Myanmar opened doors to international travelers fairly recently. For the first couple of years after that, it was the ultimate hit among everyone looking for new and unexplored paths and routes.
And then, we learned about the Rohingya Crisis. Ever since then, a tough moral question of whether it is ethical to travel to Myanmar remains opened for many. The answer to this question is based on a personal decision that each of us will have to make.
Our Reasons to Visit Myanmar
As someone born and raised in a country that went through two revolutions within a decade, both caused by the rage of the people over the crimes that the government committed, we will say that often, actions of the authorities are not representative of the will of the nation.
Also as someone born to a family, where parents lived through the times of the Iron Curtain, we know for sure how hard it is to get back on the feet after being isolated by the international community. Not for the government. For regular people.
That being said, I hope that those of you who decided to explore Myanmar will find this section of the travel blog useful.
What We Loved About Myanmar
The locals. This is the first thought that comes to mind. Helpful. Non-intrusive. Smiling. Polite. Everywhere we went, we felt safe and taken care of.
The change of pace and atmosphere. Myanmar is an emotional rollercoaster. The hustle and bustle of Yangon may be overwhelming. But then you have the quietness and meditative surroundings of Inle. Then comes a very cozy experience of feeling safe on the streets of Mandalay. And once you feel comfortable and think that you may even understand this country, it is time for all the mysteries of Bagan.
What We Did Not Like About Myanmar
There is only one major concern that we felt. It is the presence of the government in everyday life, even for the tourists. It is in extra-security of the hotels, and additional information required by the hosts. It is a feeling that is hard to describe, but only in Myanmar (and then once again when crossing the border of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), we felt disgusted.
Not by the country. By the procedure. It was a feeling much-too-familiar with everyone who lived in USSR. Neither of us here, in Ukraine, misses the firm hand of the party. And we feel sympathy for the people of Myanmar because it looks like they are going through this experience right now.
What to See In Myanmar
The most typical route involves Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, and Mandalay. If the time allows, many prefer to throw in some extra stops – Kalaw and Hsipaw rural areas, Mingun, Mount Popa, the beaches of Ngapali, and Mrauk U (the list does not sum up all the destinations, though).
Wherever you go, look for the small local businesses to support. The government is not shy in charging the tourists with entrance fees to many areas. But as one of the locals in a village near Bagan once told me, not much of this goes to support the local communities. This makes it so much more rewarding to buy tours not from hotels, but from the locals. Or to purchase a painting by an independent artist rather than in an official gift shop.