In November and December 2017, I made a 3-week trip through Myanmar. This was a great period of time to really get to know the country, its people, landscapes and food. I just wanted to share with you my favourite things about Myanmar! Enjoy the read:-)
Note: all these points are purely my observation from spending 3 weeks in the country, and I may be totally off 😉
1. The people
Rarely have I met so many kindhearted people in one place. At first, people look at you in awe. But when you smile and nod, their faces open up and they start smiling back with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen 🙂
Are you lost, hungry or sad? No worries, the Burmese are here to help! People in Myanmar go out of their way to help you. Even if they can not, they will find someone that can. I vividly remember the time we were a bit lost in a small area near a waterfall, and no one spoke English. People kept looking until they found someone who spoke English and they managed to get us to the right destination.
Also the kids are just amazing. Especially in the mountain villages where they all go to school, you hear them laughing, singing and playing all the time. This is really a contrast with some countries in Asia and Africa, where many parents do not send their kids to school.
Not at one occasion have I felt scared, unsafe or unwelcome. Even walking on the streets at dark I felt completely safe. I don’t know if it’s the religion, the upbringing or something else that makes the Myanmar people so friendly, but it definitely works!
2. The Nature
This country is so incredibly lush and green, it’s incredible. Even in our first days in and around Yangon, you see trees and bushes everywhere. When we flew to the north (Lashio and Hsipaw) this became even more apparent. Trees, fruits, vegetable plants, tea plants, wildflowers – the ground is so fertile. Also the country is not short of water, which makes it a great place to grow fruits and vegetables.
It’s great to see that the families in the villages can all provide for themselves because of this. We have seen very few people going hungry because the villages were mostly self-sufficient.
Even in the dry season, everything was still very green. We also visited some waterfalls which were still quite powerfull even though there was not much rain!
There is not much wildlife adventure to be found in Myanmar, but the stunning landscapes totally make up for that!
3. The Temples
There are SO MANY temples in Myanmar. Every village, town or city has multiple stupa’s (stand alone, smaller temples) and pagoda’s (temple complexes). Some are really old, some are newer, some covered with gold-leaf, or just gold paint. Every temple is a surprise again. Often you find buddha statues hiding in the shadows, or amazing wall paintings.
I have to admit, after 1,5 week my temple fatigue hit a bit. But after taking a break from sightseeing and visiting every single temple complex we came across, I was totally ready again 🙂 Don’t forget to check out my post on my favourite temples in Myanmar if you want to read more! If you’re really interested in what’s behind the temples, the shapes, the wall paintings etc, it’s a good idea to take along a guide!
4. Myanmar Beer
Myanmar is an exciting new market for many multinational companies.This is also the case for the beer companies.This is not so strange, knowing 50 million people live in Myanmar! Major brands are setting up new, local brands and are opening breweries. But Myanmar beer seems to be here to stay 🙂 At the time I was in Myanmar, there was a nation wide contest going on. Underneath the top of the bottle you would find a text. Ranging from thank you to a free beer, to winning 1 million kyat, the excitement of winning something definitely made us drink more beers 😉
The Myanmar beer was widely available in large bottles (that you can share, or not 😛 ) and smaller cans. It was a proper lager beer and lovely to drink after a hot day!
5. The male-female equality
Of course, Myanmar is not perfect. Nor are the Netherlands and many other countries. But I felt really good to see how men and women work and live together in a great way. You see plenty of women driving cars and scooters. You see many men carrying and caring for the kids while the women are working. There are many family run restaurants in which both women and men work next to each other. There are are many female hotel managers and tourguides.
I saw men and women work alongside in restaurants, at petrol stations and on the fields while picking rice, tea leaves or corn. They were having fun together, laughing, fooling around. Unlike other countries in Asia (like India), I felt women were completely respected and equal to men. Of course, this was just my observation but it was something I really found notable!
6. The entrepreneurial spirit
Unlike many other countries in Asia and also Africe, in Myanmar I observed a real “middle-class”, in between the really poor and the rich. From villages to large cities, you feel a buzz, a positive vibe. Markets are busy, crowded and buzzing! You can find so many little eateries, teahouses, shops, transport businesses and other small businesses. Small hairdressers, clothing shops, scooter shops. Not only catering to tourists, but really to the locals.
Of course there are still many, many poor people in this country. But what I felt, is that not all people who have a low income in Myanmar, are necessarily poor. What I highlighted above, many families and smaller villages and towns seem self-sufficient if it comes to food because of the great possibilities to grow fruit, vegetables, rice and tea.
Our tour guides told us they average $2000 salary a year. Imagine what the rest of the people in the country earn. I tried to eat and shop locally, and I was happy to leave my money in these places.
Anyone who knows me a little bit, knows that I love a good massage! During my 3 week trip throughout Myanmar I had a total of 5 massages 😀 . I started off at the Inya Day Spa in Yangon with amazing Thai massages and an OK foot massage!
The next massage was 1,5 week later in Bagan. After a couple of intense days of sightseeing, we got a lovely foot massage at a parlor in the Restaurant street.
Another one, and for me the most special massage of the trip was the one I had in Kalaw. An older men (I guess around 60?!) came to my hotel room because I was sick and he didn’t have a studio. This was a traditional Burmese massage, which seemed to be a mix of other styles.
Tip: you can negotiate the price of your massage, especially if you come with more people 🙂 . That is, if you feel like bargaining for this price.
The massages I had in Myanmar averaged around $10 an hour. These were not the cheapest ones, because they were mostly in touristy areas. I’m sure that if you outside of the main areas, you can get cheaper massages!
My favourite things about Myanmar
So, these were my favourite things about Myanmar 🙂 ! In my opinion, these are things you can definitely look forward to when you are planning a trip to this beautiful country.