The gal checking us in at the Denver International Airport didn’t know how to process our Myanmar visas–hadn’t seen one before. We were not on our way to a popular travel destination, and that made the trip all the more glamorous. Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is not a completely virgin land, but it has opened up to tourism and become more easily accessible in recent years. Because of this, we encountered some of the most genuine people who were perhaps more curious than we were.
Since Myanmar is newer on the travel circuit, it felt like a perfect place to visit before it explodes, and trust me, it will. The more touristy locations such as Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay were already ready for tourists. Everyone spoke very good English and everyone was trying to sell you something. Other areas including Mrauk U, (our personal favorite) Hsipaw, Hpa-An, and Sittwe are a little bit further off the tourist circuit and not only could we walk around interesting sights hassle-free, but people actually gawked at us and some asked to take pictures with us. One man took us to his house, fed us, gathered neighbors to meet us, took us to meet a monk at the local monastery, then drove us back to our guesthouse.
When people ask, “how was your trip?”, I don’t even know where to begin. I have never met such genuinely friendly people. Regardless of our level of communication, people are ready to help and assist you in any way possible. Everyone has a huge smile: kids, men and women with red betel spilling out of their mouths, even toothless grannies. The scenery? Incredible. From pristine white sand beaches to vibrant green rice paddies, this country is not lacking on beautiful landscapes. Even more, the food was outstanding. The curries, the Shan style noodles, fermented tea leaf salad…I could go on forever, but my mouth is watering.
So, it’s not just the epic Bagan sunrise that lured us here (which was thoroughly fantastic). This trip was a once in a lifetime experience. Myanmar is at a political turning point and on the cusp of major tourist expansion. As with many other countries that see an epic number of tourists per year, eventually this beautiful country will follow suit and some of those raw experiences will be less available. I feel so fortunate for the time that we spent in Myanmar.
To see more of my photos from Myanmar, please click here.