Myanmar (Burma)

Known as “The Golden Land” because of the glittering pagodas, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a country rich in cultural heritage. History enthusiasts can bask in ancient cities and archaeological museums. Nature lovers can discover the lure of Myanmar’s forests and wildlife sanctuaries. Beach lovers can relax on the pristine beaches and adventure seekers can trek the challenging mountains. Turn back the clock with a trip to a country where there’s no such thing as a 7-Eleven and the journey is often as interesting as the destination.

When to Visit

November to February are considered the best time to visit Myanmar as this is considered their cool season. There is less rain and the heat and humidity are at their lowest. The wet season, from June through to September, brings heavy but brief afternoon showers.

Highlights

BAGAN Bagan is one of the most enchanting and evocative places in Asia. Climb a quiet temple and witness the beauty of a misty dawn breaking over the temples for a truly enchanting experience.

INLE LAKE Inle Lake, a freshwater lake, encapsulates the evocative images of this country like no other. While the lake itself is stunning, it’s the communities who live on and around the lake who provide the lasting impression.

MANDALAY Mandalay conjures up images of a bygone era. Set on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, the city’s Jade Market is an experience that brings the history and culture of Burma to life.

SHWEDAGON PAGODA No journey to Myanmar is complete without a visit to the 2,600 year old Shwedagon Pagoda. The most sacred and impressive Buddhist site in Myanmar, the top of the stupa is encrusted with over 4,500 diamonds.

AUTHENTIC BURMESE CUISINE One of the best ways to discover Myanmar is through its cuisine. Local ethnic minorities have helped shape the diversity of the food. Burmese cuisine is characterised by its extensive use of fish sauce and ngapi.

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO Immerse yourself in the paradise-like nature of the Mergui Archipelago and feel the same sense of adventure as the great explorers. Most of the islands are uninhabited and overgrown with lush rainforest down to the white sandy beaches.

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Useful Information

Visa's

Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz

Customs

It is considered improper to lose one's temper or show much emotion in public, but the Burmese are a very friendly and outgoing people. The Burmese and other Buddhists follow the Buddhist custom of not touching a person on the head, since spiritually this is considered the highest part of the body. Patting a child on the head not only is improper but is thought to be dangerous to the child's well-being. A person should not point the feet at anyone. Footwear is removed upon entering temple complexes for religious reasons, and it is polite to remove footwear when entering a house.

Shopping

Myanmar’s cities are not shopping destinations on a par with regional favourites such as Bangkok or Singapore, but there are still some bargains to be found. Souvenirs include jewellery – some of the most interesting being made from petrified wood or from jade – plus art and handicrafts such as marionettes, Buddha figurines and tapestries. Laquerware is available throughout the country, with the Bagan style particularly popular with tourists, although quality and prices vary significantly. The plainer styles of Shan state are also worth seeking out. The western town of Pathein is known for its handmade parasols, which are sold throughout Myanmar.A good place to shop in Yangon is Bogyoke Aung San Market, open Tues-Sun 1000-1700, which sells luxury items, handicrafts, foodstuffs, clothing, jewellery and consumer goods. Yangon also has several large shopping centres, including the modern Junction Mall which has facilities such as a cinema and a rooftop swimming pool. Due to sanctions, major international brands have largely been absent from Myanmar although this may change as the country opens up.Mandalay is known as the cultural capital of the country and is therefore a good place for traditional handicrafts. One unusual gift from Mandalay is the gold leaf which is applied to Buddha images at pagodas, which you can see being pounded on 36th Street. There’s also a large jade market in Mandalay, although you really need to know what you’re looking at if you want to bag a bargain. The glitziest shopping centre in Mandalay is Diamond Plaza, which has a large supermarket in the basement.Outside of these two cities the options are significantly more limited. Artists in Bagan sell their work direct to tourists or through touts, however, and boat trips on Inle Lake usually include visits to workshops making things like cheroots (basic hand-rolled cigars) or silver jewellery.Shopping hours: Mon-Sun 0900-1700.

Tipping

Its common to tip drivers and guides, waiters at local restaurants and also usually hotel porters. The following suggestions on tipping are meant as general guidelines. For exceptional service travelers may wish to give more. Hotel porter: In general, if a porter carries bags to the room, a tip of about US$ 0.50 - $1.00 (either in US$ or equivalent to kyat) would be appropriate, depending on size, weight etc. Restaurant: In general a tip of about 5% is appreciated for meal service (in kyat). Driver: The driver's tip may be about US$ 2 to $5 per day (either in US$ or equivalent in kyat) for individual or couple. For group, a tip of about US$1 (either in US$ or in kyat) per person, per day would be suitable. Tour guide: Tips for the tour guide can be varied. A fair average for the tour guide would be around US$ 5 to $10 per day, depending on group size and level of satisfaction of the client. For exceptional service clients may wish to tip more.

Getting around

For most people, the main ways to get around Myanmar are by air and bus; you can of course mix different modes of transport during your travels according to the individual journey you are taking. Which you choose will very much depend on your budget and itinerary; buses are the cheapest form of transport and some destinations can only be reached by air, for example.

Language

Burmese officially, many minorities have their own language.

Health

The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor on 1300 658 844. Regardless of destination, all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine "background" vaccinations, including for Tetanus and Diphtheria (with a booster within the last 10 years), Whooping Cough, Polio (with a booster in adult life - there has been recent evidence of polio transmission in Burma), Measles, Mumps and Rubella (two combination vaccinations through life), Chicken Pox and a recent annual Influenza vaccination. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended for travellers to Burma. Vaccination against Hepatitis B should be considered by frequent or long stay travellers. Vaccination against Typhoid should be considered particularly when travelling to areas with poor sanitation and hygiene. A Rabies vaccination should be considered by travellers spending extended periods of time in Burma, particularly if dealing with animals. Cholera is reported in Burma but vaccination is generally not recommended, care with food and beverage selection is far more important. As Malaria (medium risk) and Dengue Fever occurs in Burma, insect avoidance measures are recommended. Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. Australians travelling to Burma should also ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay. For further information on insurance, please visit the Smartraveller website listed above.

Electricity

Electrical Plug: British and European Voltage: 220-240v (same as Australia) Source: Korjo Travel Products. Please view the Korjo adapter guide at www.korjo.com.au for further information on this matter.

Communications

Country Code for Burma: +95 Visa Global Assistance: Call the US on 00 1 303 967 1090 Emergency Services: Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191 There is no blanket emergency services number equivalent to “000” in Burma. The above numbers will only work in some areas. These services may not always have English speaking staff. In this case, you should have a local call on your behalf or contact the Australian Embassy.

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