When deciding on my backpacking destination this year, I chose to start from Myanmar. The fact that most of my backpacker friends hadn’t travelled to Myanmar yet made it a big boon for me! Myanmar is perfect for backpacking for numerous reasons, the biggest being that everyone is very welcoming and friendly to visitors, so as a backpacker you can find many who are willing to lend a helping hand.
There’s no limit to the number of places you can visit
From large cities like Yangon to UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Bagan, a wide variety of places await travellers in Myanmar. There is the Himalayas, massive lakes, wildlife reserves, islands, beach destinations, hill stations and so much more. After spending a few days exploring some of the most popular destinations, including Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan, I dashed straight to Putao, the Himalayan town surrounded by white snowcapped mountains.
Accommodation is pretty cheap
You can stay at any type of accommodation that suits your budget in Myanmar. From five stars hotels to the local people’s houses, the world is open for you. I stayed at a village in Putao and felt like a part of the Kachin ethnic group as they welcomed me with open arms to experience a day in their lives. In downtown Yangon, the maximum I spent on accommodation was USD40 per night, because I wanted to stay at the place where most of the activities took place at night. If I had chosen a place in east or west Yangon, I probably would have saved some money.
Oh! The food!
Food-wise, I am floored. I could go back to Myanmar only for the food as I had amazing barbecues, especially in Yangon. The local food incorporated a lot of salad that I thoroughly enjoyed. The salad was a burst of flavours – tangy, salty, sweet and at times, spicy. I learned how to make some of them and have incorporated them in my daily diet.
And the super-friendly people!
I am officially a fan of the locals of Myanmar. They are by far the friendliest. They are simple yet so welcoming to the foreigners wanting to explore their culture. Not for a moment did I feel uncomfortable. I stayed with locals, had fun with them, participated in the Kachin Manaw Festival and felt like I am one of them. Most of them didn’t speak a word of English, and yet we could communicate well to each other.
A few tips from my side
I learned a lot of things the hard way. But the idea of this piece is to ensure that my readers learn from my experiences. So here are a few things that you can follow:
- Pack cotton clothes. It’s pretty hot out there, even in their colder months. Therefore, unless you are visiting any hill station, be sure to pack cotton clothes.
- If you plan to visit any hill station, do carry appropriate winter clothing. Putao can get pretty chilly, especially between November to February. I even wore gloves for a few days.
- Always cover your shoulders and knees. As the locals are conservative people, you should respect their culture by dressing appropriately. If you don’t want to attract unnecessary attention, avoid short dresses.
- It will be sunny out there. Carry an umbrella and a cap, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
Myanmar is really a wonderful place to discover. There is so much to see and do that one visit is simply not enough, so I will definitely be going back in the future. What about you?