Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

There definitely aren’t enough tourists here yet for ‘tourist prices’ to become established: I was able to haggle with everyone, from taxis to tuk-tuk drivers. For a 4km trip in Yangon I paid a fee in kyats that amounted to a little under two bucks. That was the price as of November 2019. Still, no question, some people here do try to charge outrageous prices. I just told them to get lost, and they weren’t offended. When shopping, they don’t try to force their products on you at any price.

You can sense that tourism is starting to have an effect, but it really is at a very incipient stage.

Bring a brand-new, crisp, hundred-dollar bill. Plus a few fives and tens, if you’ve got them.

The local paper money (they don’t have coins) looks like Monopoly money, but people accept it without question. BUT. When I was in a four-star hotel in Bagan, where the previous day I’d changed a hundred dollar bill (a crisp one) I tried to pay with a twenty (not a crumpled or torn, but not new either) and the young lady didn’t accept it. It was clearly an embarrassing situation for her, as she couldn’t explain what exactly the problem was.

At the airport (in Yangon) you should only change money at official currency exchanges. If anyone sidles up to you offering “money change” then you should tell them to get lost without a second thought. But do buy a SIM card – it’s worth it, and they work. To do that, bring a passport photo! I bought a 20GB Telenor card, for about $14. They installed it on location and checked that it worked – did everything, in other words – and all I had to do was use it.

If you go to a market, don’t be afraid to haggle. Here they don’t react like in Arab countries.

Bring some wet wipes, because you can only enter temples and pagodas barefoot. It isn’t easy to find a ‘European-style’ toilet, and even if you do, in more basic places it doesn’t hurt to have something to clean your hands with.

Many sing the praises of the Bogyoke market, and it really is a fine, impressive event. It’s worth buying jade there. BUT if you want to see a real market, I’d recommend instead spending thirty minutes to an hour at either the Nyaung U market in Bagan, or at Nyaungshwe on the shores of Lake Inle.

In other words, if you’re looking for a very interesting, beautiful destination that feels like a different world, and which is still cheap, then get to Myanmar pronto. (s.f. 2020)


Myanmar - Inle Lake - traditional fisherman - v.g. photo

Myanmar - monks - Elter photo

Myanmar - Bagan - from above - Agnes photo

The sights of this country – roughly the size of France – are widely spaced. Previously, there was little incentive for the government to invest in infrastructure, so the country could only be explored on long train journeys or overnight buses.

In recent years, however, heavy investment has made it noticeably easier to get around. A new highway has been built (connecting Mandalay and Yangon) and several airlines offer direct flights from Thailand to Yangon, Mandalay or even Naypyidaw. One of the most recent developments is the lift built on the Golden Rock. This site of pilgrimage could previously only be reached by a rather interesting method: crammed into the back of a flatbed truck with a mass of other people.

Car rental by tourists is still nor permitted, but knowing local regulations, this is perhaps no bad thing: If there is an accident between a pedestrian and a motorist, the motorist is automatically taken to be at fault.

(2018”


Practicals

Myanmar - public bus - Elter photo

Myanmar - train - v.g. photo

Transport

“From the airport, you should only travel to the city by “official taxi,” which costs between 8,000 and a maximum of 12,000 Kyat, depending on whether the destination is in the Shwedagon Pagoda area or the more distant lower part of the city. Of course, the official taxi driver is also a private entrepreneur. On arrival, a sign shows where the taxis are, and you have to go there; it’s really not worth dealing with the cowboys, of some taxi drivers in the waiting room who say $15 (about 22,500 Kyat).
Anyway, there are plenty of taxis in Yangon (every 4-5 car has the inscription there.) There are no taxi meters, you have to ask the driver about the price before departure. Usually, 2000 - 4000 Kyats will get you anywhere." (Franz, 2019)


Public Roads:
Road transport can be very dangerous, especially during the rainy season (May-October). It is important to know that under local law, the driver of a vehicle who hits a pedestrian is responsible in all cases. Most vehicles (cars, taxis, buses) are in catastrophic technical condition. Another risk factor is that despite driving on the right, most cars have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. You can only drive with a valid Burmese license. International licenses will not be accepted.
“You just walk down the busy, dusty dawn streets completely devoid of sidewalks, dodging the serpentine rows of monks collecting their daily donations.
From time to time, a flatbed vehicle loaded to the gunwales with the absolute maximum number of passengers passes by. People are hanging on the side, on the back, and someone may even be sleeping on the piles of market goods stacked on top. There is no need for tickets on public transport, and boarding and disembarking are non-stop. Get yourself a ride using one of the modern ride-hailing apps. Otherwise, if there is still room in a cab, the "transport organizer" shouts or whistles at every pedestrian, who avoid his calls.” (2018)
 

