Myanmar is a must-see and the perfect trip for all! Popular destinations include Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaitko and Moulmein. The eight World Heritage Sites include the Borobudur temple, Komodo National Park and Sumatra’s rainforests. Before you head off do a bit of research and learn the do’s and don’ts from various sources, read this to help you plan your trip!
Population: 54 million
Religion: Approximately 89% of the population is Buddhist. Hinduism is practiced mainly by Burmese Indians.
Emergency numbers: 192 (ambulance), 199 (police), 192 (fire)
• Many Burmese people avoid cutting their hair on a Monday, Friday or their birthday.
• The Taukkyan War Cemetery contains almost 7,000 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 867 of them unidentified.
• Winemaking is a budding industry in Myanmar.
• Thanaka is a yellow paste used by Burmese people as sunscreen, makeup and insect repellent. It’s made by grinding the bark, wood or roots of a thanaka tree with a small amount of water.
• Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that has not adopted the metric system of measurement.
• Chewing betel nut (with spices and sometimes tobacco) is a Krunja national past-time.
The key dates
- 13-16 April – Thingyan. Celebrating the Myanmar New Year, this festival lasts for several days and features lots of good-natured water throwing.
- 5 October – Full Moon of Thadingyut, the end of Buddhist Lent, features three days of festivities, with houses and streets illuminated and decorated. Dates vary from year to year.
The hot spots
Popular destinations include Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaitko and Moulmein.
There is one World Heritage Site, the Pyu Ancient Cities, but as many as 14 are on the “tentative” list for possible inclusion.
Some itinerary ideas
• “The Big Four”: Yangon – Mandalay – Bagan – Inle Lake
• South: Yangon – Kyaikto – Moulmein
How to stay healthy
• Myanmar has quite a few nasty snakes, including cobras, kraits and the Russell’s Viper, one of Asia’s deadliest snakes. Wear the right footwear and keep an eye out for critters at all times.
• Dengue and malaria are a problem in Myanmar, so be sure to take adequate precautions against both of them
While you’re there, please don’t…
• Step over any part of a person.
• Sit with your back towards Buddha’s image.
• Point a finger straight in a person’s face.
• Take a photo of someone without asking permission first.
Before you go, read…
- From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey by Pascal Khoo Thwe – an autobiographical account of the author’s upbringing in a remote tribal village in Myanmar and his journey from his strife-torn country to Cambridge.
- The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint U – regarded as the best recent account of the country.
- Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin – a journey through Myanmar based on the life, work and travels of Orwell.
Before you go, watch…
- Beyond Rangoon – John Boorman’s 1995 drama film about an American tourist (Patricia Arquette) who gets caught up in Myanmar’s 8888 Uprising.
- Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land – a 2007 documentary about protests by Myanmar’s population of monks.
They said it…
“Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay” – Rudyard Kipling, in his poem Mandalay
“What you’ve got they can’t deny it. Can’t sell it, can’t buy it. Walk on, walk on. Stay safe tonight.” – Bono in “Walk On”, a song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi
Do I need a visa?
All visitors to Myanmar will need a visa and should make an online appointment for a visa application at the Myanmar embassy. Writers, journalists, editors, film producers and photographers have traditionally had trouble obtaining visas, though this has apparently changed recently. For more information, visit myanmarembassy.sg.
How long will it take me to get there?
3 hours from Singapore. Myanmar is 6.5 hours ahead of GMT and 1.5 hours behind Singapore.
What’s the money situation?
Myanmar’s national currency is the Burmese kyat. The use of credit cards and travellers’ cheques is very limited (highend hotels only) so it’s advisable to have enough US dollars to fund your entire trip. You can exchange US dollars for local currency at banks and hotels; try to make sure that the bills you bring over are in excellent condition.
When’s the best time to visit?
The monsoon season lasts from May to October, after which temperatures are cooler between November and February before things heat up again between March and April. The climate in the higher altitudes of northern Myanmar is temperate throughout the year, but humid in lower Myanmar, along the coastlines and around the delta region, which includes the capital, Yangon.
What’s the lingo?
Here are some phrases to get you started:
Hello Min ga lar par
What is your name? Na mal bal loe kall lal?
My name is __ Chun ma nan mae ma __ ba (f) Chun daw nan mae __ ba (m)
How much? Be lau’le
Thank you Kyei zu tin ba de
Yes Hoke kae
No Mah hoke
Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals?
Greetings depend on the genders of those who are meeting. It’s usually a combination of a handshake, a wave, a nod and a smile.
What’s a must-try dish?
Aside from the national dish, mohinga, try to sample the salad called lahpet thoke; made from pickled tea leaves and roasted peanuts, it’s a great bar snack to enjoy with hot tea or cold beer.
What should I buy as a souvenir?
Where to stay…
If you are looking for luxury try the famous Strand Hotel (1896), said to be the most expensive accommodation in town. Its filled with 5 star accommodation and amazing facilities.
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