My first real exposure to Burma was from watching the Anthony Bourdain’s show of Parts Unknown. It was the first episode of a long TV series and watching it immediately excited my travel senses and curiosity about the country. I had to get a first hand experience of the country.
If you want to get a better understanding of Burma and it’s disturbing times under British Colonial rule you must read George Orwell’s Burmese days. You will understand the worst bigotry and corruption that Burma faced under the British rule.
The country was under the military rule for almost 50 years since getting independence from British rule and after a brief experiment with democracy. Much of the country’s population is still under poverty. The nominal GDP of the country is 74 Billion which is about the size of Delaware. Population is close to 53 million per 2014 census with a population density of 76/sq km compared to a more populated country like India with 390/sq km.
After spending two weeks in Burma (Jan 10 – 26) I would say this is my favorite place in south east Asia. Burmese people are the friendliest people you will ever come across in your travels. They genuinely try to help you (as supposed to Egypt) and always have a smile on their face. The country side of Burma is gorgeous with rice paddies, pagodas, nature and happy people. Some cities are dusty but that is because the country is still not developed.
I recommend you visit Burma before it gets the full democracy and the inevitable Capitalism that will follow and turn the country into a touristy mecca like Thailand.
How do you plan your travels in Burma?
Looking back I feel that I should have taken the land path from Thailand to Burma instead of flying directly to Yangon. This would have been a much better journey than going by plane.
I would recommend crossing the Thailand/Burmese border via Mae Sot (on Thai border) and Myawaddy (on Burma border). You need to take a 5 hour bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot and then crossed the border and get another bus to Yangon (largest city and former capital) in Burma. Instead of going straight to Yangon I would go to Hpa-an (pronounced Paa-han) first to see the pagodas and golden rock. Then take a slow boat from Hpa-an to Mawlamyine. This boat ride is great as you can see many interesting things along the way – fishermen, little transport boats, pagodas and villages along the way. Once you are in Mawlamyine you must go to the biggest pagoda, Kyaikthanlan Pagoda in the town which is not too far from the town’s center.
Finally watch the video I put together.