7 Reasons To Go To Myanmar Now
For decades, Myanmar has isolated itself from western eyes. The junta-controlled country began to open to tourism in 1996, but its use of forced labor and the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi led to international economic sanctions and an unofficial tourism boycott.
Now though, things are changing for the better. Aung San Suu Kyi is free, the country’s opening up to the west, and an official visit by Hilary Clinton recognizes the Junta’s efforts to bring Myanmar — often called Burma — into the modern world. Myanmar is finally ready for its moment in the spotlight – and it can be an ideal destination for your next travel plan.
Here are eight reasons why you should visit Burma now.
Mandalay. Its heavily romanticized name conjures an ethereal sense of calm, romance, and serenity, but the reality couldn’t be more different. It’s a city of wild disarray. Diesel fumes fill the air and old colonial buildings line the bustling streets. All around, decades of paint peel from walls, turning the city into a giant patchwork of colour. Off of the main streets is where you’ll see life. Down one street, people playing Chinlone – Burma’s national sport. Down another, vast abandoned shopping malls, remnants of a tourism boom that never came. Down a third, a sea of street food, snacks, and market stalls. There’s no predicting what’s round the corner and you’ll find yourself wandering for hours in a fascinated stupor.
With almost 90% of people identifying as Buddhist in Burma, the country is extremely devout. Perhaps because of strong Buddhist beliefs in fairness to all people, the idea of a “tourist price” is relatively rare. Ask any local how much a journey should cost, and nine times out of 10, that is the first price offered by a driver. In souvenir markets where price gouging is expected, starting prices are surprisingly reasonable, stall owners are keen to bargain, and tend to avoid the strong arm bargaining tactics used elsewhere in Asia.
6. The Silk Is Homemade
The stilt village of In Phaw Khone in the middle of Inle Lake is the only place in the world where people spin thread from lotus root fibres. Standing in the workshop, you can watch craftsmen expertly turn lengths of sticky brown root into some of the most valuable and sacred fibres on earth. It is a painstaking process, taking over two months of labour to produce just one kilo of fibre. That rare fibre is then used to create reams of fabric and robes, generally given as gifts of devotion to Burma’s monks. Of course, lotus fibre fabric and clothes are available for sale but because of the amount of labour involved and the rarity of the raw materials, they don’t come cheap.