Did you ever wish to turn back time? Simply make a trip to the past? And experience once again how it is to live without a mobile phone, internet, ride a horse cart etc.? If so, I have a recommendation for you: travel to Burma (Myanmar) and you will feel the luxury of simplicity.
So, turn back the clock with a trip to this time-warped country where there additionally is no such thing as 7-Eleven or an ATM (make sure you bring dollars in perfect condition) and people still use horse and cart to get around. Liberate yourself from your phone (it won’t work here) and the internet and discover a culture where holy men are more revered than rock stars.
No doubt you know that Burma is politically a troubled land. In 2011 a quasi-civilian government was sworn in and Aung San Suu Kyi had been released from house arrest (please watch THE LADY, a wonderful movie about San Suu Kyi’s life and Burma’s shocking history and world’s longest-running military dictatorship). The tourism boycott that persuaded many to avoid the country for more than 10 years has been also lifted. You will experience that the long-suffering people are everything the regime is actually not. Gentle, humorous, engaging, respecting, considerate and passionate – they more than everything else want to play a part in the world and to know what you make of their world.
Thanks to my friend Isabella and her initiative my trip brought me to this fascinating country together with 3 other friends to Burma last month. We flew into Yangon (with Thai Airways, what a comfortable airline!) and continued our journey immediately the next day to Heho from where we took a taxi to Kalaw, Burma’s ideal base for upcountry exploration. From there we hiked two days through forests, fields, roads and trails to Inle Lake (and slept in a small hidden village where you surely think people live there in the 18th century). Trekking in this area is Burma’s few travel experiences you must not miss, nowhere else you get to know the country and its people better. Virtually every visitor to Burma makes it to Inle Lake – an awe-inspiring and large area with water-bound temples, shore-bound markets and floating gardens, all these pictures will find a permanent place in your memory. Our journey continued in Mandalay, Burma’s cultural capital together with quarters full of craftworkers and tree-shaded monasteries. Feel free to contact our guide “Naina-Naina” (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the best hot spots in and around the city. The next highlight and most breath-taking stop was Bagan. More than 2000 Buddhist temples are scattered across the plains, site of the first Burmese kingdom. As the area still remains an active religious site and place of pilgrimage the vast majority of the temples, dating back to between the 11th and 13th century, have been renovated. Yes, there are tour buses and crowds at the most popular temples but you can avoid those by pedalling off on a bike and have your own adventure (only make sure you don’t get lost and get chased by security men on the golf course as we did…). Back to Yangon’s airport we drove to Ngwe Saung Beach, the perfect getaway and a chance to wind down to relax and reprocess all our rich impressions by sunbathing, swimming and sipping fresh coconut juice.
One of the most fascinating aspects to travel to Burma is the opportunity to experience a corner of Asia that, in many ways, has changed very little since British colonial times. This makes the country so unique. But as knowing from other exotic travel destinations mass tourism is not far away. So if you want to experience Burma as it is now – hurry up…