Lonely Planet BurmaThe Lonely Planet Burma
Mystery of Burma and the phenomenon of the lonely planet.
Housing rates have risen further, but I expect them to level off in the next 12-18 month. This is Lonely Planet: In July 2014, Myanmar released an update in which things like the price structure were refreshed to adapt them to current conditions. See my other Myanmar/Burma and Myanmar Travel Tips for more detail.
As an example, the latest Myanmar Lonely Planet (11th edition) was released in December 2011, with much of the research probably done 3-12+ month earlier. However, I have my Lonely Planet: Burma/Myanmar since my first big journey to the land in early 2012, and I would suggest taking it (and above all a phrase book).
The last update only took place a few month before I purchased it, much of the information at the moment was quite recent and up to date in a way that was not possible to hit with the little information found on the web of the land. It is not only that, but access to the web while in the countryside is at best a sluggish and disappointing experience and often not even an optional feature.
However, the trouble is that it misleads the humans. There are too many individuals who are treating it as a piece of evangelization, and in a land like Myanmar (Burma), which is undergoing such rapid change, much of the information is not only imprecise but, in some cases, quite the opposite. Well to Lonely Planet's loan, they have some upgraded Internet sources, but not a traveller with whom I have talked, had it verified before they set off on their trip.
Here are some things to consider when you treat your Myanmar Lonely Planet guide as the guide of the tour deities in Myanmar. First thing many folks think when they come into the land is moneys. By mid-2012, with strict penalties against the state, this means that there were no local ATM' s and all the currency you needed for your journey had to be in the form of 100 dollar bill.
Lonely Planet says Burma also uses FEC (which was basically Myanmar's travelers' currency, $1USD equals 1FEC), but in all the times I've been in the U.S. in recent years, I've never seen one except behind glasses in a tourism business. Largest issue on the Lonely Planet:
In Myanmar it's about currency exchange. The Sule Pagoda in the centre of Yangon, where there are many foreign hotel accommodation in the vicinity, is one of the most frequented places to exchange currency for most newcomers. When you walk around, you've got a literal dozen of men lining up on the pavement who want to "change money" over and over again while you wave 80-90 1000k bills wraped in elastic band.
Unlike benches (who gives you 5000k comments, about $4. 50USD), these bills of exchange in shoddy comments 1000k each. They' re counting it out in front of you, sometimes a few time, with small problems here and there, and after using a little light touch, they are sending you away. As of March 2012 (perhaps a few month earlier), just a few month after the release of the last Myanmar Lonely Planet, the airports and banking is now the best places to do it.
And even small cities like Pindaya in Shan State have a place to do it. By lifting the imposition of business penalties, it has given businesses such as Visa and Mastercard the opportunity to start offering their products and solutions in the state from October 2012. For more information about cash machines and everything else that has to do with cash when travelling around the countryside, please see my column "How To Make With Money in Myanmar (Burma)".
Much has been said that Myanmar is an expensively travelled destination. Whilst some things here are cheaper than in neighbouring states such as Thailand, the land is still very inexpensive to visit. The inflow of tourists in the last 48 month has pushed up the price of inns in the face of increasing demands and increasing expenses.
Due to these two changes, the cost of accommodations is often twice as high as the Lonely Planet Burma travel guide. It' increased to $25-$35 for an AC powered singles over the last 12month. My old Myanmar guesthouse, Golden Kalaw, is listing as single/double @ $5/$8 (with bathroom), which is now $18/$26 but not everywhere, and the pricing in Pindaya, a small city that sees fewer overseas visitors, has not seen the same kind of jack-up.
On the eve of his historical journey to Yangon in November 2012, a Korean cabbie is showing his new Aung San Suu Kyi and Barack Obama bill. When I first visited the land, I was so cautious that I asked only a few unanswered question about these subjects, and only after the natives had raised them themselves.
Time is changing, and in April 2012 Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself was voted into office in MEPs. As everywhere in the whole wide globe, some folks like to speak about policy, others don't. Burma is no different. So, if they want to discuss policy, they will. Previous detainees, those who have been implicated in the past and in the present policy movements, and ordinary individuals have shown no anxiety about anyone listening to what they have to say, even when I ask them about the potentially sensitive topics.
A few years ago, however, it was different, and a good way to get an idea is the Burma VJ ace. It is a video telling the stories of the video makers who filmed the 2007/2008 protest and channelled the Myanmar material to tell the rest of the earth what happened in their own enclosed area.
Most of the participants were imprisoned, escaped from the countryside or just "disappeared". Get a copy of Burma VJ and look at it before taking a little angle. Myanmar message in Bangkok. It is best to get there early to beating the crowd when you apply for a Myanmar in Bagnkok.
You may have been refused a Myanmar/Burma entry permit in the past if you were a reporter, photographer or similar. Most would try to avoid this by including another profession on their visas and work histories. During the April 2012 elections, reporters were everywhere and filled the hotel to the rim to report on the events.
Over the past few month, the authorities have been talking about making it much simpler for reporters to travel and work. Not only did the Bangkok authorities issue a visitor to Bangkok for a journalism lover, they also saw his foreign media visits in his passports and accelerated the procedure for him so that he could depart in a few hour by air.
You can actually do all this on-line via the offical website of the Myanmar website. Keep in mind that the travel guides are only a tour leader and let the land and the locals take you on the itinerary. Myanmar Lonely Planet is a testimony to a period and attitudes, but it should not be the last thing you say about how you deal with this wealthy and living arsenal.