I’m Nat, from London, England. We had an Empire once that we cling on to dearly as it’s pretty much all we have. Myanmar, or Burma as it was called back then, was a part of it. You see a lot of old English colonial stuff in Yangon to remind you of that!
I love to travel and had my first trip to Myanmar in November 2014, here on this blog are some of my opinions and stories based on my experience during my time there.
I’m hoping this blog will help you, whether you are already in Myanmar, or planning your trip, or even just in the thinking stages of ‘maybe’ planning a Myanmar holiday.
Before I left, I was trying to research and plan and found there to be a huge lack of information about this newly opened country, or at least the information that was available was very outdated. The country is developing at warp speed so even some information on this blog will be outdated at some point, but as of January 2016, this is how it is.
Of course I may also totally put you off going at all. Be warned this isn’t another blog where I will talk about just how fantastic Myanmar is and how you must get there immediately. Sure, The European Union Council on Tourism and Trade awarded the country ‘World’s Best Tourist Destination for 2014’ but to be honest I’m not sure why? It’s almost there, but not quite yet.
What you’ll find here is a brutally honest account of what I thought of everything from guesthouses, to cities, to transport, people and even rivers.
Sometimes I hated Myanmar, many times I loved it and sometimes it confused me and made me question my own values.
I spent a lot of my time in Myanmar moaning and complaining. I am still unsure if that’s because of the places, the experiences, the egotistical ‘I’m so different and adventurous’ tourists who got on my nerves, the scams, or just because having so little time in such a huge country with so much to see in such a small amount of time stressed me out. Or maybe because my expectations were too high due to hearing and reading so much dreamy stuff about it. For example Inle Lake being magical… it wasn’t, (and very soon will be even less when they finish building the Novotel at the centre of the lake).
Don’t misunderstand, I mostly did like Myanmar, some days I even loved it and I would go back again for sure. But there are just a few things I wish I had known before I’d gone.
So here is my no-holds-barred account (minus getting anyone in trouble cos their government is still a bit, well you know), of Myanmar or if you are an American, Burma.
An untouched mysterious land? It sounds wild and exotic when you call it Burma, like a land straight out of Kipling books, well, it’s not exotic and has moved on leaps since then. If you want wild and untouched Kipling Jungle go to Papua or Madagascar, this place is very lived in. Granted it’s been lived in in a completely different way to what we in the western world are used to, but don’t expect to go there to find ‘an untouched land’. It’s very touched, and cultivated and in my opinion you’ll find better nature in other countries in South East Asia*.
For a country that has been closed off for so long they even managed to exterminate every Tiger that ever existed there and wild Elephants are now mostly a thing of legend too. Although head to Nwge Saung Beach in the rainy season and you might catch some.
Jungle and forest were cut down many many years ago to make way for agriculture and even the mountains kind of look like England. Not that we have real big mountains in England, but I was informed by a very well-travelled English man that the hills in Kalaw look ‘just like the Peak District’. [Obviously I am not including the Himalayas in this generalisation of Myanmar mountains, but currently tourists aren’t allowed there].
However culturally, yes, it is still quite untouched which is great! Western fashion hasn’t been an influence yet, so you’ll see men wearing Longyi’s (they look like skirts) and people wearing Thanaka (the yellow paste) on their faces. No ‘same same but different’ vest tops being worn or sold here yet….. yet!
*At the time of writing, December 2014 many places in Myanmar are still closed off to foreigners so I am only talking about the part of the country we are allowed to see, up in the north it could be a different story).