Myanmar is an amazing travel destination, there is such an abundance of colour, exotic places and interesting attractions. Not many persons know about Myanmar, some only know it as Burma, the old name, and most people have the same reaction when they hear something like this from northern Thailand’s neighbors: “Myanmar, is this even a country?”
It is also amazing, shocking and hits you as a cold shower since you take the first step in the airport. Even though I seriously documented myself before heading out this summer, nothing prepared me for the reality that you will discover there. Whether you want to get there in the very near future, or want to enrich your general culture a little, you should know a few things about Myanmar.
Since 2005, the administrative center has been relocated from Yangon, which remains one of the largest and busiest cities, also having the main airport in the country, in Nypiydaw. Myanmar is a huge country, almost three times larger than Romania and the second largest country in Southeast Asia. As such, the distances between the most important sights are very large, so it’s great to use the plane or at least the local buses. Although we found the tourist areas very safe, with friendly people and very eager to receive strangers, there are still regions where tourist access is forbidden – an example would be the Kachin region, in the north of the country – and even hundreds of areas tribes live the way they did 200 years ago.
Another oddity of the place is the way women are makeup. They use a natural cream, thanakha, extracted from a bark of the tree, with which they face. Originally, this makeup took different forms, from leaves to circles or other symbols, but in everyday life, women apply cream on their cheeks and forehead and stay with it. It is said to be a cream that not only protects the skin, but also beautifies the wearer. One of the most unpleasant things I saw in Myanmar was chewing tobacco. It seems that chewing tobacco, kun-ya, especially by men, is one of the oldest traditions of the place. In fact, it is not even pure tobacco, but a combination of ingredients, all wrapped in one leaf. You can read more about the recipe here. Find extra details at Myanmar tour program.
The food: What is to be said in the food chapter should be considered as more than subjective. We know that many like it, but we don’t. Close to nothing. As I said before, we excluded the street food option from the beginning, because we found it unhealthy. Moreover, the preparations they serve in traditional restaurants did not give us back. Not even their famous noodles. The only preparation we really enjoyed and ordered several times was a green tea salad that turned out to be absolutely delicious. Otherwise, we thought that Burmese cuisine is an unfortunate combination of ingredients and tastes that do not fit well. We repeat, this is how we perceived things, because we met a lot of people who glorified the traditional restaurant preparations, and even the street food.
Contrary to (my) expectations, tourism in Myanmar is highly developed. They have very good hotels and resorts, agencies that offer guide and transportation services, domestic flights, restaurants and shows for tourists, souvenirs, observation towers, information boards, children and women who keep you and follow you on a bike-only basis. Almost all women and children, regardless of status, area or job, wear tanaka face: a tree resin paste. Read additional info on Myanmar trekking tours.