Myanmar also known as Burma is a country of faith with thousands of temples, pagodas and stupas bordered by China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India. An off the beaten path destination that recently opened its doors to visitors witnessing its stunning sunrises and sunsets. A place where everything is affordable, people are friendly and it has the most stunning natural sceneries and train ride views. What more can you ask for? Here are some reasons and experiences I listed down to convince you to pack your bags and book that ticket to Myanmar.
- IT IS VISA FREE
Yes! My dear Filipino friends, we are blessed with 14 days free visa entry to Myanmar granting that it is for tourism purpose only. Although I experienced extra work in checking in with the airline both in Manila and my connecting flight in Malaysia because my tickets leaving Myanmar is from different city to where I’m landing. I had to explain to them that I will land travel from Yangon to Mandalay and that was the only time that they allowed me to board the plane. It is just a minor challenge but other than that we are still free to enter Myanmar and experience the country.
- IT IS OFF THE BEATEN PATH
It was 2011 when the country opened its door to tourism after the 5-decade military government. Due to some safety issues, it was difficult to market Myanmar as a tourist destination compared to its neighboring Southeast Asian countries. But with the hard work of their government, the country slowly emerges in tourism attracting many tourists and travellers. Even when the numbers of visitors continue to rise, it is still not as touristic as other countries in Southeast Asia. You can still take hundreds of photos in one spot without being photobombed. Traveling this country is quite a challenge too since the best and cheapest way to go around is via motorbike. Although taxis are available in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay but it is not applicable in ancient city of Bagan. You can also experience being up close and personal with the locals by riding the Yangon Circular Train and visiting Minnathu Village. These activities will give you a chance to interact with locals and see the real country and not just the touristic side of it. If you are up for this type of adventure then this country is for you.
- IT IS EXTREMELY CHEAP
When I say “extremely” I am not exaggerating. I remember having a decent meal in Bagan for only Ks 1,000 (₱35, $0.66) VIP first class bus for only Ks 16,000 (₱541, $11) and entering waterfalls without paying any cent. What more can I ask for? Don’t be surprise if I say that I only spent ₱ 10,000 ($200) for my 9 days stay.
- THERE’S LOW TO ZERO CHANCE OF BEING RIP OFF
As a budget traveler for five years, I always make sure to work on my budget without sacrificing my safety and comfort. Since I have a limited budget I always make sure I am paying the right price of any goods or services I am getting. But since you are a tourist and sometimes unaware of the normal prices of the country you are visiting, sometimes you cannot get away being ripped off or overcharged. I have millions of experience being ripped off or overpriced by taxi drivers, travel agencies or locals. I started to believe that, it is part of traveling experience and a norm. Fortunately when I visited Myanmar that belief changed. Locals are very helpful and precise in giving directions, instructions and will lead you on the cheapest option that you can take. I remember when I asked my hostel receptionist about the bus going to Bagan, he told me to take the cheaper bus because they are all the same when it comes to amenities. They’re just different companies. He also told me to walk two block pass by the hostel because it is where the van going to bus terminal instead of taking the taxi. Plus the local sellers are not pushy in selling their goods to you. They know how to step back when you tell them you are not buying. And again the prices of goods are cheap so you don’t feel you are being overcharged.
- THE LOCALS ARE THE HAPPIEST
For my nine days stay, I never felt that the locals I met are stressed with something. They have the aura of contentment and satisfaction in life. When I was riding the Yangon Circular Train, this was my chance to get up close and personal with locals. I am amazed how they still manage to smile and laugh on the train after an epic experience of rushing into the train carrying heavy sacks of their crop to be transported to the local market. Myanmar is a struggling country but you couldn’t see that on their faces. Somebody told me that it is because of their belief in Buddhism. People strongly believe in karma that if they do something bad, things will not go their way. So they always stay honest and contented as it will give them happiness.
- THEIR COSTUMER SERVICE IS ONE OF A KIND
As a struggling country with low cost of living, I didn’t have high hopes when it comes to their services. But, I was amazed whenever I eat even in small eateries, after I placed my order they usually give complementary peanuts, water and tea while waiting for my food. The owner would also take time to sit with the customers and ask if the food is suitable for their taste or too spicy. They explained how it is made or cooked and where they get their ingredients. What surprised me is when they give complementary fruits as a dessert to think that I only paid Ks 3,000 (₱100, $2) or less for my meal. Their VIP buses are also great. Aside from having a comfortable -air conditioned seat with warm clean blanket. They also hand out free bottled water, soda drinks, disposable wet towels and small plastic bag (for you to vomit, just in case) the fact that I only payed Ks 16,000 (₱500, $10). On our way to Mingun Pagoda we stopped by a gasoline station to gas up our motorbike. The lady was handling us cold bottled water. I thought she’s selling them to us so I refused because we already have water with us. Then she told me it’s a “present” they give for free to motorists who pass by their station to gas up. She said it’s a hot sunny day so a lot of motorists are thirsty so they give complimentary drinks to them. You might say I’m impressed with their services because of the freebies I got but the thing is you are paying less of what you are getting. Sometimes you just suck it if the service is not that good because that’s what you get from paying less but not in Myanmar. I always admire the kindness and patience of the people here. I never experienced someone throwing an attitude nor find reason to complain because they are doing their best to give you the best service.
- IT IS VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY
I am not a vegetarian but traveling for five years I met a lot of people who are very strict with their diet or practice vegetarianism. I met a lot of them in Myanmar. A lot of vegetarian travellers I talked to told me they don’t struggle in selection of food in Myanmar because it caters to their needs. I remember a small eatery in Bagan where the menu is labeled and categorized with V for vegetable meals, C for chicken and B for beef so it is easy to know what to order.
Isn’t that awesome? I hope this list will convince you to add Myanmar on your bucket list. I assure you it is something worth it and unique.