"The main attractions of this country, which is roughly the size of France, are at considerable distances from each other. Previously, there was no particular incentive for serious infrastructure development. It was common that the country could only be explored by long trains or overnight buses.
In recent years, however, considerable investment has made it easier to get around the country: a new highway has been built (connecting Mandalay and Yangon), several airlines are on the market, often promising direct flights and making Yangon easily accessible from Thailand, Mandalay, or even just Naypyidaw. One of the latest developments is the lift built on Golden Rock. Previously, this place of pilgrimage could only be approached in a rather interesting way – crowded into the back of a truck.
In any case, car rental is still not allowed, but knowing the local laws, that might not really be much of a problem. This is because if a car is involved in an accident with a pedestrian, the driver of the car is always at fault.” (2018)
 

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In Rangoon, I would have preferred to ride a motorcycle, but for some mysterious reason, motorcycles are banned in the ex-capital of Burma (damn, great idea in an Asian capital), so everyone cycles or drives a car. Allegedly, a motorcycling once drove into some general's car, and so they were all banned from the city. Although democracy has broken out a lot here, this motorbike ban has somehow remained in place so far. In Myanmar, by the way, it’s frustrating to drive at first because though they drive on the right, the steering wheel is also on the right, meaning the whole thing is a mix of the British and the non-British. At least the motorbike was good for getting us to Amarapura, where we saw the longest wooden bridge in the world over the Irrawaddy. It is 1300 meters long, but as we were there in the middle of the dry season, there was hardly any water under it.” (2016)

 

“We were nervous about arriving in Mandalay with our foul-mouthed taxi driver, but he proved to be a professional driver. Let’s just say it wasn’t hard, there were no traffic jams on the new highway towards the big city, no traffic, no swearing, no flicking people off, no BMW racing in the stop lane, just a few bikes crossing the highway or a herd of cattle. The direction didn’t matter, as the cars here are mostly – super-Japanese – right-oriented, which creates pretty weird situations in a country where they drive on the right!” (2018)

Myanmar - Transport
"It's a real life-threatening ordeal to cross from one side of the road to the other. The cars are barely inches apart, the lines touch each other, and no one cares about pedestrians. Not even at the zebra. The locals love to chew betel. People (also) chew betel while driving, then neatly spit the reddish-brown, saliva-mixed lump out the window (some open the door, spit it out, and then close it again.) If an intersection is directed by cops, there are at least 5 to 10 of them. And I don’t want to go into familiar jokes about the police, but it’s a fact that intersections are blocked en masse to promote proper traffic in the event of major traffic jams or work. Each bus can always accommodate a few more people. Even when it is already so full that they are hanging out from it (this is a perfectly normal and everyday sight), and when it stops, more are sure to get on. Whether we are talking about a small street or a multi-lane main road, it is certain that motorists will start trying to drive between two lanes, creating another lane. As such, a one-lane road can in practice have any number of lanes. Everything is full of bikes - a lot of bikes. With one person or with several people (bike taxis). The difference is that often even a one-person bike can accommodate 2-3 people. What’s more, they can jump onto the back of the bike on the go, and do so even in the middle of traffic without batting an eye. The cars drive in their own lanes, or in the "extended" lanes, which can still be further expanded anyway. In addition, imagine a cyclist in each empty space. This is because not everyone intends to ride a bike on the side of the road, as we have become accustomed to, but often travel in the middle of the road or between lanes, or change lanes or sides without so much as a glance round for safety’s sake. So yes, chaos. Interestingly, though, while everyone is pushing hard not to lose their hard-earned place, no one seem nervous. They hum or sing only to pass the time, not out of nervousness.” (2017)


