Frommer's Guide to MyanmarFrommers travel guide for Myanmar
Southeast Asia in brief
From a geographical point of view, Southeast Asia is varied and breathtaking. One of the oldest in the hemisphere is the rich rainforest of Malaysia and Borneo. Scuba and snorkelling enthusiasts come from all over the globe to breathtaking dive sites in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In Southeast Asia there is also a culture crucible, a cross of Chinese, Southeast Asian and Tibetan influence.
Think of the Sri Lankans who moved Theravada Buddhism with its quiet and peaceful paths from Myanmar to Thailand and Laos. Alternatively, the Hindu dealers who took old Hinduism to Cambodia and influenced the architectural style of the magic town of Angkor. Meanwhile, seagoing Arabian businessmen were importing Islam into the coastlines of Malaysia and Indonesia, and added another interesting area.
China's influence on cultures remains powerful in Vietnam, the only south-east Asia country directly under the direct rule of past China states. In addition, from the end of the 14th century onwards Europeans began to import Western cultures into towns such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang and Melaka; the style of Europe's colonialism is still evident in the architectural and culinary styles of most regional states.
Traversing an interna-tional frontier in Southeast Asia is a step into another dimension. Whereas cozmopolitan locations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok offer the best luxurious restaurants and the most sophisticated culinary highlights, up-and-coming towns such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Chiang Mai offer culture curios at every turn when it comes to reconciling tradition with contemporary developments.
Thailand has 3 decade-long history of developing tourists, for example, but those looking for a rather filthy adventure can go to Cambodia or Laos, which are still off the well-trodden paths of most people. There is a relaxed Tioman Island (Malaysia) for every luxury Bali.
Of course it is important to speak about those South East Asia nation states that have security or policy misgivings, and the following paragraphs deal in more detail with the policy upheaval. Stay away from secular or preoccupation and you know that the relatively stable situation of many South East Asia economies is short-lived; it is not unusual for there to be upheaval.
Every year Thailand sees more travellers than any of its neighbours and seduces everyone, from luxurious holidaymakers to young shooting rucksacks, Junket and Europe. You' ll see young pros on break, naïve tourist looking for this "One Night in Bangkok", and psychologists who hang out for Buddhism and Asiatic friendship.
A lot of travel to Southeast Asia starts here or ends here, and it is a good guide. Not to speak of the city's night life, with the shabby elements that made the town notorious. On the way southwards you will find the mythical Phuket Islands beach and resort; Ko Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand, is a similar one.
Travellers who are complaining that Thailand has become too touristic can look to Laos. There are fears that Laos will adopt Thailand's fast-track approach to developing, that the northern ethnical communities will be turned into wildlife sanctuaries and that the country's lovely monasteries will become themed landmarks. Vientiane is amazingly petty for a capitol.
Every other edifice devoted to an intergovernmental aid office reminds us that Laos is one of the ten least developed nations in the hemisphere. The next stop is Luang Prabang, UNESCO Heritage Site, a heaven with beautiful Buddhist shrines - a dozen of them in the midst of shaded roads leading to the Mekong River.
When you have a moment, Xieng Khouang, just south of Vientiane, is home to Southeast Asia's Stonehenge, the plain of jars, giant cryptic rock boulders that somehow survive bombings and guerrillas. Eco-tourism is expanding at a rapid pace, and some new and interesting routes into the Laotian jungles and streams link isolated ethnical towns (especially in the north).
Most of the tourists go from N to S, beginning in Hanoi and ending in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or the other way round. Southwards, Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is the gate to the Mekong Delta. Head northerly through Dalat, a mountain resort in the chilly hills, and then on to Nha Trang, an up-and-coming town.
Further North is Hoi An, one of the most attractive towns in the area, and a scenic maze of cobbled roads, historical monuments and many shops. Even further away, the former capitol Hue is full of many architectonic pearls of China and Europe. Drive eastwards to see the beautiful Halong Bay with centuries of rugged cliffs rising directly from the ocean; or journey to the far North into Sapa, where you will see Vietnam's mountain folk in the hills separating N.V.A. from China.
Recently, the visitor has defied the remains of the country's chaotic state and, by accident, found his way to Siem Reap and the most important southeast Asian culture destination, Angkor Wat, the splendid ruined sanctuaries of the powerful Angkor civilisation from 800 to 1200 AD. With Phnom Penh, the main town, and Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor Stamps, the landscape is secure and open to adventure-loving travellers willing to face the rugged streets and shelters.
However, many still restrict their journey in Cambodia to the Angkor Temple. It is important in the countryside to keep on well-trodden paths and walk further away with an expert guide. Southeast Asian culture seems to unite in Singapore, making it perhaps one of the best places to start exploring the area.
Fascinating museum exhibitions exploring Asia's civilisations, South East Asia and even the story of the Second World War. Singapore is routinely destroyed by claims that it is too westerly, too fashionable, too sanitary - to Disneyland. This guide has faced a number of politically sensitive situations in Myanmar - situations that have made us challenge the usefulness of putting people there.
Myanmar's Myanmar army government's cruelty and injustice has been punished and embargoed by the world. In fact, a trip to Myanmar is a one-of-a-kind insight into the country's wealth of buddhistic traditions, old cultures and breathtaking scenery.
However, while some promote touring and believe that the West gives Burma's problems a say, others call for a tourist ban in this restless state and say that visitors' bucks subsidise and promote bullying. Due to the fragile Myanmar policy environment, we have chosen to ban the Burmese government from our reporting.
When you choose to travel to Myanmar, we recommend that you stay with a renowned travel agency. and Exotissimo Travel (#0303 Sakura Tower, 339 Bogyoke Aung San St., Kyauktada Township, Yangon; phone 951/255-427 or 951/255-388; facsimile 951/255-428; firstname.lastname@example.org). Probably one of the most ignored nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is one of our favorite nations for a very particular reason: It is not Thailand.
When I had so much to do in Thailand, I heard every merchant screaming: "Hello! Featured in "Special for you" and every backpack tourist boasting of $5 cockroaches in guest houses is looking forward to Malaysia just to get out of the tourist busines. What makes Malaysia so underrated? In Thailand, when we speak to Thais, we are often seen as wallet richers.
We have interesting discussions and value our own experience when we encounter Malaysian people. Ubud is situated in the midst of magnificent Hindu shrines and magnificent mountains - famous for its terrace paddy paddies - and is supporting a fellowship of indigenous and foreign art. There is still much to do in Bali, and the warm people of Bali are looking forward to the returns of the West who have bring so much to this magic island.