We are thinking about travelling in Myanmar, formerly Burma. Any thoughts? Has anyone else heard anything or been there themselves before? We are starting off in Rangoon/Yangon.
Beautiful country. The friendliest people in the world. Terrible government.
When I was last there, a few years ago, one had to exchange a few hundred dollars at the airport. Try to make some excuse (don’t have that much/don’t need that much) to change less money, in order to put less money in hte government’s pockets. Also, avoid riding the train and minimize other activities that profit the government.
That said, the country is wonderful. I highly recommend the hotel I stayed at in central Yangon, overlooking the giant stupa (round temple) in the middle of the city. From Yangon I went up to Mandalay which was nice; to a popular village in the north beside Inlay Lake, where they take you around by boat to see the floating villages and the temple on an island with cats that are trained by the monks to jump through hoops (which was a great boat trip and a really nice village); down to Bagan, which is an amazing place where the plains are covered with ancient temples.
I also took a side trip for 3 days or so East from Yangon to the amazing golden rock temple of Kyaitko (something like that) which is balanced on a cliff. Hard to get to but well worth it. And I took another obscure side trip up the river from Yangon to a village that tourists don’t visit, which was therefore a fantastic trip and the locals were intrigued to see a foreigner in their remote village, but the police took me directly from the boat to the police station upon my arrival there, interrogated me and then assigned guards to secretly tail me around town. For kicks, I took off running, zigzagging, playing evasive tactics through the market, scaring the hell out of the guards who mustve thought I would speak with the locals about democracy and they would lose their jobs. But I was just funning with them. And they made me get on the boat back to Yangon the next day, whereupon I was again interrogated in the police station upon arrival.
I also was extremely fortunate in Yangon to have a taxi driver approach and ask if I wanted to meet Aung San Suu Kye. Sure. So he took me to her office in Yangon and after a few hours sure enough, she arrived, as beautiful and wonderful as one imagines her. I got to speak with her, have photo taken, and after I left the office, the soldiers across the street followed me back to my hotel and checked my passport, etc., and when I finally left the country they searched my bags to see if I was exporting materials from her.
If you don’t talk publicly about democracy or ASSK (the locals are too scared to even mention her name but just refer to her as “our lady”) or otherwise stir up trouble the police will leave you alone and, as I said, it is really a beautiful country with the nicest people on earth (If you get to know locals first and then speak with them privately they may tell you how terrible their government is, but DO NOT foist such a conversation on them publicly because they are rightfully scared of being hauled off to jail for subversive speech). But if you do go you will inevitably contribute some $ to the government coffers, so you owe a moral duty to read up on how ASSK won 80% of the vote of the people in an election, the govt is cruel and oppressive and hopefully some day they will be ousted and she will take her rightful place, and you will then owe a duty to tell others about that.