Myanmar has recently opened itself to tourism and the curiosity about this unexplored destination is very high. We backpacked across Myanmar starting from Bangkok and crossed the border by land. The trip will talk in detail about the places we visited and the experiences we had.
Traveler Tips on Myanmar:
1) People are very honest, there is no crime and virtually no theft. It's a welcome respite after the tourist scams of the other countries in South East Asia. The scope for negotiation of prices is limited, but do negotiate and you can save a few bucks.
2) Don't rely on good internet connectivity in Myanmar. It's really slow and almost unusable. Skype calls will not work.
3) No-one speaks English (Like most of of southeast Asia- just a bit worse). Sharpen your sign language and don't string long English sentences to confuse the locals. Use 1 or 2 word sentences. Maximum 3 words in a sentence.
4) Transportation options are limited. From one city to another there are usually 3-4 buses in a day. 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening. Take the evening bus to save time during overnight travel. Most of the buses drop you off at 3-4 am in the morning. And check out timing for most guest houses is 10 AM. So be prepared to rough it out. Train journeys are a fun adventure, but trains is too slow to use. Unless you have a lot of time don't use the trains. There are VIP buses that are a bit expensive, but a little bit more comfortable. Buses have really cold Aircon settings and play bad Burmese movies on full blast. So carry good headphones.
5) Don't spend too much time in Yangon. It's a rich cultural experience, but other than that there is nothing much to do there. Plan no more than 1 day in Yangon
6) Compared to other Indo-China countries Myanmar is expensive. Be prepared to pay around 15$ a night for a single room budget accommodation.
Best time to Visit:
November to February. Also the busiest - so budget rooms are full and it's harder to find cheap budget places to stay. The weather is perfect.
What to eat:
Burmese cuisine is varied depending on the part of Burma you visit. The vegetarian options in Myanmar are much better than the rest of South East Asia. Try out the Shan cuisine for sure on Inle Lake. Pork, rice and noodles is what is served in most places - Definitely a lot of Asian and Chinese influence. Given the Indian connection there is a lot of Indian cuisine too. (Indian, Burmese). Try out the Burmese Biryani in Yangon and roadside parents on the Indian street in Yangon. Do visit the Barbeque street at night in Yangon for some local food.
Myanmar beer is sold everywhere here and is worth a try. The local rice wine and Burmese cigar is a must try.
I am not much of a shopper. Also, coming from India you always think that you can find better handcrafted stuff at much better prices in India. Few original things I found in Myanmar: Burmese Cigars, Myanmar beer, Lacqerware, junk jewelry made from watermelon seeds and some good local art.
1) Local Internet cafes charge 8 USD from locals to make a Facebook account. Found it really amusing.
2) The confluence of Islam and Buddhism in Myanmar is fascinating. It's fascinating to find a Buddhist pagoda and a mosque coexisting peacefully (There were some riots in Myanmar earlier - but I would like that is an aberration)
3) Myanmar defeated the Britishers twice before they could gain an inroad into Myanmar in the third Anglo-Burmese war. That is definitely a break from the norms compared to other Asian countries. Also, despite being a British colony and part of the India for a long time - the knowledge of English is almost non existent. Signboards in English are rare.
4) The ushering of Democracy has brought an influx of tourists and definitely more prosperity (from what you hear). Although I did not hear lots of complaining against the junta (Military) rule from the locals. I did not find abject poverty in Burma compared to India - but that could also be because most of the places are restricted for tourists.
5) Monks and their life fascinated me. Quietly walking across the country, I wonder about the life they lead and the thoughts in their head. I did see one monk taking a selfie on his fancy Samsung Galaxy phone. Technology is making its impact in the un-likeliest of places.
Feel free to ping me through the trip inquiry button on Tripoto and will be happy to answer further questions if you are traveling to Myanmar.