Hotels – Book when in Myanmar they will be 25- 60 percent cheaper than the walk in rate. The hotel with pool I booked in Bagan for five days was 40 US dollars a night from the travel agent. Then when I arrived and wanted to stay another 5 nights the front desk said it was 80 dollars a night. So I went to a travel agency in Bagan and booked the hotel with them for 38US$ a night travel agency (45 walk in but usually booked up fast). Travel agencies now will take MasterCard or US cash. Recommened Hotels – Mandaly City Hotel in Mandalay best Breakfast Buffet in Myanmar 38 US$ for Double but i would not recommend going to Mandalay it is Ok but the Beach or Bagan or inle lake are better places to spend your time. Bagan- Bagan Princess Hotel 40 US$ at travel agency (80 walk in), good pool, not in the city, near the ruins, good breakfast.

Burmese People – There are many people from the hill tribes, many Chinese people live in Myanmar, along with Burmese, a large Indian population and people from many diverse ethic states within Myanmar. Everyone here seems to speak even a little bit of English and many people speak four languages.

To see and to do

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Central markets,  twisting brick side streets that lead to hidden temples and tea shops. Insanity everywhere. Myanmar is about meeting the people going slow, eating and experiencing the culture. It is not a fast paced place nor tourism based.

Shwedagon Pagoda –  Located in Yangon,  is intense and shivers begin running down my neck and spine. I have to sit down to take it all in. As the light changes the Pagoda becomes more beautiful and the temple area takes on a rosy tint. I sit peacefully and mediate on the golden beauty of this architectural and holy wonder.

Bagan – UNESCO Temple Site. Has amazing veggies food. Rent bikes and ride around for a few days take a horse-drawn carriage one day and for sure get a nice hotel with a pool for afternoon swims.

Inle Lake – Know for easy trekking trhough treaditional villages.

Nagapoli Beach – Beach life

Food – Burmese food is good, with noodles, rice with green tea leaves and peanuts, white rice, many soups, chapatti, veggies, potato curry, spring rolls, sticky rice, fried fish or chicken, or the classic dish here called “Mohinga”, which is a fish-broth based soup eaten for breakfast traditionally. Many Chinese people live in Mandalay, along with Burmese, a large Indian population and people from many ethic states outside of the city. Tropical fruits are plentiful and very sweet and juicy. So I had fish ball noodle soup and it was yummy once I added some chilly.

General Info

Weather – Well monsoon season hits Mandalay (July and August) but the rain is nice and cool only 28 degrees outside.

Motorbikes – Everyone drives like a maniac, and there are no rules of the road. Driving in Myanmar is a skill in itself as there are no stop signs and few traffic lights. It is a skill to cross a street: you either just barrel through honking and hoping others will stop for you or you stop and cross when the road is clear. Another tactic is to edge your way into oncoming traffic until they stop. Traffic weaves three motorcycles, two bicycles and a car wide per lane and may have traffic going the opposite way on the outer edges of the traffic lanes. You are also in danger of one of the motorcyclists helmets flying off and hitting you since 30% of people do not use the chin strap and leave it undone and flapping in the air. There are 1,308 deaths and 45,780 injuries a year in Myanmar (Source of data: ASEAN Region Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan, 2004). I asked Myanmar people why they do not do up their helmet strap and the common answer was “It is like that.”

Betel – is a mess through the country; the chewing, spitting and the stains everywhere, the Burmese and their stained gums and teeth is alarming.

Laundry –  All laundry is still all done by hand – the nearest machine laundry is  always thirty minutes away by motorbike. They do not use very much soap so the clothes do not turn out smelling very clean, but on the plus side they are ironed, even my socks. So I took my laundry to Madame Show. It is a chain of Laundry services in Mandalay.

The must know Information

Money Exchange – The currency in Myanmar is strange to exchange money you need pristine 100 US notes; crisp, unmarked, no pens marks, no ink marks, no smudges, tears, folds, creases absolutely new. So once you exchange your pristine US$ notes you receive the Myanmar money called kyats, pronounced chats. The kyat bills are tattered, torn, rotting, Covered in scotch tape and crumble apart as you touch them. The government is replacing the 10 and 20 kyat notes with new ones, however you can not buy anything for 10 or 20 kyats. Well ten 10 kyat notes will buy a banana. There are a few ATMs in Yangon. Also bring other smaller Us cash to pay for things at travel agencies or Government visitor sites.

Military country – People have fear of the government and there are informers everywhere. At some point the secret police will come up and have friendly chat with you. Where are you from?  What are you doing? where are you going? Are you married? Do you have children? These are the some questions everyone asks you so you will never know who the undercover police are and it really does not matter.

Best Burmese book – Burmese days by George Orwell

Travel in Myanmar

Public bus, taxi, motorcycle taxi, plane, train, hike or bike.

Travel guide – Moon Publications – Rough Guide – the French one (Routere?)

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