There’s nothing mundane about a holiday in Indochina. In recent years it has become increasingly popular as travel companies realised there was a growing demand from people to find new destinations to visit. The places that people only used to be able to see in films and read about in books are very much part of mainstream tourism now. Some countries like North Korea are still off limits but once country that is now ‘’open for business’’ after years of isolation is Myanmar, formerly the British colony of Burma. It was unofficially closed to tourists because of the nature of the military regime and most travellers were unwilling to visit even if they managed to get a visa to go there. Myanmar tour packages have now been put together to show tourists the delights of the country. Travel to Myanmar and you will experience its historical, cultural and religious treasures as well as a natural environment where many village tribes live as they have for generations.
There is plenty of information online about Myanmar and companies that specialise on travel in Myanmar and indeed Indochina tour packages will be only too happy to receive and answer enquiries. They will provide plenty of advice and make arrangements for you. Here are some thoughts on general things you should bear in mind and a list of the major attractions you can expect to see.
• Bargaining. Discussing a price and reaching an agreement has been a feature of trading before the time when money changed hands. It is likely that as a tourist you will be asked for more than the price a local would pay and in the end you will still have to pay more than the local price. However you will usually find that you can negotiate from the price first quoted on most things to finally get them cheaper. How far you can go will vary, as will your willingness to do so. When you are on Myanmar tour packages ask for advice if it is something of real value. Otherwise enjoy the fun.
• Eating. Myanmar’s cuisine has similarities to others in the region. The most obvious influences have come from peoples who have had the most contact with the ‘’Burmese’’ over the years. While the British are involved to some extent it is primarily the Indians and Chinese when it comes to food. Bust street vendors have turnover and therefore the food is likely to be perfectly safe. If there is no English restaurant guide and you have free time in your travel in Myanmar go to somewhere that looks to have plenty of customers.
• Exploring. If you have some time to yourself away from Indochina tour packages then by all means explore. It is not a wise thing to do that at night in a strange place but then it would not be in any other place in the world, including your own. You should always show respect to the locals and dress according to what custom demands, especially at religious sites.However you never know that there may be a surprise around the corner soturn it.
• Reading. If you see any literature that appears to be current it may be announcing something interesting. You may have no time on your schedule to see it but you never know.
• The Differences. Sometimes you might see a brand label that you recognise. It does not necessarily mean it will have the same taste as at home because it will have been made for the region rather than shipped huge distances. By all means try it but remember the local food and drink as well; perfectly safe.
• Free Time. Your itinerary may be fairly full but if you have time and you see that there are short tours to somewhere you are not scheduled to go there is nothing wrong in booking.
• Transport. Taxis are the quickest way to get around but you should agree a price for the journey before you set out. That way you will not be paying for any diversions that will not necessarily be needed.
• Your Health. In medical terms, certainly availability, Myanmar and other countries in Indochina will not have the quality of service you would expect as standard at home. It is worth carrying a basic first aid kit with you and any medicine you think you may need because it may not be available even in the cities.
• Street Crime. Towns and cities where there are crowds of people do attract pickpockets. Remember that your money, cards and documents are essential to your holiday and take care not to be a victim of theft. You should get anything you don’t need with you at the same in a hotel safe deposit box and make photocopies of essential documents.
• Strangers. Tourists are sometimes magnets seen as an opportunity to make money by locals in towns and cities. Most mean no harm when they approach and will go away after a polite refusal. When you are on organisedMyanmar tour packages you should have little need for assistance.
Many of Myanmar’s attractions have been hidden from tourists’ eyes for a few years. No longer. If you travel to Myanmar you will find out more.
• The ancient capital of the Burmese Empire is Bagan. Its prominence was from the 9th to the 13th Century and during that time it was thought to have more than 10,000 temples. Marco Polo describes the city during his travels. Even today there are more than 2,000 so Bagan is arguably the first place that anyone interested in temples, pagodas and stupas would go.Nearby on the summit of an extinct volcano there is a monastery. You will have to climb 777 steps to get there but the panoramic views over Bagan mean that you are rewarded for your effort.
• The 12th Century Ananda Templeis the main highlight and while an earthquake damaged it in 1975, restoration work has restored it. On the 900th anniversary of its construction the spires were gilded in celebration. A week-long festival is held every year in the period of December-January involving 1,000 monks. People from throughout the whole region come to enjoy the festivities.
• The Golden RockPagoda balances, precariously but seemingly safely, on a large boulder.The claim is that it contains a piece of Buddha’s hair and as a result has become a major pilgrimage site.
• The Shwedagon Pagodadates back 2,500 years. It is on a hill overlooking the former capital and largest city, Yangon. Gold leaf and precious diamonds cover the stupa so it is visible from great distances.
• Inle Lakeforms part of allMyanmar tour packages. The long boat motors are a little noisy but that does not really detract from the enjoyment of spending some time on the lake looking at the villages on stilts. Life has changed little over the years. Farmers tend to their vegetables and fruit while fishermen go after their daily catch.
• Mrauk Uwas originally a fortress with the thick walls built to help repel invasion. It was there to trade and the long boat trip on the Kaladan River to get there is a real experience. A word of warning though; this is one of the wettest parts in the whole country so a light raincoat and umbrella are advisable. t
• Ngapali on the Bay of Bengal is Myanmar’s top coastal resort. The sandy beaches are white and the sea clear blue. Luxury hotels have sprung up as a result of its popularity and restaurants serve the daily catch as surely everyone’s first choice? In contrast to the luxury hotels you can take an ox as your taxi.The high season is November to April and it becomes the sleepy little place it was before tourists discovered it. There can be no better place to relax after a hectic itinerary.
• Mandalay is a place that has been described in poetry and song. In case you did not know it is in Myanmar and there are several things you should see while you are there on Myanmar tour packages.
• Shwenandaw Monasteryotherwise known as the Golden Palace may not have much external gold left but there are wonderful carvings in teak and stone. There is gold incidentally inside.
• Maha Myat Muni Paya is a very holy site. The 4 metre high Buddha is made of gold and diamonds. Men only are permitted to buy gold leaf and apply it when they visit this site.
• The final palace of the Burmese monarchy was constructed in the middle of the 19th Century.
• Shwemawdaw Payais also covered in gold so that can be seen from a great distance away. The fact that it is also more than 100 metres high obviously helps. To add to the glitter there are plenty of diamonds as well. It forms part of a complex in Bago which is over 1,000 years old.