The country formerly known as Burma has entered the 21st century with a bang – five years ago it was a place that was still behind its own iron curtain, discouraged travellers and was a mystery. Now this Southeast Asian country has emerged, a distinct culture, tasty cuisine and many alluring attractions from its natural beauty to historic areas ready to welcome visitors.
Many tour companies offer trips to explore Myanmar, especially by river cruise – Trafalgar Tours is the first company to offer a land tour, launched this year.
For those wanting to explore colourful and fascinating Myanmar, here are five tips to consider for planning a visit to this bucket list destination:
Go online to arrange a visa prior to your trip – travellers will not be allowed entry without it. For those who want to bring currency with them, US dollars are preferred and make sure the bills are pristine as old currency will be rejected by banks and stores. ATMs are available in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, but credit cards are not widely accepted outside of hotels.
Drink bottled water, use insect repellent, indulge in fresh fruit and pack loose cotton clothing to help keep insects away and provide options for visiting temples. Knee length skirts or shorts, tops with sleeves or large scarfs to wear as a sarong or a cover up are ways to dress modestly when needed and keep cool in the heat and humidity, as average temperatures are 22-24C in the rainy season and 32-26C in the dry season.
For the shopper
Cash is the way and bartering is acceptable in street markets but not in stores unless indicated. Some Burmese souvenirs to consider a longyi, the traditional sarong worn by the locals, silk fabric, lacquerware boxes or art pieces, handmade parasols, marionette puppets, silver jewellery and gemstones: Myanmar is also well-known for its high quality jade, rubies and sapphires.
Like a local, go for tea
More than an afternoon British or a mug with a pal, in Myanmar it’s a meal served in lacquerware, drinking locally-grown tea, as well as tasting lahpet, tea leaf salad, which is pickled and fermented. Teahouses are a perfect spot to be like a local, as it’s a popular spot for friends and families to meet, chat, sip and eat Burmese snacks.
Must see sight
Travellers should insure some time in the city of Bagan, the ancient city of the Mandalay region. Located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, the Bagan Archeological Area has more than 2000 Buddhist temples of all sizes, including the Ananda Temple, built in 1105 with four standing gold Buddhas, and often referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Myanmar.