Food

"The miserable state of Myanmar today is not really conducive to culinary richness. However, it’s not really such a tragic situation. Wherever ginger, chili, and fish sauce are abundant, there is always good stuff to eat. It’s just that in Myanmar, where every second bush grows lemongrass and chili, and the country is full to the brim with fruit and vegetables, it could all be so much more exciting... Nevertheless, Myanmar cuisine treats spices with deliberate restraint and does not use a tenth of the country’s wonders. Chinese, Thai and Indian influences are felt, of course, but all three appear in a subdued form on Myanmar dinner plates. Myanmar's cuisine is based on curry, known from India (or England), which, if you really need a description, is a kind of spicy stew. Curries are usually accompanied with rice – in fact, rice is the main course, but Indian flatbread, or chapati, is also very popular, both alone and in all sorts of stuffed versions. The texture of Myanmar curry is just like in Thailand or India, but less spicy. It doesn’t contain coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, or pretty much any of the spices that are commonly identified with Southeast Asian curries. Commendably, however, it does contain a whole lot of garlic and sometimes even ginger. The curry most often includes potatoes, okra, pumpkin, or eggplant, and of course sometimes meat for the sake of tourists.

The otherwise impressively varied country is fairly homogenous as far as food goes, mainly due to the commonly used and stinking fish sauce which is ubiquitous to every corner of the country. The cuisines of the dozens of ethnic groups, which are very sharply separated in their other customs, are pretty much identical. The people who live close to the Thai border cook food which is a little more Thai, while the food prepared close to the Chinese border is a little more Chinese, but the differences are really minimal. Still, there are two regards in which Myanmar should be considered a top destination for culinary tourists: Firstly, there is nowhere else in the world where lobsters, crabs, squid, and all other kinds of seafood can be eaten so cheaply. On the beach in Myanmar, a portion of tiger prawns consists of two pieces so large that they dangle from either end of the plate – we had to laugh when we thought of the tiny little shrimp deceptively called tiger prawns in European restaurants. And those two giants cost less than three dollars in total. Sea scallops have the advantage that they can taste very good even with minimal seasoning, making them ideal for Myanmar chefs. The best thing that came to our minds in the country was the steamed crab consumed every day on Ngapali Beach, with only a little garlic, ginger, and green chili stuffed under its shell. Secondly, Myanmar produces an amazing quantity and quality of fruit. And these are famous not only in the tropics but also in Europe, due to the diverse topography of the country.” (2018)

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“We were quite hungry after our long walk, and fortunately the hotel recommended a great place, so we were able to taste Burmese street food on our first night. We got stuck in straight away and tried the traditional mohinga and shan-style noodle soup. Ordering wasn’t easy at first, it took long minutes for us to realize that polite hand-raising and diffident gestures are not recognized here, and are even ignored, and we would have to be more direct if we didn’t want to leave hungry. What you do is you blow a couple of fat, wet kisses at the waiter, and he cheerfully throws in another big helping of rice. At first, this custom seemed very rude to me, but it worked and we came home with full bellies.” (2018)

Myanmar - the whisky is very cheap - Elter photo

Shopping

  "They love dollars, that's a fact. And, admittedly, if I was in their place, I would choose dollars over the “monopoly money” that they call kyats. However, we no longer have to carry all our dollars for the whole trip in a cunningly concealed, creaseless hiding place (more on that later), because ATMs have appeared in the most important places and often in hotels. :D
Exchanging money on the black market has been banned nationally, and wouldn’t be worth it for a tourist anyhow, so it’s best avoided!
(Oh, and don't expect to be able to pay for services and restaurant bills with a card!) (2018)


Fun

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Myanmar - start of a hot-air ballon flight to see from above Bagan's 8,000 temples and pagodas

Myanmar - Bagan - balloons - Agnes photo

Health

“Unfortunately, the food poisoning that affects most travelers caught up with me on my way to Mandalay, though at least I was already at my accommodation when I began to feel poorly. I didn’t see much of Mandalay, but at least I got to enjoy the kindness of the locals. The staff at the hostel didn’t just let me suffer. They brought me something to drink and checked several times to see if I was still alive. Plus, they didn’t charge extra money for not being able to leave the accommodation on time.” (2016)

Myanmar - Bagan - lady with Thanakha on her face - v.j. photo

Myanmar - scarcity - Elter photo

Myanmar - dental challenge - Elter photo

Others

"Gone are the days when tourists who went astray in the country had to search for internet cafes to be able to send home an email or two after hours or trying, just to say they were alive.
Here I would also like to reassure Instagram and Facebook fans that neither the lack of material nor the speed or quality of the internet will disturb them in the instant posting of the best, most beautiful, most astonishing photos :)
Currently, three service providers provide 4G-speed mobile internet throughout the country (Ooredoo, Telenor, MPT), which ensures continuous internet access almost all the time, even during a couple of day mountain hikes, and getting a card is not complicated either!
Of course, in mid-range hotels and up, Wi-Fi is also available.
Anyway, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and the like have not been blocked for a long time: we use all of these with our friends in Myanmar. (2018) "

