Visiting Burma / Myanmar (January)

Burma - Yangon HeaderIn January we took a big trip to visit a few countries in Southeast Asia. First on our stop was Burma (aka Myanmar). We landed in the capital city of Yangon and were lucky enough to stay with a friend who is living there. Yangon itself does not have nearly as much for tourists as other places in Burma, but I really enjoyed spending some time there to get to see normal life. Overall it was a lovely, tropical, sunny, livable city. There was no traffic, plenty of restaurants and good food, and nice parks and public spaces. Yangon does have a rainy season, so life might be a little less pleasant then. The heart of the city has many old, colonial-style buildings that must have been beautiful once, maybe they’ll get restored if more money flows into Burma.

And as for the country, Burma was wonderful. So glad we went. Right now there is a very big problem of religious and ethnic violence, but it is limited to areas of the country where tourists generally don’t visit, and the country is very safe for foreigners — petty theft isn’t even an issue. Burmese food is delicious, lots of seafood, flavor, and fruit — things we were missing in the Mongolian winter. And the Burmese people were so nice and so friendly.  I would highly recommend a visit.

There are a few photos from around Yangon, and more of the trip to follow later.

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City hall and nice downtown park.

Burma - Yangon-001 Burma - Yangon-002

I would call flip-flops are the national footwear. Even on this construction site, they are the shoe of choice.
I would call flip-flops are the national footwear. Even on this construction site, they are the shoe of choice.
A little soccer game on a street by the river.
You can’t tell but there was a little soccer game on a street by the river.
Transporting chickens.
Transporting chickens.
A side street near a smaller pagoda in town.
A side street near a smaller pagoda in town.
Bananas everywhere.
Bananas everywhere.

You do need to do your homework before going: Burma is coming out of decades of complete isolation, and things like ATMs are non-existent in most cities and just arriving in the capital. We were told that we had to bring new, crisp $100 USD bills to change into the local currency. If you have lower denominations, and even new bills with a fold in them, you’ll get a lower exchange rate. Crazy talk. We could book our hotels online, but not all hotels will allow that, and at the beach we were the only guests that didn’t book through a travel agent. For those interested that was a Planet Money Episode on Burma opening up, and of course many other media outlets have great information about the country.

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