I’m so excited to share another guest post with you guys. Today’s post comes from Elle over at Travelling Wallflower, and she’s talking about Myanmar! I have yet to make it to the Asian continent, so I thought it would be cool to share someone else’s experience with you all.
Myanmar is often overlooked by travelers in Southeast Asia, and because of internal conflict, people tend to skip over it in fear. So I’m really happy to get a solo female traveler’s perspective on the country and what to expect there as a traveler.
Planning my first solo adventure and low and behold, I choose to travel to Myanmar! I had never traveled alone and every time someone would ask me where I was headed, I’d get bewildered looks when I announce the destination. Everyone was concerned about the political situation and the fact that I’d be a little girl out there all on my own.
Now I’m not one to stress, especially when it comes to travel! I have confidence that I know what I’m doing and I trust my instinct, but I have to admit that my confidence was a little shaken with all the pessimistic comments about my destination.
My first thought when booking my ticket was, “I’m finally going where no one I know has gone, so I won’t have to hear second hand experiences before actually seeing it for myself”! Feeling slightly unnerved after all those negative remarks, I prepare my trip with extra caution.
Traveling to this supposedly dangerous or conflicted country has taught me a lot about how media influences our views on the world. I was so glad that I hadn’t let others opinion deter me from my plans as I was so pleasantly welcomed into this joyful part of the world. Thailand might have to accept sharing their title of “The Land of Smiles”.
What to Expect in Myanmar
The Most Polite People You’ll Meet
Burmese people are so kind and polite and expect nothing less in return. Of course the conflicts they have endured – and still do – has shaped their behaviors and values, but in no way did I associate it to anything negative. It’s important to do your research before visiting the country to be aware of current situations, but usually anything that can be dangerous to tourists is maintained to restricted areas of the country. As a whole, Burmese are peaceful citizens and I never felt fearful for my safety walking around on my own.
Watching the sunrise in Bagan, one of the biggest tourist attractions of the country, I was approached by 3 kids selling various items. When one of the girls was following me around and trying to guilt me into making a purchase, her friend told her to stop being pushy. I wasn’t sure what to think about the whole situation. Were they instructed not to be pushy as to not get that reputation or did she just feel like her friend was overdoing it?! Either way, I thought it was refreshing to witness this behavior on their part.
The Perfect Country to Recharge
As an introvert, I can say that traveling to this part of the world was the perfect experience. Burmese people are quiet in nature and very considerate. Their understated characters truly charmed me and left me wanting to prolong my stay.
I was staying in a hut on the beach in the south of the country and a group of young locals were around a bonfire on the beach near my room. They were playing guitar and singing late at night and never once did I feel disturbed by them. I was expecting a lot more noise from a group of teens, but they were so considerate and accommodating as to not disturb the others. I was quite impressed because it’s not the kind of behavior we assume from people that age, especially when they’re in a group.
Genuine Kindness and Respect
Walking through the streets, the stares were plenty, but as soon as I would make eye contact they would either turn away shyly or return a sincere and kind smile. I never felt stared down or uneasy with the locals. I always found a kind stranger to help me understand signs or guidance in finding the best noodle soup restaurant.
Not only are they kind, but extremely respectful. Traditional values are still very deep rooted in the culture and it’s clearly visible in the way that they dress. The majority of men and women of all ages wear the modest traditional clothing. My reflex was definitely to cover up a little more than I normally would in hot and humid weather.
It isn’t mandatory to cover any part of the body, unless you are visiting the inside of a temple. Simply out of respect for the culture I was drawn to my tee-shirts instead of tank tops and longer dresses instead of short shorts. I even noticed men looking away slightly when talking to me which struck me as excessive, but I also refreshing considering our North American norms in regards to women.
Peace and Quiet
One of things I appreciated most was how quiet it was in the city. The largest city in the country, Yangon doesn’t allow motorbikes or honking. Obviously like in every city there are law breakers, but this law really does help with the noise level. As a highly sensitive introvert, this is something that I noticed right away because it makes walking around the city streets a lot more pleasant.
Myanmar sets itself apart from other Southeast Asian countries because it still strongly holds on to its traditional views. You don’t have to travel far off the beaten path to see traditional customs being honored. Children are joyful and well-mannered. Adults are genuine and kind.
Almost Too Considerate
Their graciousness was almost disconcerting when I learned that they will wait for restaurants to close before going in to eat with their families. They want to offer the tourist the best experience possible, therefore, restaurant owners have tourist hours and local hours. This is obviously not advertised, but a local hostel owner told me that if a local sees a Westerner eating in a restaurant they will not go in as to not disturb them.
Myanmar is a country I would love to visit again and see how it evolves with tourism. I truly hope that Burmese people will keep their honest smiles and values even with increased traffic through the country. I was immediately charmed by the kindness and hospitality I received during my stay. Later on that trip, while in Thailand, a lot of people were surprised I was coming from Myanmar. It made me realize how a lot of people still had a lot of misconceptions about this place, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this destination to anyone looking for a cultural experience in Southeast Asia.
Thanks so much to Elle for contributing today’s guest post and for sharing your experiences in Myanmar with us! Be sure to hop over to her blog, Travelling Wallflower, to see more from her travels. She writes a lot about traveling as an introvert, which is how we ended up collaborating. She interviewed me about living in a hostel as an introverted traveler, and I loved sharing that experience since I haven’t written much about it anywhere else.
All photos in this post belong to Elle.
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If you’d like to contribute a guest post to Travel Daze, send an email introducing yourself and tell me what you want to write about! courtney @ traveldaze.co
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