WHEN I first came to Myanmar, also known as Burma, in 2009 it felt like a country frozen in time due to its years of isolation and stagnation. Indeed I recall penning an article for Jet Star, something along the lines of it being one of the few places left you could glimpse the Asia of old, one that existed some 50 years ago. And at that time, within the glittering modernity of much of Asia’s new sky rise cities, that was oddly appealing but also a rather simplistic perception.
FIVE years ago in Yangon you would have been hard pressed to find a block of cheddar cheese, an ATM, an English newspaper or any western brand. Today glittering sky scrapers, malls, art galleries and supermarket chains are as much a feature of the new country as the old.
The tourism industry has been booming recently, thanks to increased flights, ease of travel, and the government’s increasingly open attitude toward the international community. Ancient sites such as the temples of Bagan, Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and the archipelagos of Myeik are becoming priority items on more travelers’ Southeast Asia bucket lists, so much so that the Burmese government expects 2015 to be a banner year.
DESPITE Myanmar’s newly acquired status as the darling of the Asian circuit, there is still much about the nation that remains undiscovered. While renowned for its wealth of pagodas, unblemished countrysides, unspoiled coast, quaint festivities and great lakes, it’s also a country of history and has its fair share of fading ancient ruins and tumbledown structures that invoke the dynasties and grandeur of the past. Visiting these places could form part of an excellent itinerary.
TOURISM in Myanmar in 2015 is expected to be a bumper year with international visitor numbers not just steadily increasing but liberally booming, as reported in this article recently. And this banner year got off to a flying start with the ASEAN Tourism Forum finishing up this week (January 22-29) attracting up to 2000 delegates…>
The lyrics of the famed Billy Idol song “White wedding” could well be the theme of Shan weddings in Burma, albeit without the gothic overtones.
FOR a taste of rural Burma and the opportunity to enjoy homestays in villages along the way, head to Shan State in the country’s northeast. With rolling hills, few roads and welcoming locals, it’s an experience not to be forgotten.