Background

Myanmar -national flag

Destination in brief

Myanmar (previous name: Burma) is a country in Southeast Asia. Neighbors: Babgladesh, India (northwest), China (northeast), Laos and Thailand (east and southeast). Myanmar has coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Burma was a British colony from 1824 to 1948. In 1989 the then ruling military junta changed the colonial name Burma to Myanmar.

Size: 676,575 km² (261,227 mi²)

Population (in 2020): 54.3 million

Capital city: Yangon (earlier: Rangoon)

Language:Burmese is the official language, which is spoken by about 75% of the population

Religion: 88% Buddhist (following mainly a so-called Theravada tradition)

Form of government: Myanmar is officially a parliamentary republic, but it is rather an "authoritarian regime"

Currency: Burmese kyat (MMK)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 190 USD

Most common last name: Burmese don’t have last names, only given names 



History

The region of today’s Myanmar began to be populated far back in prehistory by peoples migrating from nearby areas. In the 9th century, large-scale migration from southern China into Myanmar began. Centuries passed in wars between the indigenous peoples and the newly migrating ethnicities. Despite these wars, both the losers and the victors mixed each other's cultures and beliefs. Signs of advanced culture began to emerge, e.g. with serious irrigation systems. Buddhism spread into Burma around the 14th and 15th centuries. At the beginning of the 16th century, Portuguese conquerors also wanted to subdue this area, without sparing the structures of Buddhism. Nevertheless, the local rulers managed to build a centralized state system in the growing territory of today’s Burma, albeit interspersed with constant struggles with local petty kings. The Burmese Empire reached its greatest extent in the 17th century. More and more European ships arrived on the Burmese coast and "tasted" the area. The French even joined forces with local forces to try to advance from the Burmese coast to China. At the same time, the Burmese also tried to attack and occupy Thai territory.

Around the middle of the 19th century, it became inevitable that Burmese forces seeking expansion would come into conflict with the British colonizers of neighboring India. As a consequence, the British occupied the northern part of Burma and thus, towards the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Burma disintegrated. The British were interested in Burma primarily for economic reasons. They did not engage in the subjugation of the mountain peoples, who were granted far-reaching autonomy. The British did generate some development in central Burma. Burma was said to have been the most developed area in Southeast Asia during British rule! But the local people did not like foreign rule, and rebellions frequently broke out. In the 20th century, Burmese Buddhists even held up the example of Mahatma Gandhi in their struggle for self-determination. However, in addition to peaceful methods of disobedience, they also engaged in brutal guerrilla warfare against the British.
In 1937, the British declared Burma a unified colony, which fueled the struggle for independence even more. The insurgents even cooperated with the Japanese, who they hated, against the British. Then in World War II, the Japanese occupiers treated the local population with great brutality. The independence fighters realized that the Japanese were not the right allies, and decided to side with the Americans. In 1945, Burma got rid of the Japanese, but also managed to get rid of the British colonizers: In 1948, the independent Burmese Union was established. This was not experienced by the leader of the struggle for independence, Aung San, however, because he was assassinated.

The new Burmese government granted some autonomy to the mountain tribes, but these still showed a distrust of central governments. In independent Burma, for example, political power has proved weak for decades, especially in maintaining the country’s de facto unity. As early as the early 1960s, army leaders took power from the political elite. Then, from the mid-1970s, Burma sank into a permanent military dictatorship. The country is becoming increasingly politically and economically isolated in the international arena. Burma has become one of the poorest and most miserable countries in the world. There was a ray of hope when Aung San’s daughter Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won the 1989 election, which was held as a result of international pressure. However, the Burmese army did not tolerate the risk of having its power and checked and annulled the election results. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for many, many years. The military dictatorship pushed the country into an even deeper economic crisis. An international economic boycott of the despised dictatorship hit the country hard: They could only count on China’s support. Since 2012, a process of democratization has begun in Burma or Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi, who also won the Nobel Peace Prize, regained her freedom.

