- EAT! - Burmese Tea Leaf Salad: In Burma, beloved tea is eaten as well as drunk. Try this national delicacy made from fermented or pickled tea leaves, flavored with lime, fresh tomatoes, peanuts, garlic, chilli and dressed with fish sauce!
- DRINK! - Burmese Tea of course! Dark and rich black tea sweetened with as much condensed milk as you can handle – tea drinking is a social institution in Burma… supped daily in tiny cups one after another as you while away a pleasant day chatting with friends.
- WEAR! - The Longyi: Worn by both men and women, the longyi is a traditional piece of cloth wrapped around the waist reaching ankle length. The cloth comes in many different patterns and is a key item for keeping cool in Burma’s sweltering heat.
- BEWARE! - Your decision to go to Burma: Always a tricky one – due to the complicated and longstanding political situation. In visiting the country, some of the money that you spend here could end up in the pockets of the corrupt military regime currently ruling. Because of this, some people decide to boycott the country entirely. However, by staying in local guesthouses and eating with local families – your tourist dollar may help a people that desperately want contact from the outside world. We recommend that you do your research and the decision is a personal one.
Introduction to Myanmar (Burma):
Burma is the one of the least visited countries in South East Asia largely due to the controversial military dictatorship which controlled the country in recent years. Many people are scared of visiting the country as they fear it may be dangerous and volatile. However, the truth is that for foreign travellers who stick to the designated tourist areas, the country is very safe. There are four areas where tourists are freely allowed; Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon. Venturing away from the ‘Big Four’ can be dangerous and expensive; expensive in that you may be asked to pay a military guard for protection. We certainly don’t recommend this!
Since 1996, Aung San Suu Kyi and her National Democratic Party asked foreign tourists to boycott the country until human rights issues were improved and political prisoners released. However, in the last six months, the country seems to be opening up to reform and now tourists are being encouraged to visit and see firsthand what is happening. Since the visit from Hilary Clinton in December 2011, Burma has been in the press more and more for potential reform and this has in turn encouraged an spike in foreign tourists. Burma certainly seems to be the hot destination amongst backpackers right now!
In short, if you are interested in Burma and its controversial history then the time to go is now! Many people who travel to the country say that it is unlike any other country in South East Asia. It is like stepping back in time into a world that has been cut off from the rest of modern society. Rickshaws, crumbling colonial remains, people wearing the traditional ‘longyi’ with thanaka bark smeared on their faces, old Volswagen buses and Beetles from the 60′s and skinny cows roam the dusty streets in towns where electricity is only available some parts of the day.
Incredible vast temple complexes, a rich and varied cuisine, a fascinating culture, warm, welcoming people and wild landscapes… add up to a place that oozes exoticism, making you understand why Kipling was so mesmerized with Burma. Visit Inle Lake and the witness the incredible leg-rowing Inca people, watch the sun set in the land of a thousand temples, Bagan or wander crumbled colonial buildings and temples in the atmospheric and bustling capital, Yangon. A trip to Burma is at once unforgettable.
The famous and unique leg rowers at Inle Lake Myanmar
8 Random Facts about Burma:
- On the hillside of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, the Shwedagon Pagoda is said to hold eight hairs of Siddartha Guatama. (the Buddha) The actual structure is a solid gold bell shaped structure encrusted with 4000 diamonds and a 76 carat diamond perched on the top.
- Burmese Days is a novel written by George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984. Set in 1920′s Imperial Burma, it is a story about the waning days of British rule after World War One.
- Mandalay was immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poem ‘Mandalay’ and later in the 1935 song ‘On the road to Mandalay.’ Kipling’s captivation with the country and a beautiful Burmese woman in particular is the central theme of the poem.
- The great Irrawaddy River dissects Myanmar from North to South before opening up into the Andaman Sea. Due to monsoonal rains, the water level varies greatly throughout the year. With a drainage area of over 400,000 kilometres, the river is an important life source for the people of Myanmar.
- Myanmar boasts an amazing 1,903 kilometres of coast line, home to many untouched, underdeveloped beaches.
- Myanmar Thaing is a unique and traditional form of martial arts, similar to kick-boxing, which originated more than two thousand years ago during the reign of King Okkalapa. It was a compulsory specialisation of royal princes in ancient times.
- Bagan, in North Central Myanmar is home to over 4,400 ancient temples scattered across the valley, dating back over 800 years. At sunrise and sunset, the view is a substantial rival to Cambodia’s Angkor for South East Asia’s most unforgettable panorama.
- In Myanmar, you will notice that the local women wear a pale yellow paste on their cheeks and foreheads. The paste is made from the ground bark of the ‘Thanaka tree’ and is used for sun protection and as a moisturiser.