Tag: burma

5 Things to do in Downtown Yangon

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At the end of July, I spent a couple of days in Yangon, also known as Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar. I stayed at Little Yangon Hostel, in downtown Yangon, so most of the sights I saw were in this area. Here are my recommendations:

1. Visit the Sule Pagoda

The Sule Pagoda is in downtown Yangon and is actually older than the Shwedagon Pagoda. The Sule Pagoda is important in recent years as it has served as a rallying point for political uprisings.

2. Go Shopping at Bogyoke Market

fabric bogyoke market yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

This market is centrally located and has a large array of fabrics and other items to buy. There’s a floor filled with ladies working their sewing machines who could fix you up with some handmade clothing. There’s jewellery, puppets, handmade bags, quite simply there’s plenty of lovely items to buy.

3. Eat in Chinatown

Every evening, the Chinatown streets fill with food vendors. There’s plenty of food to choose from – Burmese, Chinese, Indian – and it’s probably the cheapest food you’ll find in Myanmar.

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4. Visit a Yangon Teahouse

rangoon tea house yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Teahouses are a relic from British colonial times, but many can be found around Yangon. I visited the Rangoon Tea House because it’s #1 on TripAdvisor, and it was 2 streets from my hostel. There’s a huge selection of tea and dessert (I highly recommend the chocolate samosas).

5. Watch the Sunset by the Botataung Pagoda

sunset botataung pagoda yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Sunsets in Myanmar are amongst the most beautiful in the world and the Botataung Pagoda is situated next to the river, a perfect way to end a day of sightseeing. Many local people come to this spot to watch the sunset so you’ll find a few street food vendors nearby.

Have you been to Yangon? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Preparing for Myanmar

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I’ve been really excited to visit Myanmar ever since I decided to come to South East Asia. Maybe it’s because it’s probably the least Westernised country in the area. Or maybe it’s because Rudyard Kipling wrote so passionately about it. Or maybe I’ve just heard great things about it from everyone who’s visited.

Whatever the reason, Myanmar has a complicated history and has only recently elected a new government. This is why I’ve planned my trip to Myanmar more thoroughly than to other countries.

myanmar

Photo via Visualhunt.com

The Visa Situation

Myanmar gives out 28 days tourist visas, which cannot be extended. The visa must be obtained prior to travelling to Myanmar. This can be done either at a Burmese embassy or online. If you get an e-visa, you must fly into Myanmar. A visa obtained from an embassy allows you to enter via certain land borders. I got mine from the embassy in Bangkok, for 800 baht, simply because I was in the area and it’s the cheaper option.

Where Am I Going to Visit?

Myanmar only has a 28-day visa for tourists. I’ve done more planning as to where I want to go than I have done for any other South East Asian country. It looks like most tourists visit the same places, with destinations like Bagan and Inle Lake the most popular. I’d like to visit Mrauk U but I’m unsure whether that will be possible because the UK Foreign Office is currently advising against travel to this area. There’s a festival in Mandalay whilst I’m in Myanmar so I hope I’ll be able to see some of it.

Photo credit: Peter Voerman photography via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

Let’s Talk About the Weather

South East Asian countries have rainy/dry seasons so it’s important to check what season you’ll be heading there. From a quick search on average rainfall, it looks like I’ll be swimming through Myanmar, as August has the most rainfall of any month.

Safety

The UK Foreign Office website is a good starting point for safety and security tips. There is still political unrest in Myanmar between ethnic groups, so the Foreign Office advises to avoid those areas and even includes a handy colour-coded map.

Should I Take Anti-Malarials?

The choice to take antimalarials should always lie with the individual after taking advice from a travel nurse or doctor. I haven’t taken antimalarials in any other country but I intend to in Myanmar. This is because the risk of malaria seems to be higher there than in any other country in the region. The reason I haven’t taken antimalarials anywhere else is because I perceive the risk to be low and it would be expensive for me to take antimalarials for 8 months. Not to mention that many antimalarials come with undesirable side effects, such as additional sensitivity to the Sun, something my skin definitely does not need.

The generic version of Malarone can be bought at ASDA Pharmacies in the UK and are a lot cheaper than a prescription. Mine cost £45 for 35 tablets. You need to tell the pharmacy the exact dates you plan to be away.

Check Fit For Travel if you want any further advice on health abroad.

Photo credit: edans via VisualHunt / CC BY

Myanmar or Burma?

The military changed the name to Myanmar back in 1989. Some Burmese people disagree with the name change because the military, as an unelected power had no right to change the name. The UK and the USA still use Burma as the official name, whereas the UN and most of the world use Myanmar. From looking through a couple of guide books, it seems that most Burmese people don’t really mind which name is used. More can be read about this here (I know the article is quite old).

Is anyone else planning a trip to Myanmar? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share in the comments below.

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