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Friday, November 8, 2013

MYANMAR TRAVEL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Myanmar is hot destination on the Southeast Asia travel.
90% of the population is Buddhist. Therefore, their main attraction are mainly pagodas, reclining Buddha, monk and nuns.If you travel to other state of Myanmar you will see the Hindu influence to some of their pagodas and history.
They recently opened its doors to tourism and since they are still at pre mature stage, travelling here will be a lot of challenges.
When you are travelling to Myanmar, you need to be prepared mentally with many things.

1. BRAND NEW DOLLAR BILLS
 
They need to have crisp, unmarked and basically new dollar bills. They will not hesitate to just reject your dollar although with just a little creased on it. I encounter this when paying my hotel fees during check in. To my eyes nothing wrong with my dollars. I guess their eyes is really sharp for that. Basically , bring the newest, mint condition dollar notes as if it just got printed out from the machine.
 
2. NO CREDIT CARD MACHINE
 
Don't even think about not carrying to much cash and spend with your credit cards. Your plastic card is basically worthless here. Remember went in to shop for jadeites with lots of cash in hand.
 
3. ATM MACHINE
 
You can find ATM machine at Yangon airport and Mandalay city centres. I don't see any in Nyaung U, Bagan but somebody says it somewhere in town which place I don't really go. Most local keep their cash at home since many don't trust the bank. Good luck in finding the ATM!
 
4. CHANGING DOLLARS TO MYANMAR CURRENCY KYATS
 
I normally change my dollar at airport or hotel.
You need to standby some kyat to pay your transport or for your food or street snacks. Most of local happy to except Kyat. You don't have problem in making sure your dollar bill crisp condition and worry about getting it rejected by local because it not new bills.
When you shop they will either give your change in Kyats or give you dollars. Be careful, if they give your change in kyats. Always ask back what rate they use. Some may tends to cheat the rates.
It happen to me while at domestic airport which I just landed from Nyaung U,Bagan trip, trying to get taxi to my hotel. The cashier for taxi coupon centre trying to cheat my dollar and change with Kyat at ridiculous rates. Don't try to argue with them but be firm with your words!
Always know the exchange rates.
If you are the adventurous type you can ask some uncle behind the market or small alley to change you money. Don't be surprise this people standby the cash in their car boot! As traveller , we need to travel safe. Don't ever take this risky chance!
 
5. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO MYANMAR
 
The popular season for traveller is on November to February when the weather is warm and not so stifling. But the tricky part is during this time the accommodation is limited and when demand is more than supply you may face paying more for accommodation with just not so good condition place.
I remember went to Yangon during month of October the weather is decent to me to walk around.
 
If you choose to travel between Mar or April it will be hot and dry. Monsoon season would arrive in June onwards. During this time there was a limited numbers of tourist.
I remember went to Nyaung U, Bagan in the month of April and it was freaking hot and dry.

6. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVE SEASON IN MYANMAR

If you notice there are many Full Moon day in Myanmar. During April most companies will off for 2 weeks to celebrate Water Festival or they called it as Thingyan Festival.

4th January - Independence Day (Independence from British empire)
12th February - Union Day (Anniversary of the Panglong Agreement)
26th March - Full Moon
27th March - Armed Forces Day
13 - 16 April - Thingyan Festival
17 April - New Year for Burmese Calendar
1st May - Labour Day
24th May - Full Moon
19th July - Martyrs' Day - commemorates the assassination of Aung San and other several cabinet
22nd July - Lights Festival - Start
19th October - Lights Festival - End
17th November - Full Moon
27th November - National Day - anniversary of the first university student strike
25th December - Christmas Day

7. ACCOMODATION IN MYANMAR

Generally the price is still very expensive for hotel or guest house in Myanmar. Reason is due to the recent opened up to tourist the lifting up of the US sanction. More businessman travel to Myanmar to explore business opportunities. In general, decent 2 star hotel is around USD60/-. You can check out Agoda and pay by credit card. You need to standby some cash for deposit.

8. TAXI OR AIRPORT TRANSFER

I paid mine at USD6 per trip. They don't use meter.
Many without the air conditioned car. For girls be prepared with your hair tied high up and the black smoke covered your face!
I think this improved the last I went there in April 2013.

9. BAGGAGE

Take care of you baggage when at airport. Do not leave it unattended. I experience playing tug war game with some potter who tried to grab my luggage while in Yangon Domestic airport and also at Nyaung U airport.So be firm but not to fight with them. We are at foreign land, we don't want trouble to spoil our vacation.

10. DOMESTIC FLIGHT

There few local players in this industry but the most important is which one is most reliable and safe. If you ask me. The answer is none. Its all depends on luck. To name few of the airlines...

