November 2017 – Currently there is an ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya minority. Over half a million people are currently fleeing for thier lives into Banglesdesh. Men, women, and young children are being raped, set on fire and killed innocently. Please do your research before travelling to Myanmar currently.
Myanmar was unlike any place in Asia I have been to. It’s a country I decided not to research before going because sometimes I get a thrill when arriving at a destination without knowing anything about it, and boy was I pleasantly surprised. Myanmar is like stepping back in time. Unlike its neighbour, Thailand, it’s not overrun by 7/11’s and mass tourism as Myanmar was off-limits to all tourists for more than 50 years. Here are 9 interesting facts and reasons why Myanmar is so different from the other neighbouring countries and why it’s a Southeast Asia gem.
The sunscreen of Myanmar
In Myanmar, you may notice that most of the locals have a white/yellow paint on their faces. This is called ‘Thanaka’ and is a mixture of ground bark and water. Its commonly used as a sort of sunscreen and makeup and is supposed to keep the skin young looking. It’s usually seen on women more than men throughout the country. It is also applied to the arms of women sometimes too.
Burmese tea is delicious
When I found out that the local drink is similar to chai I absolutely freaked out. When travelling India, chai was like my water. I needed it to survive. Burmese tea is also one of the only tea’s in the world that is eaten as well. You can just have the tea black but usually condensed or evaporated milk is added to give it a delicious sweet taste. I highly recommend drinking your weight in tea because it’s some of the best I have ever tasted!
One of the top 3 friendliest countries I have been to
Myanmars’ are some of the friendliest people in Asia. When travelling through the country you will be blessed with the locals smiling from ear to ear and often waving to you. Tourism is a very new thing still to Myanmars’ so don’t be surprised to feel like some sort of celebrity when travelling there. They will go out of their way to help you and you will never be far away from a friendly smile from a local.
The men wear a sort of skirt (longyi)
You may be surprised but nearly all the men in Myanmar wear a skirt called a longyi. This is the national dress for men in Myanmar and some women too. It’s kind of like a sarong, 2 meters in length and tied around the waist. I was really impressed that they tied it tight enough to put their phone safely at the back, as every time I try and tie a similar garment I have to tie it back up within 10 minutes.
Men chewing Kwun-ya
You may also notice the red-stained dirt roads throughout Myanmar. This comes from the local men who chew a mixture of betel vine leaf, areca nut, lime and tobacco. It is spat out which is why most of the roads are covered in bright red stains. You will notice throughout the country when the men smile their teeth will be stained red and that’s because of Kwun-ya!
Their love for puppets
One of the traditional arts in Myanmar is puppetry. You will see a lot of stores selling these beautifully decorated and intricate puppets. It’s called Yoke thé and dates back to the 15th century.
The famous pagodas
Myanmar is also called the land of pagodas. When I was catching a taxi from the airport to my hotel when I first arrived in Myanmar I understood why that is the country’s second name straight away. It seems you are never far from a pagoda! Myanmar is one of the most devoted Buddhists countries in the world. In Bagan alone , here were over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries. These days however, there are over 2200, which is still a decent amount!
It is super affordable
I was surprised that Myanmar was so affordable. When visiting a local restaurant (999 Shan Noodle, highly recommend!) in Yangon we paid €6 for 2 bowls of shan noodles, fried tofu, spring rolls AND two mango smoothies! Although accommodation is limited throughout Myanmar it is still really affordable!
The way to get the waiters attention is interesting
It may seem uncomfortable but the way to get the waiters attention at a restaurant is to make a kissing sound. So, don’t be freaked out if you’re sitting in a restaurant and you hear kissing noises from table to table, that is totally normal!
I highly recommend you take a visit to Myanmar if you haven’t already. It will surprise you in every way. If you like getting off the beaten track then this is the place for you. Don’t forget to check out my recommendations for accommodation and food below!
Where to stay in Yangon
- Hotel Bond – Very affordable and great location in Yangon.
Where to stay in Bagan
- Innwa Motel – Such an amazing breakfast and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful.
Restaurants to check out in Yangon:
- 999 Shan Noodle
- Rangoon Tea House
- Parami Pizza
- Shan Kitchen
Restaurants to check out in Bagan:
- Shwe Moe
- La Pizza
- Café Friends
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