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All That Glitters Is Not Gold But

MYANMAR Is

The Diverse Country Of Nature and History

· Asia

All That Glitters Is Not Gold But MYANMAR Is

Mingalarbar everyone!!! That's how you greet each other when in Myanmar or let's say Burma. Many of my friends and readers were surprised when they came to know that I was actually traveling to Myanmar. The reason was very simple; the country is not that famous for tourism yet (well at least not in the Indian tourists). But Myanmar Tourism is definitely working on making it a tourist-friendly destination.

Traveling to Myanmar was not really a great deal at the beginning but after completing the tour; it turned out to be the milestone of my touring life. Sounds different??? Well; this tour was definitely special for me since it was my first ever solo backpacking trip. That was not the plan at the beginning though, but everything turned out to be completely sudden and I was set to fly for Myanmar all on my own.

The country of Myanmar is part of South East Asia and is also sometimes referred as Burma also being the largest country in the region.

Myanmar religion follows Buddhism and wherever you go; you will definitely get to see strong religious practices being followed for Buddhism. There are also many regions in Myanmar where local tribes are living life their way. One of the off the beaten destination and yet worth a visit to know the tribe is Kyaing Tong.

You will see almost every other female with Thanakha (sandalwood paste) on her face; which is said that it protects the skin from strong Sun. Ladies typically wear a top and an ankle length skin fitting skirt and you will see males wearing a shirt and a Lungi (A cloth wrapped around waist up to ankle).

British established Myanmar as their colony during the 19th century; prior to which it was a country ruled by kings of various dynasties. After being independent of the British rule; Myanmar was a democratic country. However; it has been under military rule since 1962.

A. Getting There

1. Since the country is connected by road to various other Asian countries; it gives you multiple options for getting there. But the complexity might differ.

2. Of course, the easiest way is to fly to any of the Myanmar airports which has international connectivity. Most of the flights that fly from Mumbai will take you via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or other Asian destinations depending on the airline you select.

3. I flew from Kolkata since it gave me the cheapest ticket on Air Asia but still I had to fly via Bangkok.

4. Another option of getting into Myanmar is to go by land. You can enter the Myanmar gate by land from India, China, and Thailand. However, crossing the border via land can limit your journey throughout the country. And it is not really advisable to cross via land.

B. Visa

1. This was the very first time I was doing my own visa for my travel. So I was a bit concerned about the procedure.

2. But the online portal turned out to be the easiest one with the self-explanatory procedure.

3. You can apply for an e visa HERE. The simple procedure asks for your basic details, photograph, hotel reservation details. Myanmar visa for Indians is not that difficult task though.

4. The Myanmar visa costs you 50 USD and the letter is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. You receive an approval letter via email within 3 working days. And you need to carry this print out when you visit the country.

C. Currency

1. Myanmar currency is again a very low currency just like Bali. I was again a millionaire when in Myanmar. The currency is called as Myanmar Kyats also referred as MMK.

2. Although USD is acceptable at many places in the country; government is encouraging locals to use the country's currency to keep up with the strength of the currency.

3. Exchange rate might depend on a lot of factors; on an average, you will mostly get 1 USD = 1350 MMK.

4. The most important thing you have to remember when you visit Myanmar; make sure to carry crisp and absolutely clear bills of the USD. Even if the bill has a folding mark; they will either give you lower exchange rate or not even exchange it for you.

D. Weather

1. The best time to travel to Myanmar is from December to February when the monsoon is over and it is not so hot.

2. March and April & October and November and considered to be shoulder seasons. However, the weather can reach up to 40 Degrees in Yangon and can get hotter in Bagan and Mandalay region.

3. Monsoon starts from the mid-May and lasts until September; July and August being the peak months of monsoon.

E. Food

1. If you are a local food lover and can eat anything that comes in front of you; you will love your Myanmar food.

2. The most famous local dish is the Tea Leaf Salad (This is a spicy salad and is served various nuts) and The Shan Noodles Soup. Peanuts are served for munching whenever you visit a restaurant.

3. But always remember when you are in Bagan, as per the information we received from our guide; we were told that the food is made from the river water and it might not be suitable for everyone's health.

3. The country also has got abundant Indian restaurants in major cities and you can fill your stomach with all the Indian food you want.

F. Transportation

1. Myanmar transport varies a lot; and depending on your location; you might get frustrated about it at times.

2. Here are some important points about various cities.

Yangon:-

  • A very good connection to local buses is available. Whenever you get into the bus regardless of your destination just leave 200 MMK at the drop box.
  • Taxis are also available but it can get too much irritating to bargain with them, and you will never know whether you are paying the right price or not.
  • Uber and Grab are providing good service in Yangon, and it can actually save your money if you are not willing to experience the local transportation. For me; Uber was always the cheaper option than Grab.

Hpa An:-

  • The only way to get around this town is either you should know how to ride a motorcycle or hire the motor taxi which can actually be very costly.
  • But if you are willing to visit the famous caves you are only and strongly advised to take the tours offered either by hostels or by travel agents.

Inle Lake:-

  • Another small town near Taungyii where going from one place to the other can be difficult. Tuk Tuk is used for longer distances.
  • Most of the hostels offer free bicycle services. Otherwise, you can also rent the motorcycle to get around faster.

Mandalay:-

  • Despite being a metropolitan city; Uber hasn't yet started its services in this city. Grab offers the service of a Motor Taxi; but if you have a big luggage to carry with you. This option is already ruled out.
  • Other available options are again bicycles and motorcycles to get around, but the streets of Mandalay are not as easy to get around as other cities.

Bagan:-

  • The one and only option to get around Bagan is to learn the motorcycle and enjoy your time when in Bagan.
  • There is no other frequent transportation; which you can use when in Bagan.

G. Shopping

1. Myanmar is not really famous for branded shopping. But if you are willing to buy the famous Myanmar silk; Inlay Lake can be a good place to buy some.

2. Myanmar cigars are also very famous and most of the tourists want to bring them home.

3. A small town like Hpa An will offer you traditional dresses shopping at almost every place you visit.

H. Accomodation

1. Because of my profession, I was always accustomed to staying in star rated hotels and never knew what it was like to stay in hostels.

2. For this backpacking trip; I chose to stay in hostels and that too budget rooms with 4 or 6 female dormitories.

3. You also get to see hotels, guesthouses, lodges everywhere you travel; you can select your accommodation as per your budget.

4. Where Did I Stay?

Yangon: Little Monkey Hostel & Thanlwin Guesthouse

Hpa An: Soe Brothers Guesthouse 2

Inlay Lake: Palace Nyaung Shwe Guesthouse

Mandalay: Nan Bwe - Vibe Hostel

Bagan: Ostello Bello Bagan Pool

I. Cities Visited

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