Why Myanmar? If I am being honest, the main reason I wanted to travel to Myanmar was simple: Bagan. The thought of the scenic landscape of plains extending as far as your eyes can see painted with hundreds of pagodas full-in Jungle Book-style made my traveler heart pump faster. And it was every bit as good as I expected. And then a bit more.
However, what I did not expect was to fall in love with a country that is so diverse and scenic all around. From the decadent and colourful streets of Yangon, to the freshness and beauty of the rice fields and tea terraces in the Shan Highlands and the hip and laid back spirit of Inle Lake, Myanmar came and smack me in the face. It hit me with its delicious food, its welcoming people with a heart of gold and the surprising beauty in every corner. Also, the fact that the country was closed to the outside world for a while and was therefore a bit less over-exploited than its (still wonderful) neighbour Thailand was a big plus. Being from Barcelona, I have a natural tendency to try to avoid tourists (even when I am one).
Some interesting facts about Myanmar
Before going deep into what is there to do in Myanmar, here are a few facts you should know before visiting Myanmar:
1. Old school Southeast Asia
Myanmar (previously Burma) is a country in Southeast Asia that is very different to its neighbours. Firstly, as I mentioned, because of the fact that it was closed up for much longer, so it keeps the feeling of what SEA was before tourism landed on it. Also, unlike other countries of SEA, it has influences from China, India and Bangladesh, spicing it up a notch.
2. Religion is a pillar in Myanmar society
It is a very traditional country. What I mean with this is that religion (mainly buddhism) is a very important part of society and thus, as a visitor, you must be respectful.
Although some temples have already become a tourist attraction, most of them are still a site of prayer and introspection. Dress appropriately, meaning cover your knees and shoulders, at least when you walk in temples. And remember to take off your shoes (and socks!) at the door.
Also, monks are very respected members of society and for that reason they need to be treated with respect. That doesn’t mean that you cannot have a laugh with them or that you have to give money to the hundreds of them that will come to you saying “Donation!”. But make sure that you don’t touch them or make them feel insulted in any way
Moving around in Myanmar
Public transportation SUCKS, so prepare to walk a lot, take your fair share of taxis and even hop in locals’ motorbikes. It looks more scary from the sideways anyway.
For intercity transportation, internal flights are relatively cheap, usually under 50€ one way, but the intercity buses are very cheap and the “VIP versions” are really nice. Sometimes private vans can also be used, but the buses have better facilities (and usually better prices). I would avoid the train as it is slow and bumpy.