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A Gap Year in Burma

Why go backpacking in Burma?

Burma, also known as Myanmar (very political), is one of the hottest destinations to visit right now. Once upon a time, think pre-2011, it wasn’t tourist friendly and keen backpackers were told to stay away.

Which means that now, us travellers can’t get enough of the place. It’s become a must on any South East Asia route.

Myanmar has changed very little since British colonial times. Visit and you’ll find the locals have resisted the Western clothing that’s taken over much of Asia, and the men still sport the skirt-like longyi.

It’s not only the people who are fascinating in Myanmar, there are thousands of sacred sites for you to get your camera out for. The Golden Rock is one of the most famous and most impressive, while the Ayeyarwady River is an absolute must sail. Spend some of your gap year in Burma and you could also chill out on the blissful Bay of Bengal, trek through pine forests and make the most of the regional Burmese cuisine. The temples and pagodas in Myanmar make for some stunning photos, while the beaches, markets and islands should definitely be included in any self respecting Myanmar itinerary.

Head south for the beaches of the Myeik Islands and north for the mountainous Chin State but keep in mind you may need a permit, and there’s a 7pm curfew for being out and about.

Locals chew on a mixture of Betel Nut and tobacco, which leaves their mouths bright red and means they need to spit it out, usually just on the sidewalk.

People still use horses and carts to get around here, the internet is slow and mobile phone reception is dodgy for backpackers. It’s the perfect place to retreat to to get away from the pressures of today’s technology and incessant advertising and commercialism.

If you need more reasons to visit Burma how about a cooking class at the Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort? Or you could learn how to mediate with a monk there, or even have a Burmese language lesson. Or, how about renting a bike to cycle your way around Burma?

Top tip for anyone planning on visiting Burma any time soon; never point your feet at a person or a thing, it’s highly offensive. Just gesture, and smile, it can go a long way.

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Why go?

Bear in mind that as a relatively new country on the South East Asia backpacker circuit there is more of a language barrier and it’s not quite so easy to get around using the current infrastructure.

You may find Burma to be more expensive than its neighbouring countries, mainly thanks to supply and demand and the fact that the tourism industry isn’t quite up to the OTT standard of the likes of Thailand and Vietnam yet. The recent increase in popularity in Burma means that servicing flights and accommodation has been known to book up very quickly. As soon as you know you want to visit the country, get it booked!

Visiting Burma is a great way to support an emerging economy, and to say you were there at the start, when it first started welcoming tourists.

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