Better known by its former name, Burma, this once thriving British colony of teak forests is now a pariah state which has been under strict military junta control for four decades. That doesn't hide the fact that it has an incredible cultural legacy which attracts a small flow of tourists.
Multiethnic make up of the country, Yangon's Shwedagon Paya pagoda, Mandalay's historic attractions, the traditional lifestyle in Shan State, Bagan's hundreds of chedis, Bago's pagodas, handicrafts in Pathein.
The human rights record of the junta, widespread poverty, areas off-limits to tourists, poor infrastructure, hot season temperatures, beggars and petty thieves, inadequate medical facilities, poor food hygiene and tropical diseases.
High season: November to February
Low season: May to September
US/Can: Visa Required
EU: Visa Required
Aus/NZ: Visa Required
Time: GMT+6 1/2
Electricity: 230V 50Hz
Most 3-flat plugs (UK)
Money: Myanmar kyat
1US$ = 6.6 kyat (1,200 black market)
Phone: ICC (+95) Outgoing: 00
The people are welcoming, if somewhat subdued, and it's safe to travel here provided you stick to the government prescribed routes, don't talk politics to the locals and spend your overpriced foreign exchange certificates. Despite the depressing human rights situation and sheer poverty from isolation, the desperate locals will appreciate your visit.
Yangon is no longer the nation's capital, with the generals having moved politics to a more secretive location, yet it houses some of its greatest wonders - namely the She Pagoda. This sacred religious site is steeped in legend and a favorite with pilgrims. More Buddhist treasures can be admired at Bagan, with its sea of pagodas, and Mandalay, home to dozens of temples and a reconstructed royal palace.
Myanmar is a country with contradictions both strange and sad. It’s blessed with huge amounts of natural resources and stunning beauty, but its population toils in poverty; its rich history and fabulous temples are a natural draw for millions of tourist dollars, yet it sees only a trickle of that potential.
If you do decide to go, and are prepared to deal with the risks and restrictions, Myanmar can be a breathtakingly beautiful country, with friendly people and endless splendor. One only hopes that the situation will improve, and the country will eventually be able to take advantage of all it has to offer.
Note: Many think that visiting Myanmar only provides a revenue stream that the government uses to continue repressing its citizens, while others say that visiting is an important way to support the locals by spending money at non-government businesses. It’s complicated, and serious research should precede any visit.
Going to Myanmar is quite a challenging task for those who are only used to luxury. The most realistic means of reaching Yangon is from Bangkok, but flights also arrived from East India and Bangladesh, China, Malaysia and Singapre. You can also fly to Myanmar from Chiang Mai in Thailand. Yangon Airways provides domestic flights to key attractions around the country. Driving overland from India or Thailand is unrealistic due to restrictions and safety. A rail service will get you North to Mandalay with modest comfort and reliability. Trishaws, taxis and pick-up trucks can be flagged down anywhere in the country to take you places, they are run down but cheap..