It’s a new era for this extraordinary and complex land, where the landscape is scattered with gilded pagodas and the traditional ways of Asia endure.
In a nation of multiple ethnic groups, exploring Myanmar can sometimes feel like you’ve stumbled into a living edition of National Geographic, c 1910. For all the recent changes, Myanmar remains at heart a rural nation of traditional values. You’ll encounter men wearing the sarong-like longyi and chewing betel nut, spitting the blood-red juice onto the ground, women with faces smothered in thanakha (a natural sunblock), and cheroot-smoking grannies. Trishaws still ply city streets, while the horse or bullock and cart is common rural transport. Drinking tea – a British colonial custom – is enthusiastically embraced in thousands of teahouses.
In 2015, Myanmar voted in its first democratically elected government in more than half a century. Sanctions have been dropped and Asian investors especially are coming to do business. Modern travel conveniences, such as mobile-phone coverage and internet access, are now common. But the economic and social changes Myanmar is undergoing are largely confined to the big cities and towns, and large swaths of the country remain off limits due to ongoing ethnic conflict. The Burmese military continue to play a key, if less visible, role in politics. The new Myanmar is very much a work in progress.
Most of Myanmar (except the mountains in the north) have a hot and humid tropical climate. Temperatures are well above 30 °C during the day and mostly around 20 °C at night. Temperatures from mid March to May can reach 40 °C and even a bit more in Mandalay, making this time rather unpleasant for visiting most places except the mountains. This time is often called the hot dry season. From June to October is rainy season. There is massive amounts of rainfall this time of year which can make travel unpleasant. At the same time most of the more popular sights will be empty and hotels will have plenty of vacancies. If someone is hardcore loner this would their time to travel. The wettest places along the coast receive a massive 1,400 mm during the wettest months. The best time to visit is during the cool dry season which is December to February. During this period there is still warm and pleasant weather. It usually is dry and rather sunny during these months. Some places even can get chilly at night, especially more inland or in the mountains. On long bus rides bring some warm cloths for the night.
What you should know
Area: 676 553 km²
Population: (2022 est.) 55,869,000
Capital : Naypyidaw
Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, changed its name in 1989, a time marked by massive civil upheaval. The military dictatorship which had ensured its own control over the past twenty five years found its power challenged by the popular National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD won the election that year; but the military government refused to let go of its power and now, almost fifteen years on, Myanmar remains under their control.
Many people believe that obtaining a visa for Myanmar would be very difficult. But for some years, practices have been simplified, and the visa can be obtained online through the official website http://evisa.moip.gov.mm. Alternatively, as always, visa can be obtained from Myanmar Embassy in your country.
The official currency is the kyat (pronounced ch-at), subdivided into 100 pya. Coins are K1, K5, K10, K50, K100, Banknotes come in denominations of 50 pyas, K1, K5, K10, K20, K50, K100, K200, K500, K1,000, K5,000,K10,000.
When making purchases on the street or in smaller non-tourist shops people always want kyat. Therefore keep some kyat with you at all times while travelling in the country. Remember that kyat is a non tradable currency meaning that once you leave the country it is next to impossible to exchange it.
Eating in Myanmar is an interesting experience. The food is a blend Indian, Thai, Chinese and local cuisine. Many smaller restaurants will serve either curry or noodles. If at a curry restaurant a metal tray will be brought to you with many small servings of different kinds of curry plus some bread and rice. Noodle restaurants will serve different kinds of noodle soup and more common the further north one travels. Many minority groups have there own cuisine that is very good and different from the traditional. Groups like the Shan are known throughout Myanmar for having amazing food.
There has always been a Chinese population in Myanmar and Chinese restaurants can be found in almost ever city in Myanmar, although there tends to more of them north of Mandalay. Most of the Chinese food is like southern Chinese food, although some spicier and saltier versions of Chinese food can be found as well. Chinese food can be a good switch after eating curry for several weeks straight.
If in one of the major cities or a tourist centre it always possible to find western food. Although not great it can be a good break and chance to remember home. The western food is almost always more expensive then the local food.
In areas that travellers around allowed in Myanmar are very safe. There is very little crime and the traffic although crazy is not as wild as some neighboring countries. There are still some areas with active insurgents, especially in the north eastern part of the country. These areas of Myanmar are closed to all foreigners.
Best of all, you’ll encounter locals who are gentle, humorous, engaging, considerate, inquisitive and passionate – they want to play a part in the world, and to know what you make of their country. Now is the time to make that connection.
Myanmar’s capital until 2005, Yangon is still one of the country’s main hubs and likely to be your point of entry if you are planning a trip to Myanmar. Some of the most authentic British colonial architecture in the region is found in the city, and the combination with newer high-rise gives the city a unique feel.
Naypyidaw is the capital of Myanmar. It is located in the central parts of the country, over 300 kilometers north of the former capital Yangon in the Mandalay Division. Naypyidaw consists of the city proper (downtown) and three surrounding townships, Pyinmana, Lewe and Tatkon.
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar with a population just under 1 million people. It is also the religious and cultural center of Myanmar with over 700 pagodas and the home to many religious texts.This is a great city to spend a couple of days touring the sights and watching people. Just watch out for the open air sewers!
Inle Lake is one of the best sights in Myanmar. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar and is framed on both sides with stunning mountains. It is a great place to enjoy hikes and the sights of village life on the water.
Bagan is a stunning ancient temple city on the Irrawaddy River that rivals almost all other ancient cities in Asia. Bagan sits on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River and is home to the largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world many of which dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries.
Private Group Tours & Bundles
If you have a specific interest be it art, history, cooking or whatever
We will do our utmost to design your tour to include (or be totally about) whatever you like. We have arranged for all types of people to do all sorts of interesting things and meet interesting people.
We have taken war veterans to old battle sites, pilgrims to pagodas, students to visit schools and forestry experts to the forest. Organised visits to artists’ private studios and visits to charity organisations to give donations. Whatever red tape or permission is required, whatever introductions are sought, we will take care of everything so that you can enjoy a rich and fulfilling experience.
Bridge, photography, traditional music, war history, ancient history, architecture, textiles, motorcycling, cycling, trekking, shopping, ceramics, kayaking. Vespa/Jeep tour, spiritual tour, modern or traditional shows, arts,fashion, cooking class, street food, homestay, home host dinner, special event (honeymoon, anniversary, birthday…), incentif, seminar.