This is a guest post by Fresh Wes who recently participated in the Semester at Sea program through which he visited 10 different countries.
- 1. Place to Visit – One of the most fascinating stops our group made was to Inle Lake, which is located in the mountains of Shan State. The sole method of transport is via wooden boats, most outfitted with small outboard engines. This makes for a relaxing journey across the calm waters of the lake. I recommend staying on the lake itself, in a large cabana, overlooking the water. Sunrises and sunsets on the water are absolutely incredible.
- 2. Currency Exchange – The national currency, the kyat, is heavily regulated by the government. Foreign travelers trying to find a fair exchange rate must avoid any banks. You will likely find the value of a US dollar to be 10-15 times as high when exchanging currency on the street. Be careful though, as this is not considered legal, but for some it is a necessity to make international travel cheaper.
- 3. Cash not Credit – Because of the economic sanctions and restrictions placed on the country, you will find the U.S. credit cards you might be traveling with are not accepted. Also, many of the best deals and meals can be found in the markets and smaller shops where they lack any technology infrastructure to accept anything else.
- 4. Prices – Travelers will find excellent deals in the aforementioned markets and haggling is a must. I can recall buying 20 packs of gum for less than 5 cents and a fifth of the government’s own “Myanmar Rum” for about 30 cents. Myanmar, like most Asian countries, has some excellent art and textiles. Most people are sure to find something that pleases them for a reasonable price.
- 5. Ask Questions Wisely – There has been some recent turmoil between the monks and military in Myanmar. You will find that the citizens are willing to talk about the ongoing situation, given they feel comfortable and safe. I??ve had many tour guides turn off their microphone, and give their truthful opinions as to what is actually going on. In Myanmar, where uttering the country??s former name of Burma can get you thrown in jail, truth is hard to come by.
[photo by: tarotastic]