Nowadays

“We met a lot of people and made a lot of friends – it wasn’t hard at all. The country’s long isolation has made an impact. The initial distance is more a sign of amazement on their part. In many locations, we felt like we were movie stars, and many locals had not yet met a (big-nosed) white man. But damn, when they feel the openness, they immediately smile and tell stories, and many people start getting to know each other, even without any serious English knowledge. They love to take photos and look at themselves.
There is already free internet, access to foreign sites and media, and Facebook and others are also uncensored for local residents. Several of our friends also openly post, express opinions on Facebook, and keep in touch via the internet both inside and outside the country.” (2018)

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"More than two-thirds of the country's population works in agriculture, and almost all activities are done by manual labor, from cement production to road construction. It is striking that in every workplace, be it a bank, hotel or petrol station, teenage girls always seem the busiest. It’s a social expectation that every man should go on temporary retreat at a monastery at least twice in his life, so it’s no surprise that there are about 50,000 monasteries in the country, all busy and thriving, with monks walking the streets every morning, men dressed in red, women in pink, and all bald. A common theme in Burmese paintings is a line of monks walking with umbrellas, always depicted from behind, as the work would no longer be perfect with a face expressing the human self. For the monks, the parasol fits nicely with the mobile phone, since here religion is part of everyday life, and there is no need to banish modern appliances for the sake of an antiquated appearance.” (2017)

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"It's unbelievable that their hygiene standards are pretty much zero. They're dirty, living in a pile of garbage, in a simple house with running water (maybe). If not, they bathe where they can. They cook the food right down on the street where hundreds of cars are constantly roaring past in clouds of dust, which of course gets on the food. The only thing more disgusting and intolerable (for me) is to expose any raw meat in the same way along the roadside, on a table that is two inches away from the dusty, dirt road, and stays there in the heat all day. (By heat I mean 35-40 degrees.) And then the hungry man comes and points to a random piece of meat, which is better covered with a (perforated) net. Any infection or disease can easily be caught this way. There are few old people in Myanmar. By the age of 50-60, 70% of people will be dead.” (2015)

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"There are poor people who live in their own hand-built bamboo cottages (who knows how many of them there are). There is only one thing they can do: they sell home-grown fruit and various locally baked local foods along the roadside, or they work as wandering street vendors, also selling fruit, water, and other things. Besides these, there are people who offer snacks and freshwater among the cars stuck in traffic jams. A lot of people have bikes since not everyone can afford to take a taxi - plus in the end, it may be quicker to go by bike. In addition, a lot of people travel by bus, but don’t imagine the sort of thing you’d find in Europe – buses here are in very poor condition, dirty and horrendously polluting, but also cheap and always full of passengers. There are often traffic jams and sometimes cars are just gridlocked for 10 minutes as if time had stopped. Nothing moves. By contrast, like everywhere else, there are richer people here who have a company or a better job. Most of them either come with a rented car (air-conditioned of course) and driven by a chauffeur, or in a taxi.

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"Nowhere in the world can you see as many Buddhist temples as in Burma? You can hardly look around without colliding with one of the many thousands of stupas, but even they are not enough – new ones are constantly being built. Foreigners tend to believe that the Burmese suffer from some kind of religious madness, but this is not the case. Their faith simply permeates all aspects of their daily lives. I think the stone-hard dictatorial government is also very much involved in building new stupas, believing that while people are praying, they will at least remain peaceable. They are wrong, however: a few years ago, when riots broke out against the government, the monks led the protests, and government soldiers fired at them.
The place to be really won over by the spirit of Buddhism is in a monastery. We made a trip to Mandalay, one of the spiritual capitals of Burma. It is visited by many tourists, a fact evidently not regretted by the monks. Roughly a thousand live within its walls, though this is nothing when we consider that there are around half a million monks and nuns throughout Burma. All the same, only about a quarter of these dedicate their entire lives to Buddha. It is a social expectation that every man should spend some time in a monastery at least twice in his life, first between the ages of 10 and 20, and then as an adult. The first entry for boys is also adult initiation. They shave their heads completely, wear the characteristic yellowish-red robe, and possess only a few objects necessary for everyday life. They get up at dawn, eat cooked rice, then set off on their usual food-collecting tour with their big black pots. People are usually waiting for them in front of their houses. The food is eaten that same morning: after twelve noon they are forbidden food. Their main occupations, by the way, are prayer and meditation. Not only does the population not consider it a burden (though it is a burden, as there are so many poor people) to feed the monks, but they do it with joy, out of sacred duty. The monk cannot look at the donor, and cannot give thanks for the food, as it is he who is doing the favor by accepting it. Better off families take food straight to the monastery. The food was just being shared out when we arrived. Rice was steamed in huge cauldrons, dispensed by elegant women. They also got other things, such as meat, fruit, or sweets. Food is also cooked within the monastery, but not by full-time monks, just their young disciples. The monk cannot work. They can accept money, but they cannot buy things themselves.” (2016)