Air Bagan - I think every traveller need to be aware of the Christmas crashed in year 2012.
Air Mandalay - They tend to either cancel the flight or delay it. Not so reliable!
Yangon Airways - I took this airlines when I went to Nyaung U , Bagan in April. Well , it was full of surprises and its like taking the hop on hop off tour bus.
Which one is the most reliable and safer? The answer is ....depends on your luck! hahahaha
How to buy the ticket? Try to get it with local travel agent.

11. BUS JOURNEY

If you prefer to take bus for long journey. Good luck!
For ticket do get it from travel agent or ask hotel about it.
It is hard to get the rest area along the way. So be prepared to do your business in the bottle or by the road side bushes. Never ever ask the time of arrival since the result is you will never get an answer. They have a superstitious belief! Well, I think something got to do with bad spirits?

12. TELECOMMUNICATION AND INTERNET CONNECTION

I think they are improving on this services.
When I first went there in year 2012, it was really sucks!
Wifi???? huh! you don't even get any of it! Roaming...is totally no.We are totally cut off from the outside world.
However, it was better when I went there in year 2013. The wifi in hotel is decent speed and the roaming is on and off service. It should be improving by now since the 2 giant international telecommunication operator won the license.

13. DISCUSSING POLITICS AND RELIGION

Try not to start conversation on this.
We don't know who are talking to. When I went to Myanmar early this year is when the tension between Muslim and Buddhist took place. Since I am a Muslim, I tried my best not reveal that I am a Muslim. Reason being I don't want to invite trouble. I just try to be as general as possible. When a local try to start a conversation and trying to find out about my religion. I just smile and said the God is Universe and God is Great!
I am a solo woman traveller so I need to take extra precaution on this!

14. VISA

As Malaysia, I need Visa to enter Myanmar. I will apply ahead in my home country and at that time we need to apply in Myanmar Embassy itself. You can send your application in the morning and collect it in the next afternoon time. For tourist visa they charged you RM110.00 and business visa for RM150.00 . However, recently they outsourced the service and you need to go to some other place and they will charged you price with some RM30 additional as commission.

15. MYANMAR PEOPLE TRADITIONAL WEAR

Don't get culture shocked when you arrived in Myanmar and see most men wearing 'sarongs' and not the pants. Myanmar traditional wear is both men and women wearing longyi , a type of sarongs that sewn together to make it circular. Well each gender have their own way of tying their longyi. Say...men will tie it in front and women to the side. Most men longyi is dark in color and have some sort like checkered patterns. While the women one are more lively and some with flowers and colourful too.

16. SANDALS AND FLIP FLOP

It is hard to find people wearing sneaker on the street. Most wearing sandals and flip flop. It is not just because it humid weather but the sneakers are expensive in Myanmar. Some other reason are because they need to remove their shoes most of the time like when they enter to temple or house.

17. THANAKA

Don't get culture shocked when you reached Myanmar and see many local women have something beige color applied on their cheek. This is call Thanaka, a beige facial cosmetic and a sun protector made from ground tree bark mixed with water.

18. PAAN CHEWING

If you find many red color spit on the street this is because many local love to chew paan. Calcium hydroxide is spread over on a betel leaf then topped with cut up betel nut and sometimes tobacco or sometimes the add in cloves too. They will fold it into little square then chewed it. They said by chewing this will lessen tooth pain. Many has become addictive to this and has stained on their teeth which make them all look dirty when they smile and show their teeth. Like chewing tobacco, this pan chewing will cause excess saliva and well this make cause them spit it to the ground with red spot saliva. So when you walk either try to avoid looking down to the ground or you end up dodging your way out from the red saliva spitting out. YUCKS!!!!!
Just for information PAAN causes throat and tongue cancer!

19. UNSTABBLE POWER SUPPLY

It is normal for high end hotels and big company have power generator on standby. It is common for them to have fluctuate power supplies.

20. MYANMAR FOOD

Their dishes are mainly almost similar with Thais but less spicy but it can bee very oily.

21. KISSING SOUNDS

Don't get offended this is their way of attracting your attention.

22. LAND OF TEMPLE

Every corner is temple and temple and temple.
Ladies don't go travel with your short pant or mini skirt.
You need to cover up to enter the temple.
My first experience enter to Shwedaggon Pagoda was hilarious. I was wearing my above knee mini dress and pair of solid black panty hose legging. I just cam from business meeting. Then, I was told to remove the panty hose legging in the ticketing booth before wrap my bottom with longyi. I can't even wrap the longyi over my panty hose.WTH!!!  Hilarious experience when most passers by are trying to peep in the half glass wooden ticketing booth while I was busy changing. Pervert!!!

23. BRING YOU SMILE AND BE POLITE

Where ever you travel always travel with your sweet smile.

Happy traveling everyone! If you have any question do email me at cindyrina@gmail.com.

You can read my Myanmar travelling experience by clicking to this link :

Myanmar - Yangon
Myanmar - Bagan

My post is too lengthy this time???
Check out my next Monday post!!!! and surpriseeeeee!!!!

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