Myanmar is a country of change. It is coming down from the years of isolation and tight government control and is opening it’s eyes to the benefits of opening up to the global community. It’s changing so fast it’s a difficult country to even write about. What is hard to find one month becomes common the next month. Once Myanmar realizes it doesn’t have something, it gets it, fast. ATMs are a case in point. Even the newest travel books say they are hard to find but now they’re everywhere. Permits needed to travel in a part of the country become obsolete overnight and that can make travel through Myanmar a bit unpredictable. Online forums like the Thorntree seem to be the best way to stay on top of these changes.
Arriving in Myanmar can be a bit of a culture shock with men wearing skirts, white thanaka smeared on peoples faces, and red spit from beetle nut flying out of everyone’s mouths. The writing looks nothing like the roman alphabet and people drive on the right side of road but the steering wheel is on the right side of the car too!
The people of Myanmar seem to enjoy the influx of foreigners even though many of them can’t communicate with them, yet. Strange enough, the older generation seems to know more English than the younger generation because of colonial rule. They love taking pictures and posing with foreigners and a shocking amount of them have smartphones. Myanmar also has quite possibly the best beer in Asia and though the Buddhists frown on drinking the locals all seem to think its a sin worth committing.
Myanmar may not be a budget travelers paradise but it does offer a unique cultural experience not found anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Due to high government taxes on hotels, the cheapest rooms currently cost around $20 USD a night but most cost more. Food is ridiculously cheap and this offsets the price of lodging. Beer is reasonably priced and bus transport throughout the country is uncomfortable but affordable. Taxi rides around cities is also cheap and readily available.