Myaing MyanmarMyanmar Myaing
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from the network
Municipally driven travel is a great way for travelers to enjoy a sense of indigenous cultures while enabling the municipalities they are visiting to conserve their own unique blend of nature and cultures. If I can do that when I hear Myanmar's first community-based tourist development was opened to the public last year with Intrepid's help, I couldn't have waited to get there to review it.
Designed in cooperation with the multinational NGO ActionAid, the community-based tourist development program is situated in the municipality of Myaing, one of Myanmar's least prosperous and least populated areas. More than 1,150 members of the parish, who live in a group of four towns less than two hour's driving distance from Bagan, benefit from the very limited number of visitors to the site to reduce the effects on the town.
At the moment it is only possible as a visitor on Intrepid's Best of Myanmar Tou. Myaing' community-based tourist adventure is currently a one-night programme with visitors visiting all four towns, with visitors staying (and taking most meals) in a specially constructed communal cabin in the area. For example, in the first town, we made a stop at the localschool to give out some much needed English literature to the pupils, and went to a parish center where the locals were working on making a few folk tunes for an imminent celebration.
Then, we roll up our sleeve to grow fruits to serve a small village hosts, before we sit down for a tasty dinner of poultry curries and vegetable meals cooked by the Womens Self-help Group (SHG). They are also administer "revolving credit funds" belonging to each municipality to help members buy needs (such as seed or a stitching machine) to help them earn incomes for their own households.
At the second town, we underwent the classical Myanmar rite of having our faces decorated with "Thanaka", a grinded rind cosmetics put on the face every day by most of our wives (and some men) as a bunch of nosy villagers who were being observed. Enjoying the natural chilling feeling of the yellowy pastes on our skins, a native speaker spoke to us with video tools through rural living as Joseph translat.
While our discussions with the natives (few of whom spoke English) were restricted to simple courtesies, the lecture was useful to give us a better insight into our own story and our own people. Late in the afternoons, after we had refreshed in the chalet, we went on our bicycles for a comfortable ride to the third town, where we went with a native couple for our evening teas and went to the convent, which (just) stands after almost 200 years.
We soon found out that the forth town is the spring of the fabric carrier bag, which will be made available to all visitors on Intrepid's Myanmar trips. Returning to the camp just in good season, we watched the sunset over the dam, rounded off our bustling days with another selection of delicious regional food and a typical dancing show.
It is the dam itself - the building of which is administered by the local government in order to keep corrupt conditions at bay - that has created a vital artery for the farmers affected by the severe flooding, enabling them to make a livelihood on the spot instead of leaving their communities in pursuit of work. There are also job possibilities for local people.
ActionsAid is currently monitoring the daily operation of the camp, with the view that the communities will take more responsibility in due course. In addition to the simple but characteristic rooms, the Communal Laodge has a beautiful large outdoor dinning room, while the entrance hall also serves as a souvenir store filled with homemade items such as hand-made shawls and fossilized wooden chains.
It took me less than 24 hrs to complete the community-based tourist development but it was as worthwhile - if not more - than my trip to the historic sites of Myanmar (yes, even Bagan). Action Aid and Intrepid have provided a very unique, community-based tourist adventure for the visitor and, as I could say, for the people.
ActionsAid is currently carrying out feasability surveys on similar community-based tourist activities across the entire state and I can't look forward to learning more.