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“Yanmay, our guide, was a freshly graduate twenty-year-old with a philosopher’s face, so it can’t be said that we were trying to unravel the big picture by relying on information from some randomly lost soul picked up on the street. He claims that the reasons for the ongoing civil war atmosphere and frequent disturbances are as follows:
All minorities are autonomous in Burma. They have their own laws and their own army, which they use to occupy territories from neighboring tribes because more territory means more financial support. He says ordinary people aren’t interested in it at all, it’s just a game between various semi-legal armies. As an example, he pointed out that we were sitting around the fire with two Shan, a Palaung and a Palaung-Shan. They always work together and have peace, love, and happiness. I said all right, but then what about the Rohingya?
His answer was that the Rohingya are afraid because they are Muslims, and if they were also endowed with the same rights, they would begin to bring an unmanaged wave of Islamists into the country, meaning that the exact same thing would happen as in the Philippines. I said fine, I accept that, but what about genocide, setting their villages, torturing children, and raping women, but he argued it was just fake news, and not really happening. I think if someone decided to escape from Burma to Bangladesh, it could hardly be much worse!” (2018)

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"In Myanmar, Buddhism is permeated by an even older belief, respect for the nats, or spirits. Every house, hill, lake, and the prominent tree has its own guardian. Even the big cities are full of old trees, and nearby houses make appropriate food and drink offerings to their spirits. 37 main spirits are recognized in the country, their most significant place of worship is the building complex next to Mount Popa, which rises as abruptly from the landscape as any fairytale, mountaintop castle. The place itself seemed more like a gathering place for fairytale figures than a sacred place full of religious reverence. The mountaintop can be reached by means of a covered corridor, in the company of pilgrims, where monkeys expect alms from us every turn. Each entry is lined with kitschy statues of nats. Pilgrims literally place the money in sacks at the feet of the nats, with separate glass-sided chests serving this noble purpose. Apparently, the glass box law is already operative here.” (2014)

Myanmar - school transport - v.j. photo

Myanmar - vj. photo

People

"I have a friend who was in Myanmar at almost the same time as me and says that his most striking impression was off widespread poverty. Maybe he’s right. All the same, what I think was most memorable for me was the kindness of the people, their openness to communication, and even if, linguistically, they are not really equipped for wide-ranging discussions with foreigners, they smile and don't try to cheat you. Many offer to take your picture (and don’t ask for money). Anyway, poverty is – in my experience, at least – widespread in many Asian countries. Maybe all around the world ... (compared to what?) At least people in Myanmar have something to eat – there’s plenty of food, and it’s cheap. As for accommodation, while it may not meet our idea of a ‘house’, they have somewhere to live. The children of those who are in difficulty (little monks) are supported by the community through breakfast donations. It is difficult to estimate how long the Burmese will treat visitors in this way (it’s worryingly likely that with increased numbers of foreign tourists, everything we find so captivating today will vanish). In Rangoon, a little guy sits down beside me. He’s 6-7 years old, with a big bag on his shoulder, next to his visibly older companion. The little guy keeps saying English words, but in the meantime he's looking around, peering in a trash can, and asking for (and receiving) money from the shops on his way. Although he even talks to me, he doesn’t want to waste his time unnecessarily. From the money he’s received, he stops to buy some food, but even then, someone gives him some cash. Smart kid.” (2013)

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"Children work. They take an active part in the family business, serving customers in shops, waiting tables in restaurants, and helping out in workshops. These may not be cases of criminal child labor, but rather methods of socialization - perhaps more effective than European methods. There are also – at least in appearance – better off and worse off children, and the latter often receive support by becoming young monks, though in appearance they generally follow Western fashions: hair dyed at an early age (reddish shades are fashionable here - regardless of gender) and fashion cut and gelled. Cell phones are also becoming a must.
Thanaka Wood Cream: Used instead of sunscreen, regardless of gender, and primarily on the face - many draw patterns with it (it dries to a buttery color). The substance itself is the rubbed juice of a tree. It has a delicate scent and can of course be bought ready-made in a jar.

