You should go for …… The friendliness of Burmese people. You will tell me that this is the case everywhere in South East Asia and you would be right. However, we were pleased with what we found:
- They are much less shy than the Thai for example. Very often we will see people stopping on the road to ask questions and have a chat. We found that it was easier to have a contact with them than in most countries in the region.
- They are really helpful. Whenever you ask a question, they will really try to help you (even if they don’t understand a word of English and have no idea what you are after). Whenever you are stopped to fix the bike, you will see people stopping by to see if everything is OK.
- They are very welcoming: everybody say hello, very nice
… The relative easiness of travelling there (with emphasis on ‘relative’). Water and food are easily available everywhere. Roads exist (not always good but they are there) and are easy to follow. People will help whenever you require something. That said, understand me well: Myanmar is easy relative to a developing country, France or UK are on a completely different scale!
… The opportunity to see for yourself a country who got such a bad publicity in the western world. And you might realize that we should not always trust the media.
… The beauty of the country.… For the low cost: food is cheap and plentiful. Hotel and guesthouses are also very cheap
in touristic places (good quality price). Prices are not so nice outside of touristic places (and the quality price ratio is definitely going down the drain). Also, prices are increasing quickly (we noticed a 30-50% hike from the prices in our guide dated from last year). … For the security: this is really a safe place. This is important to mention as it’s a little scary to start: there is no ATM, no international banks and no way to receive money from abroad. That means that you have to arrive with a big amount of US$ money in cash. In most countries, the foreigners would immediately become target, not in Myanmar. We never never had any feeling that someone would want to steal from us. For security, I would probably rank Myanmar just after Japan and way ahead of all European countries.
You shouldn’t go for …… The long distances that you are forced to do everyday. Foreigners are supposed to sleep in guesthouses every night, and only guesthouses with a special licence. Because there are not that many of them, you are often forced to ride long distances between 2 places where you can sleep. In some case, you might have to skip a part or use alternative transport as the cycling would be too much. However go see my article on sleep for details on hotel and camping. … The price. Since camping is technically not allowed (again see my article on sleep for details), you have to pay for hotel every night. The choice is limited and it’s not always possible to find very cheap places. Outside of tourist spots, prices are sometimes very high for something very basic.
… The breakfasts. Most of the time the breakfast is included with the room and every hotel serve exactly the same breakfast: oily eggs, cheap toasts with strange bright yellow margarine and jam with no fruit in it. Really after one month I was feeling sick just thinking about going for breakfast.
… The condition of the roads. The roads are in various state of disrepair, there is holes, there is dust, there are many spots without pavement, …
… The fumes and dust. The pavement is often narrow, the side being light sand made loose by numerous ox carts. This results in a lot of dust every time a car or truck is passing.
To make things worst, a lot of trucks are from the second WW and produce a thick black smoke from an exhaust located in your direction (sometimes just at the level of your head). This is all very challenging for the respiratory system :). That said, the traffic is low compared to everywhere else, they drive reasonably well and we felt generally secure on the road.