Myanmar, a hidden gem.

The moment we stepped into Myanmar we thought it was something special, something we didn’t expect. Despite arriving in the off-season, with the monsoon of humidity and rain, we found it to be pleasing with plenty of sunny days, jungles and pagodas. These are five reasons why we think Myanmar is a hidden gem:

The People

The people in Myanmar are something else, think of them as Canadians, friendly, polite, and always willing to help. Almost everyone that we had encountered was so kind and considerate. One time our e-bike ran out of power 10km from the hotel, we pulled over and asked another hotel to call ours. They told us to wait …. and by the way, here is our wifi password and a free drink. This was only one of the many times and all throughout Myanmar from the hotel staff to the taxi drivers. During morning runs, the person manning each little shop along the road would yell, “good morning” or “hello” either in their language or mine. This stood out as the number one for us in Myanmar.

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A group of boys who offered to take our picture.

The Honesty

Closely associated with the people, but also tied into culture, everyone was surprisingly honest. Not everyone in Myanmar is trying to rip foreigners off like in other countries, in fact we only had it about once or twice. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs to make a living and they do intend to bargain in the tourist areas, but for the most part they are very reasonable. Often times we would ask our hotel, “how much to get to this pagoda?” they would tell us a price and asked the first taxi cab we saw and they quoted that exact same price. Often we didn’t even try to heckle the price because we found them to be too honest and nor did we feel insecure about our valuables?

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Monks at the Shwedagon Pagoda

The Popularity

Kaisa and I are a huge fan of going to the less touristy spots and although we were there in the offseason, I believe this place is less popular than neighboring Southeast Asian countries. One reason, most countries need to purchase a $50 USD visa to enter, in comparison to neighboring countries like Thailand. In Yangon we played “count the foreigner” throughout the three days we were there and counted about seven westerners and we did visit some pretty touristy places. On a separate note, there is a ban on motorbikes in Yangon leaving the streets far less congested than other cities of the same size. Lastly, Myanmar has just recently started opening up to tourism, international business and international education after a change in government. Prior, there were places closed off to tourism and now leaving plenty more to discover, another reason to go visit the country.

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Traffic through Yangon

The Food

An incredible a mix of traditional local food, Thai, and Indian. You can try some really healthy and natural food at local restaurants and street markets. Although, we did read that the cost is higher here in Myanmar than Thailand for example, but I think that is far from the case. In fact, I think the plate sizes were much larger in Myanmar than I have found in Thailand yet. Therefore, Myanmar’s food is a reason to go in its own, cheap and simple. Read more here.

Dessert in the street markets.

The History

You can really see the history in the place, especially in Bagan, where it dates back many centuries. There are over 2,000 temples, pagodas and ruins that you can visit and walk through. Some of the temples you can climb up through the stairwell on the inside and over look hundreds more. This year we had heard that the government is trying to limit this by building only one viewing area for everyone to lookout of by next year. Therefore, if you’re planning on taking in the history and special pleasures of Bagan you should do so before they limit it.

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Standing on one of the many temples in Bagan.

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