Holidaying in Burma
Burma, or officially called Myanmar, is a jewel waiting to be discovered in the area of tourism. With a literacy rate of 92.7%, an average life expectancy of 65.6 (placing it at 170 in the world), Burma is still largely undeveloped in the areas of transportation and road infrastructure making it less attracting to travellers, safety wise. Nevertheless, this country is teeming with holiday activities numerous enough to entice the most adventurous vacationers.
Southeast Asia’s largest mainland country, Burma has approximately 2,100 kilometres of land area separating its far north of sharp Himalayan foothills located between Yunnan and Assam, and its farthest south of thin, 2,000-kilometre, coastal strip running along the Malay Peninsula trailing off into numerous tropical islands. In between, you will find mountains covered with year round thick snow, jungles teeming with all sorts of wildlife and plants and its many might rivers. Examples of the latter are the Ayeyarwady, the muggy Delta, and Salween. Here, you can find a host of hilltribe peoples living at the heart of the formerly known “Golden Triangle”, the Shan Plateau and Kachin Hills. Burma also has several ruined cities like those of Bagan and Mrauk U and still standing locales of colonial heritage such as the temples of Yangon.
Fans of literary legends such as Kipling, Orwell and Conrad can relive their favourite setting at Burma while those who want to visit famous movie settings like the Burma Road or just pretend to be part of the Chindits and Merill’s Marauders can spend days and nights in one of the many towns which, while having their colonial names change, still possess their mysterious sense of adventure. Indeed, Burma’s incredible history can be found in towns like Arakan, Mandalay, Moulmein, Mergui, Tavoy, Myitkyina and Maymo.
Burma shares its northern borders with India, Bangladesh and China, its eastern borders with Thailand and Laos, and its western side limited by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. This geography has been the reason why Burma has been dubbed as the heart of Asia showcasing a mixture of influence in its ethnicity, culture, history and cuisine.
The Bamar, or the ethnic Burmese, comprises a meagre 60 percent of the population, with the remaining 40 percent is composed of above one hundred diverse ethnic groups like the northwest Chins (famous for their tattooed faces), the Palaung, Kachin, Lisu, Lahu, Akha, Pa-O, Shan and Padaung in the northeast (the latter known for their long necks) and the ferocious fighter race of days long gone, the Wa. While the Mon, Karen and Kayah States occupy the southern part, the coastal areas of the north are populated by the Muslim Rakhine. The southern island dwellers, in addition, are animist Moken, often called “Sea Gypsy” people.
Noteworthy is the variety and originality of its food and the level of proficiency of the Burmese people in English compared to its neighbours along with the quality of safety of most of its tourist areas, as its tourism industry becomes more developed. As new flow of overseas outlay increases, so does its visitors which means the country is shifting towards a more open door policy after years of seclusion.
While several security issues still distress a few localities and the political environment remains unstable, new infrastructure are being constructed, fresh travel destinations are being offered, tourists are now permitted to use land crossings, and towns now have internet technology! Although the recent political coup has been problematic, democratic efforts and the liberation and presence of Aung San Suu Kyi keep optimism afloat.
As it is expected, the sudden pouring of numerous visitors to Burma has caused several problems as the infrastructure fail to support the influx. Unfortunately, frequently sought out destinations such as Bagan, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe, Ngapali and Inle Lake are experiencing overcrowding in its markets, hotels and restaurants, especially during the high seasons, when businessmen most often take advantage with their overpricing techniques.
On the bright side however, many regions or lesser-known destinations, which were previously remote, are now opening for business. Places such as Mawlamyine, Hsipaw, Hpa-an, Kengtung and Pathein are recommended or you may opt for visiting popular destinations during the low seasons for higher savings. With such a beautiful, still fairly untouched country such as Burma, avid visitors aiming to be the first to discover new destinations are arriving by the truckload so if you choose to go, hesitate no longer and go!