Destination Myanmar! By Travel To Work.
Travel To Work
Tan is a travel writer at Travel To Work and has kindly contributed this article on Myanmar.
Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also previously known as Burma, is comprised of many ethnic groups and has a population of over 54 million people. The country has been moving forward with the democracy that it has long struggled for and despite the ongoing social and humanitarian concerns; much of Myanmar is worth discovering.
Wander around popular sights such as Inle Lake, Shwedagon Pagoda, Bogyoke Market and discover how this destination is embracing sustainable tourism. Backpackers will have endless opportunities to explore all that is Myanmar!
Tourism is one of the fastest developing sections in Myanmar; providing jobs for many people in the local community. However, it is still lacking the balance between the famous cities and the options to visit its remote areas. Depending on location, there are places where you need a special permit to visit. Make sure you contact an official local tour operator before you go to these sites.
We strongly recommend you follow these basic practices during your travels:
Leave nothing but your footprint when you explore and respect the local customs
Do not buy products made from animals which are marketed to tourists
Plan your itinerary to minimise carbon emissions
Bring environmentally products that don't harm the waterways
Use Public Transportation or if safe walk when possible
Respect Burmese Culture
Myanmar is a typical Buddhist country meaning that the local customs should be respected by tourists.
You may enjoy the local experience more appropriately by following this general advice:
Dress modestly when you visit a pagoda or temple (knees and shoulder should be covered)
Remove your shoes for any visits to religious sites and before going inside
Do not touch anyone on their head; it is considered to bring bad luck for them
Ask for permission when you take photos with local people or of religious monuments
Do ask women for a handshake or a hug first before engaging with them
It is advisable to ask your tour guide when you travel to off the beaten tourist track for an appropriate manner in the community
Mind your tone of voice and speaking volume and aim to respect areas designated for prayer
Do not disturb people when they are praying or partaking in meditation
The best practice is to spend your money in different places than just the major city. When planning your itinerary, if you can craft a program with stops to many different sites, you will then contribute better to the places you will pass by. Importantly, travel to picturesque sites such as Hpa An, Kalaw, Mrauk U, Pyin Oo Lwin, Kyaing Tong as they promise some of the most authentic travel experiences in Myanmar. You can wander around and actively help the local community by spending your money on local accommodation, food, drinks and transportation.
It is advised that you do not give money directly to kids who appear to be involved in street begging or selling gifts to tourists; this does not help to break the ongoing cycle of poverty and exploitation. Instead, do aim to support the many wonderful Social Enterprises in the community that provide alternative opportunities through education and job training.
Eco-tourism is all about travelling in a sustainable and ethical way which does not cause harm to the environment or the people who live in the area. Whilst the majority of tourists flock into the famous Shan State for the trek to Inle Lake, other destinations like Lashio and Pyin Oo Lwin have something to surprise you.
These sites offer a beautiful mixture of fascinating local ethnic culture and unspoiled scenery. Elephant Camps which are established in Kalaw and Bago are home to mahouts that are no longer able to work. The camps craft daily tours with activities to replant the forest and take care of the elephants. Another thing you can do during your holiday is to choose Eco-friendly accommodation or reside at one of the many Eco-lodges. If you are looking for a recommended Eco-lodge in stunning surroundings try out Inle View Point or Boulder Bay Ecolodge.
At each city you stay, your direct contribution to the community is really appreciated. Stay at the locally-owned hotels, eat at local restaurants, and hire transport from a private company. If you prefer a good tour package, we suggest you book with these responsible tour operators in the region who support the community in a variety of ways:
One-stop Myanmar: They have a private hospital and are involved in charity campaigns all year round
Proniti Travel: A company that is specialised in adventure tours - They offer programs to help various communities where their tours are operated
Myanmar Adventure Outfitters: They do tours with a homestay in the far north area - The local families benefit directly from the tours they provide
Support Social Enterprises
The concept of a Social Enterprise is still new in Myanmar, but the positive outcome of these companies is great for the country. From Yangon to Bagan, there are a number of social enterprises that focus on vocational training and creating jobs for local people. Some of the best examples that you can easily visit are:
Hla Day Shop in Yangon - an enterprise designed to support the producers who may be suffering a disability, social exclusion, and living below the poverty line
Sanon Training Restaurant in Bagan - the perfect place to savour Burmese dishes prepared by the young people receiving work training in the kitchen
Sunflowers Organic Dye Weaving Studio in the Inle Lake area - the price may be a little expensive but you are contributing to conserving a beautiful traditional work which is part of the history and culture of Myanmar
Elephant Experience in Green Hill Valley - here you can visit the elephants who have retired from the timber industry and are now being cared for at this amazing sanctuary
If you are interested in learning more you can find more information on where to visit here
Myanmar has some of the most precious stones in the world but please purchase stones which are certified and do not buy from unregistered sellers
Escape from group travel and take a private tour for a unique experience
Do not buy handcrafted timber products which are cut from the local rain forests
Leave nothing but your footprint and please do not litter
Be respectful when using a camera, especially around monks and elders, ask them first
Share your wonderful experience with your family and friends
So that's it! Myanmar is an incredibly undiscovered destination with plenty to see and do. Thank you for contributing to the local economy and sustainable projects when you travel.
Please check appropriate Government websites prior to organising travel to the region.