Duration: 17 days
Expenses: AUD$560 or AUD$33/day
“Myanmar will be the adventure”, my friend said. It seemed like it would be when the first image I saw of it was a map showing all the red areas off limits to foreigners. But it didn’t seem off limits at all.
I don’t recall seeing a single uniformed military official. Nobody watching us. It actually felt very free and everyone seemed to act like it had been the norm for ages. It was as relaxed as a pair of Aladdin pants.
It was a good little adventure though, and very different to anything I’d done in a while. Overloaded motorbike rides through chaotic Asian traffic, cramming into the back of a dump truck with dozens of locals to go see a giant golden rock in Kyaikhteeyoe and playing Russian roulette with street food in Yangon.
Exploring Bagan by scooter is definitely the best way to enjoy the dust bowl where you might be attacked by puppy armies when you enter a temple. Plus what better a country to get your Zen on at a monastery.
I had read that cash and ATMs were hard to get hold of, and that I’d have to use American dollars too. But soon after arriving in the airport I learnt that wasn’t true either. The lady at the exchange said “Myanmar money OK here”, as she gestured outside the airport. ATMs were in all the bigger places and I didn’t use a single American dollar.
Tourism and getting around was all very easy and well organised. The Burmese people were all very friendly and honest. It was a breeze, all whilst upholding it’s “more authentic than Thailand” reputation. No sprookers, no souvenir sellers hassling you and pretty much no haggling. Generally, the price was just the price, because they’re not trying to rip you off.
The locals were happy to let us in on their customs and explain to us what it was all for. Just show a little appreciation and ask for permission and you’ll be met equally graciously.
Bagan and Inle Lake were certainly teeming with tourists, but the areas in the south east, like Hpa-an, certainly felt much more off the beaten track and there is more in the north and west to see too.
I think I spent the right amount of time in Myanmar and I saw everything I wanted to. I think a few more days would have been all I could have handled. The lack of food diversity and flavour is probably what made me draw the line in the end. Which is surprising because Burmese food in Canberra is punchy and delicious, but we only found those flavours when we had home cooked meals in villages between Kalaw and Inle Lake or shared alms with monks at Pa-auk.