Is it Safe to Visit BurmaAre you sure it's safe to visit Burma?
Not afraid to come to Myanmar
Although I have heard fervent tales of my Myanmar (formerly Burma ) from my boyfriends, I have reserved the tickets for my brothers and myself from Copenhagen to the former Myanmar capitol, Yangon (formerly Rangoon). At the moment, most Myanmar related reports are focusing on either the Drugs Trade/Golden Triangle, conflicts in some of the isolated areas or the importance of "visiting Myanmar before it is destroyed".
Were there any touristic infrastructures at all? Did contaminated foodstuffs and faeces surround dirty squats that lurk around every nook? Burma is amazing and the earlier you get there, the better. Yangon to Bagan to Mandalay to Inle Lake and back to Yangon couldn't be more safe.
That'?s good stuff. Tourism infrastructures are developing quickly (perhaps too quickly). They have a hard copy of the eVisa document that you present when you arrive in Yangon. That means it was simpler for me to get my Myanmar visas than for me to get my Vietnam visas.
In some parts of Myanmar there are still conflicts. Everything within the touristic areas is secure, trouble-free and the army is practically non-existent here and there outside of a few transporters. Yes, Myanmar has had a hard time for the last 100 years. On the latest where to go and where not (although it looks like it is outdated and more of the land has recently opened).
My proposal was for South-East Asia, drawing on my recent experience in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. After nightfall my motorbike in Bagan ran out of power in a secluded area. 20 more in Myanmar, 10 of them in Myanmar. We' dined a great deal of road meal, even in places where it was clearly only the local people.
Whilst our survivors have undoubtedly to do with much exposure to indigestion, the type of nutrition and general standard of grocery sanitation in the area is good if you adhere to the basic principles of road cooking; you have eaten what the natives are, pay attention to local people, pay attention to irrigation and icing, don't have anything that looks like, and look where there is a high sales.
But I also have a one-on-one hypothesis that part of the cause some folks are reporting a great deal of grocery into Asia is because they order A) a great deal to drink and screw their bellies all the way up B) occidental foods like burgers or chickens or pizzas. Sound secure? Besides only the tourist eats what means it needs to be brought in, which means it's probably not freshness, which means that it' s more difficult to handle and which means that you've probably just ordered the least secure thing on the mealmap.
You know how I said upstairs that there's a fairly well-defined touristic path in Myanmar? Burma announced 2. 45 million visitors in 2015. Considering that most tourism activities are restricted to four or five large areas, this is a huge rise in tourism on a relatively small area.
This is good in many ways, but it also means that the privacy and rough beauty/freedom of exploring places like Bagan will decrease over the years. This also means that the risks of active damage to communities are increasing, such as the government's disputed conservation effort in Bagan. The increase in the number of tourists is bound to bring with it more touristic infrastructures and a fast growing touristic industry.
This is already clearly evident in areas such as Bagan and Inle Lake, but can only be increased, which in turn quickly increases the cost and makes access to indigenous people and more community experience more and more inconvenient. If this cost and the structure evolve, the need will also change the regional economies. Considering that Myanmar has recently established a minimal salary of $2.80 per day (35 eurocent per hour) and that many in the countryside are likely to earn less, this directly means a major change in the structure of the area where a large number of visitors are present, especially when touristic eating places begin to cost 5-8 euros for a food.
What is it about a visit? Burma is at a very particular point where its tourism infrastructures are so advanced that they are still accessible and convenient, but not yet so advanced that you can find growers ploughing their groundnut crops, wives growing paddy paddies by hands, with steers and small horsetaxis being active alongside a growing number of motorbikes and automobiles in the smaller and more rustic citys.
Whilst the rates we saw in Yangon, Bagan and Inle were slightly higher than in other less tourist areas, it was still sensible, especially when you chose to go for them. But will Myanmar be "ruined" if it continues? Simply do not await the same amount of accessibility and personal expertise if you have to spend a few years waiting to do so.
Oddly enough, hostels in Myanmar are quite pricey (in comparison). Considering that a monthly wage in Myanmar is about $70 and you can get a room in a room for the same or less (if you share it), that's very weird. Meals are similar everywhere. At New Bagan and parts of Yangon we saw nutrition for between 2,500 and 5,000 kyat/4USD a forage.
The usual 10-12 hrs per stage trip was about $22 for the first grade coach with a $15 or $10 overprice for an 8 hr mini-break between Bagan and Inle Lake. At Yangon, a 45-minute cab drive from the 8,000-k yat airfield and a cab drive within the town centre usually costs us 2,000-k yat.
At Bagan, one days rent of e-bikes was 6,000 kyats (often reduced to 4,000 kyats+free laundry), while one day's rent of bikes at Inle Lake was 1,500 kyats and an all-day reduced five-passenger cruise and trip was 16,000 kyats + tip. The prices for ballooning over the Bagan remains (which only run during the winters and did NOT when we were there) are already between $300-400 per one.
But one of the things that always surprised us was that the administration demanded entrance money for access to certain areas in the city. and Inle Lake. Registration rates have risen quickly, so don't anticipate that they will last for a year or two.
We use $12 US$ per passenger to enter Inle Lake and $22 or so to enter Bagan. It has many restaurants (tourist and local) and easy entry to the Temple and Bagan is amazing. They are 5-10 minutes by e-bike from the large sanctuaries and have easy entry to the calmer areas of Bagan, which are just a huge row of shrines and couples scattered over a shallow plains about the approximate scale of a small town and crushed stone streets and streets of various sizes, as well as a crossroads of peanuts plots.
Whilst humans point out being able to go to some of the bigger and scalable Buddhist monasteries to be in Old Bagan, these were some of the least convincing parts of Bagan. Go away from the crowds and cobbled streets and take your bicycles back to the centre of Bagan for a lavish adventure.
The first thing that came to my shock about Yangon was that it was cleaner and more contemporary than I expected. Yangon is a traffic town. The town also has a very secure and lively feel to it. The 10 unforeseen rainy nights we spent in Myanmar (we lengthened as much as we liked) contained one full sunny afternoon of strong rains for a few inches.
But Bagan itself is a arid area and despite the high flowing stream the scenery in the valleys is far away from the thick jungles or marshlands we were expecting. The Yangon and Inle Lake tended to have more rains, more waters and a higher mosquito hazard, but it was completely straightforward.
Now that this part of the journey is uncovered, please remain on board for further contributions on Myanmar photographing and more special reflection on my interaction with the Burmese, their story, their civilization and a deeper look at Bagan and Inle Lake.