Myanmar – Best & worst

Our time in Myanmar is at an end. I haven’t always loved it, to be honest, but we’ve had some good times. Here’s my best & worst.

Best

  • Inle Lake – tranquil and peaceful, we spent 2 days motoring around it in a long boat. I enjoyed the frequent glimpses of everyday life in lakeside villages.
  • Mohinga – a spicy fish noodle soup, eaten for breakfast. Discovered late in the trip so it is missing from my Myanmar Food post.
  • Huge number of Buddhas – Bernd was impressed with the proliferation of Buddhas, even compared to Thailand. Buddhas in temples, pagodas and monasteries. Buddhas in caves and on hills. Stupas on hills and on rocks. There are also numerous golden chickens – according to Myanmar myth, the Buddha himself walked up Mandalay Hill in an early incarnation as a chicken.
  • Strand Hotel in Yangon – this historic oasis of luxury at the end of our month in Myanmar was a very welcome break for our grimy weary bodies, and a not-so-welcome break for our budget.

Worst

  • Its “unspoilt” nature – Bernd puts this in his “best” category but I disagree. It could use some spoiling in my opinion, particularly in the area of tourist facilities – public toilets, mini marts (how I’ve missed Thai 7-Elevens), English speakers at tourist hotels. Facilities attract more tourists. Then perhaps they could use some of the money generated on the…
  • Roads – OMG the roads. Not just the corrugated dirt tracks leading to major attractions but the poor quality of the roads in towns and cities. When it rained In Nyaungshwe the main road was reduced to a thin strip down the middle, to be shared by trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians and dogs travelling in both directions (amid much honking, shouting and barking). And the footpaths! Rarely possible to traverse by foot, these uneven death traps are littered with garbage and full of deep holes – you could lose a foot, or indeed your entire person, pretty easily.
  • Garbage – rubbish is all over the place, sometimes even being fragrantly burned in mounds right outside our hotel window. On the train from Yangon to Mawlamyine it was visible everywhere – in rivers, in villages, along roadsides. It made Cambodia seem pretty clean in comparison.
  • Betel chewing – very popular with both young and old (especially men) is the chewing of betel nut, a potent parcel of areca nuts, lime and tobacco wrapped in a betel leaf. Chewers constantly need to spit out the red juices and they don’t mind where. Taxi drivers often use pauses at intersections to open the car door and spit a stream onto the ground. Bernd was very nearly hit with a splash coming from a car window once. The teeth of heavy users are stained a reddish black. Both disgusting and a major cause of mouth and throat cancer. Also very distracting, because when you’re struggling to communicate with a local person you should be concentrating but you can’t take your eyes off the state of their mouth.
  • Hotels – elsewhere in Southeast Asia we’ve lived like kings for $US 50/night. Not in Myanmar. For reasons I cannot fathom, accommodation is SO expensive. There is no Airbnb to speak of so we’ve had to stay in budget hotels, which have featured dubious hygiene, insects, smelly water, frequent power cuts and staff who don’t know what they’re doing. In Hpa-An we tripped a fuse by boiling the kettle and the staff were unable to fix it. We were moved to another room. I think they’ve closed the door on that room forever.

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