by Jane and Joe Heinrich
Impressions of Myanmar
Myanmar was a welcome relief after Bangladesh, and in some respects India. There were less people, less cars, and a more relaxed pace of life. Our drivers actually drove sensibly! Strange difference though… they drive on the right but the driver seat is on the right because most cars are imported from Japan!
During our time in Myanmar, we never personally observed any conflict or violence, although a week or so before we arrived there was a bomb that went off in the hotel in Yangon where we were going to be staying. We stayed in touch with American embassy updates and decided to continue our tour in Myanmar as this particular event in Yangon was isolated. We encourage future visitors to become familiar with the political environment and timetable of future elections as this could result in disruptions to your travel plans. Overall we found Myanmar to be very safe.
Kandawgyi Lake – replica of royal barge
Myanmar is a lot more touristy than we expected. There are a lot of European and American tourists, and the locals are very accustomed to seeing foreigners. As foreigners, we are no longer “celebrities”! They do not always have the airplane and hotel capacity needed for high season travel, but more hotels are being built and more airlines are starting up.
Obtaining local currency was a bit of a challenge. While there were lots of ATM machines, none of our cards worked in them. We had to convert USD to the local currency, and we had to make sure we had new, clean bills. Also, hotels and shops did not always take credit cards.
Internet access was available but very slow, except in Yangon.
What is there to see and do? Buddhist temples and more temples , pagodas pagodas pagodas! Also lots of handicrafts and artisans. They are well-geared up for souvenir selling! Bring an extra bag to take the souvenirs home!
Myanmar is a beautiful country. Don’t hesitate to go! Things are changing fast now that the country is more open. Our favorite places were: Bagan and Lake Inle.
Noted a new type of bicycle rickshaw, with a side car!
Bicycle rickshaw with side cars
Drove by many buildings dating from the British period, and enjoyed our first Myanmar beer!
Visited several large temples, In the temples, we learned about the tradition of offering gifts to monks at this time of year through donations from the community. In the temples we noted the Buddha statues for the days of the week on which one was born. Jane was born on a Wednesday evening and her Burmese zodiac sign is the tuskless elephant. Joe was born on a Friday and his Burmese zodiac sign is a guinea pig or mole. The idea is that when one enters a Buddhist temple, one goes to the appropriate “day of the week” statue and makes an offering by pouring water over the Buddha head and over the symbol. One pours as many cups of water as their age, so one can be there for a while!
Shwedagon Pagoda (2) – Jane pouring water on Buddha and zodiac sign (elephant)
Editor’s Note: OW offers small group tours as well a s private custom tours to Myanmar.