“One would think that nowhere could match China in terms of spitting, both in terms of the numbers with this habit and the sheer size/quantity of expectorated matter, and in terms of the freedom associated with it. But there is: the secret ingredient is something called betel, which is chewed by the Burmese (I will have to look into the matter more closely), which apparently improves performance in every way. Even the taxi driver who drove us in from the airport was hard at work on the stuff: he managed to squeeze in three servings of the green leaf and - ignoring the elegance lent by his Mercedes – spat the chewed up remains through the window several times while driving at about 100km/h. The teeth of those who chew betel regularly will be red for life, so it’s not exactly a healthy habit, but it is a popular one. One smile is enough to show its adherents.” (2016)

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"People are terribly kind and helpful, and they smile a lot. Most of them have this yellow stuff smeared on their faces, which I later learned is sandalwood cream, called tanaka here. It’s partly traditional and partly worn to protect against the sun. Most people chew betel, which I have written about before in Vietnam. The difference here is that there are “betel factories” on the street, buckets for spitting under the tables in the dining areas, and on the buses, the passengers simply spit the red pulp into empty mineral water bottles.” (2014)
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“Longyi: Ever since the British colonial period, the favorite garment of Myanmarians has endured. It’s a piece of material two meters long and 80 cm wide, reaching to the ankles. It used to be an excellent status symbol depending on its size and material since only the kings and the richest wore these precious silks. Today, everyone wears a longyi, and even the poorest have a piece of woven silk in their wardrobe. Tradition dictates that men and women tie it differently: men’s tend to be plaid or striped, meaning it can be worn in a greater variety of ways, while the more ornate female longyi - often with a black belt - can only be worn in one way. Ethnic groups living in different parts of the country use different motifs. As we gradually explored Myanmar during our stay, it became clear that the longyi is much more than a curious garment, it is a small imprint of Burmese history, as well as an outfit appropriate for any occasion!” (2018)

Myanmar - selfie - v.j. photo

Myanmar - Mandalay - little girl with traditional sunblock cream on her - v.j. photo

Myanmar - man - v.j. photo

Tourist etiquette

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Myanmar - please, don't photo - v.j.

Gastronomy

"The seeds of betel palm are consumed in Southeast Asia for pleasure. The nutrient tissue of the seed is cut into slices and wrapped in the leaves of the betel pepper together with in lime powder and spices. Chewing releases various active ingredients, including the mildly intoxicating substance areca and the red color it produces. This in turn stimulates saliva production and stains the saliva red. Betel chewing suppresses hunger and is said to kill intestinal parasites, but blackens teeth and may also be a cause of mouth cancer.
 

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“Thanks to its geographical location, traditional Myanmar cuisine has been influenced by the exciting gastronomy of neighboring countries, specifically India, China, and Thailand. Curry arrived thanks to the Indian influence, while certain baking techniques, soy sauce, and various pasta variations were borrowed from the Chinese, and fried insects, among much else, came from Thailand. They also retained the traditions of tea-making from the time of British colonization.
Unofficially, the quintessential, traditional food of Burmese is mohinga soup. This hearty, delicious, one-course meal is mostly eaten for breakfast, but can easily be found at street breweries and restaurants at any time of the day. Given that mohinga is a noodle soup that includes fish sauce, lemongrass, and chili, Westerners with sensitive stomachs are definitely advised to hold off until at least lunchtime. The base of the soup is rice noodles and fish, which is first filleted, chopped, and seasoned. The special combination of lemongrass, ginger, onion, garlic, chili, coriander, and turmeric gives it a special taste. They are made more special with fish cake and lime to taste.” (2018)

Attractions

Inle Lake

Myanmar - Lake Inle - Intha fisherman - Elter photo

Inle Lake - ,, village street" - n.a. photo

Inle Lake - overwater dwellings - s.m. photo

Inle Lake - n.a. photo

Myanmar - Inle Lake - s.p. photo

Myanmar - Inle Lake - rowing competition - Elter photo

Amarapura

Myanmar - Amarapura - U Bein Bridge - Elter photo

Myanmar - Amarapura - U Bein Bridge - Elter photo

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