Saturday, February 27, 2010


Myanmar is the most isolated country in Southeast Asia and thus the most exotic. I chose to visit this country only after I visited most of the rest of Southeast Asia, as I wanted to journey to a less touristy part of the world.

Because of the actions of the military regime in Myanmar, most people choose to boycott the country. Thus, there is considerably less tourist traffic in Myanmar than in the rest of Southeast Asia. I believe this makes Myanmar a pleasant place to travel in, as there are fewer touts to hassle tourists. Furthermore, the locals are nicer (many smile and wave frequently to tourists) and interactions with them are genuine.

There are several quirky aspects of Myanmar. First, there are numerous right-sided steering wheel vehicles driving on the right side of the road. This is because after Myanmar gained independence from the British, it decided to do things the opposite way. However, many of the vehicles in the country are quite ancient, or models donated from Japan (which drive on the left side of the road). Another intriguing aspect is that there are no ATMs in Myanmar. This is the first country I have traveled to without ATMs. People simply carry stacks of cash with them! Lastly, there are frequent (nightly) power outages everywhere in the country.

My travels within Myanmar was cut short due to a very bad case of food poisoning. The source was probably a beef curry dinner that I ate on the streets of Yangon the first night. Because of this, I was sick for four days and bed-ridden for two of those in Kalaw. This was the first serious illness I have gotten after nearly one year of traveling, so it was tough. The one place that I did not have time to visit but wanted to originally is the archeological temple site of Bagan.

The highlight of my trip was the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. During this three-day two-night trek, I met some fellow travelers. Together, we visited several villages, observing locals play, grind tamarind, pack rice and farm. I enjoyed the scenery of hills, valleys and rice terraces. At night, we slept in a village and in a monastery. In the end, we arrived in scenic Inle Lake, surrounded by mountains, stilt villages, monasteries and floating gardens. I will never forget scenes of fishermen rowing with their feet on canoes, attempting to catch fish with their cone-shaped nets.

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