Myanmar, the innocence that captivates.
3337 total kilometers traveled in the country
250 km on foot
57 pees in holes in the ground
2 nights sleeping on the floor
6 nights sleeping in bus
1 night on the train
2 afternoons hitchhiking
1 attempt to drive a motorbike
1 attempt to push an ambulance to see if it works again
1 night with all kinds of insects in a bungalow
8 “motorcycle taxis” without helmet
3 hours in a pickup full locals
58 hours by bus
21 hours by boat
44 hours by plane
10 hours by train
1 day with Thanaka in the face
678 “Jezu temara”
23 requests to take pictures with me
70 liters of water
9 rice fried meals
13 noodles fried meals
I do not remember what made me arouse curiosity about this country. I have no idea. I close my eyes and try to remember the first time I thought I wanted to visit Myanmar … I do not remember.
For years Belinha and I were saying that we would make a trip together. The years passed and even though there’s been already ten years since we met, only now it happened. Each one of us had the task of thinking where we would go. It would have to be either a country in Asia that none of us had gone or elsewhere in the world that was not too expensive. Incredibly the two came up with the same idea: Myanmar.
As always, I left without have an idea of the route. We did not plan much especially because there is not a lot of information about this country. Only from 2010 is possible for tourists to visit the country again. We saw some recent blogs to get ideas and took the Lonely Planet with us. The only thing that we took care before was the evisa ($50 online) and some vaccines that we were lacking. However, it is possible to buy the visa at the airport.
We made a draft of the route during the way, in the long journey of 22 hours that took us there. The truth is that the country is immense and there is plenty variety of destinations and activities. Unfortunately there were areas we had to exclude because it was not possible to do everything this time.
In my perception, the trips are built as we move forward. There is always someone we know that inspires us, gives a special tip or suggests something unexpected. Paths can take different directions if we let ourselves go. If we let expectations arise without having drawn our decisions in a solid manner.
The important thing is to have the vaccines, the visa, passport on time, the plane ticket and place to sleep the first night. Then we will see what we feel like 🙂
We landed in Yangon, the former capital. Myanmar changed its capital recently and also its name. Before the country was “Burma” and changed to “Myanmar”. The past years the capital has been in several cities. In this country the change is made because they believe that we must cleanse us from the former things and switch completely to a new beginning. A philosophy that I should follow more times. I wish that coming here would do this brainwashing automatically!
The new capital is Naypyidaw and we ended up not going there because we were told that it’s built recently and that our time should be used in other things.
Our route was:
Yangon – Mandalay – Bagan – Mont Popa – Meiktila – Inle Lake – Golden Rock – Myeik – Dawei -Mawlamyine – Yangon
We spent on average about 390 € per person. The flight was € 690. We were in Burmese lands for 17 days.
I spent a total of € 1,155 counting on the visa and vaccines. The souvenirs I don’t include in these calculations. I confess I don’t like a lot to seek for gifts. I prefer to bring something just if it makes sense for that person in a very special way.
We couldn’t see everything we wanted but now that it’s over, (I write this still in Amsterdam on the scale back home) I see that we were ambitious and we saw a lot in few days with a budget far below than what was expected.
I read in several places that accommodation in Myanmar is not yet adapted to the backpacker spirit and I thought it was more expensive. The truth is that only in Yangon and Mawlamyine we achieved to find backpacker hostels. Only in Yangon there were dormitories. In the rest of the cities there is no such thing.
We have chosen many overnight trips on buses and trains, we couchsurfing and we were always in the cheaper hotels we found. Of course this is a style of travel that I like a lot. Maybe because my bank account does not allow me differently.
The truth is that not all people get on night bus of 12 hours with the same mood. I never sleep all the time and certainly is not equal to rest in a bed. But in the way out of this bus the will to feel the place has to be the most important. I confess that for me these trips are therapeutic. I hear my music and organize my thoughts, but I understand that might not be like that for everybody. At maximum I always do only two overnight trips in a row because I feel that more than that, fatigue accumulates and the need for a hot bath and a pillow, insists to appear.
In these countries the domestic flights are not expensive and in Myanmar there are many local companies operating that do not appear in the usual search engines. There are several agencies in key locations where you can buy flights and from what I understood, in these cases, prices do not vary much if you buy very close to date. So it’s a good option for those who want to avoid long hours by bus. Of course the price of bus and train is much cheaper when compared to airplane and if there is time and patience end up being one option to take into account because it’s rich in experiences. My trip would not be the same without the stories about the unique service stations, stops in the middle of nowhere or caricatured characters that we got to know along the way.
Of course if someone proposed me a journey full of comforts and luxuries to which I am not used, I would consider it a greater challenge and I would like to understand the differences and the way it would make me feel. Maybe one day 😉
In Myanmar is not allowed that foreigners stay in private homes. We have to stay in hotels. We understand that during the way because we couldn’t find anyone that accepted us in couchsurfing at the various locations. We ended up being able to do it with the notion that immigration could come at any time.
Whenever possible, I tried street food and searched for the places where a lot of Burmese were present. The truth is that I do not eat a lot. I like to eat, try different dishes and flavors out of the ordinary. I work in a restaurants app and for that reason the food has a central role in my life. I do not need a lot to be full and my traveling companion is also like me. This helped us because the doses served could be split for the two. Just few times we had to order one dose for each one. The doses in street food sites usually are around 1500-2000 kyats (€ 1 € -1.5). So if you eat a lot and need a full dose this is the extra value you will spend.
We negotiated the transports in all situations and we went on pickups that are local buses whenever it was possible to communicate. We hitchhike a few times and even though we were two skinny girls and probably helpless, we felt it was completely safe.
Unlike some other developing countries and not focusing on the more tourist areas, the Burmese don’t look at foreigners as a gold piece to whom it will be easy to extort money. They are simple, naive in a beautiful and captivating way. Always want to help and us to like their country. Of course, in some places there is always someone who inflates the price and for that reason it is important to make local friends to ask them what is the correct amount to pay.
In the trips where we want to take full advantage and we have limited budget the trick is not to be ashamed. Ask. Complain. Suggest. Look for alternatives and do not follow standards. Discover. Everything I write is my perception. Your can have a totally different one and will not be incorrect. Each person feels the trips in their very own way and this is the right way.