For the Visitor at least....
I was just thinking back to last year (2008) and my memories of Myanmar or Burma as the British named it back in the days of Empire! Anyway it was a productive year last year as regards visiting Asian Countries and at one stage I managed to spend 5 months cycling from Thailand through Cambodia to Laos, Vietnam and into Yunnan in South West China. And all that with nothing but a medium sized camera bag strapped to the back carrying the few clothes i needed along with necessary camera equipment and a few bits and bobs, in all total weight must have been about 7kg's......(if that).
The Pictures opposite are quite self explanatory.
My rather cheap mountainbike with not panniers but rather an unorthodox spider or bungee keeping the baggage on the bike rack.. The bike is a Marawuti, probably bit of a non-descript cycle in Europe and the same goes for Asia where its made I believe. Nobody seems to have heard of it. I bought it in Thailand from Bangkok, I forget the name now but there is a street somewhere there that is full of scooter and bicycle shops where one can buy new or secondhand bikes at reasonable prices.
Anyway, I am digressing as usual, the 'Cycling Through Asia' post will have to come at a later date when my memory banks have been refilled (re-filed?)
Let's get back to the 'Golden Land' as they call it or Myanmar (Burma).....
I spent a month last year in Myanmar previous to the Cycling jaunt and would like to give a brief account on how it is there (now I have the oppurtunity to reach a wider audience) for a visitor or anyone who is interested in going.
Travelling in Myanmar is a wonderful experience, a beautiful land with lots of beautiful and hospitable peoples. It's extremely safe and contrary to popular belief not quite as bad off as some people believe. Personally I have seen much more poverty in places such as the Indian Subcontinent ie. India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh!
Pyin OO Lwin High Street - Ex British Hill Station
In Myanmar people are relatively well dressed and food is aplenty with restaurants and teashops everywhere so for a foreign visitor willing to eat Indian, Shan, Bamar, Chinese foods to name but a few you will never go hungry.It's also relatively clean (some places much more than others) and appears to have a well ordered society where the many different races of people seem to have a lot of respect for one another.
Young Burmese Friends
Materially, compared to developed countries Myanmar is obviously lacking, wether that is a good or bad thing is another question. After all materially rich countries inturn tend to suffer by becoming poorer in other ways, Socially impotent even, societies that lack real soul. (Obviously this is open to debate!)
What makes Myanmar a great place to visit is that it is uncorrupted at the moment by western influences although I'm sure that will change in time. Change is inevitable no matter how much a person or a Government forcibly try to prevent this.
Thatbyinnyu Pagoda - Bagan
For a lone traveller good and decent rooms can be had for 4/5$ at the moment with toilet paper, soap, towels, attached bathroom and breakfast included. Quite reminiscent of some S.E.Asian countries 15 or more years ago! And my experience was that room rates were often payable in Chats the local currency
which seemed to be widely accepted.
The need to pay in dollars was only for transport such as flights, trains or boats and entrance to main tourist sights. And if your lucky enough when changing money to get a wad of the newer issue smaller 1000 chat bills it's far less of a burden than one would imagine and it's easy enough to change money at good rates as you go along. (At time of writing - 2008!)
Local Bamar Market Traders
Living costs for a month's stay are very low, even comparable with India if you like doing things local.
The real point about Myanmar though is that it is one of those special countries in the world, of which these are becoming very few nowadays.
And whatever you do there, whoever you meet will be something you remember for many years to come. I was particularly overwhelmed with getting close to the locals, being a lone traveller this is always the case and I could experience full on their warmth, hospitality and good honest nature.
Everyday there was a special moment somewhere along the line and more often than not the unplanned experiences were far more rewarding than the planned.
A real boon if you are a lover of S.E.Asian markets is the tribal gathering to be found at these places especially at the rotating markets of southern shan state. Always colourful, always interesting, to take breakfast or lunch there and watch the fascinating world go by.
As for places to visit and stay I won't leave any names as there are so many in the country and with a standard visa you can't see them all anyway, just get yourself a good map and go and enjoy, whatever you do and wherever you go it will surely be a memorable and rewarding experience.Travel options are wide and varied.
A special thanx to all those wonderful peoples of the Golden Land and may they recieve all their dreams and wishes in the future, for better or for worse.
May the blessings of a thousand Buddha's rain down upon them.....
Om Mani Padme Hum