To go to Myanmar, or not to go to Myanmar; that is the question.
This beautiful, 'off the beaten track' country has long been an outcast of the international community due to a harsh military regime that has ruled for over twenty years.
However, the tourism boycott that was called for by The National League for Democracy in 1996 was renounced by Auug San Suu Kyi in 2010 following her release from house arrest.
So is it now open season on Myanmar or should you continue to stay away?
There remains an argument that boycotting Myanmar prevents tourist money flowing into the pockets of the ruling junta, and hence tourists should stay away to avoid supporting the regime. However, a recent article in The Times pushes a strong case for visiting the country.
By sticking to family owned establishments, you really can make a positive difference to the local economy without donating too much cash to the junta, and of course, you get to see an incredible country at the same time. Though some Western activists still believe a boycott is best, the general message from Burmese people themselves seems to be: “Please come to our country”.
Where to go in Myanmar
Myanmar is a place where adventure travel of days gone by is still possible today. There are plenty of amazing sites to see; the 2500 year old, gold-gilded Shewdagon Pagoda is a must. Inle Lake, the second largest in Myanmar with its floating vegetable gardens, lakeside villages and numerous festivals is another popular tourist destination and Bagan, a land of more than 4000 Buddhist temples on the shore of the Ayeyarwady River, is a truly impressive place to watch the sun rise over the misty spires.
Myanmar is also safe, has friendly locals who are only too pleased to meet and greet foreign visitors, great weather (although it’s very hot and humid during the summer) and delicious, healthy food.
How to visit Myanmar
As a country that has been devoid of tourists for so long, it can be a complicated place for those travelling independently. However there are small operators who can help and even some who guarantee that no military-owned hotels, railways or agencies will be used on your visit – such as TransIndus.com.
Visas must be obtained before you arrive which can be done at the Myanmar Embassy in London or applied for online.
So, don’t give Myanmar the cold shoulder. Instead, read up both sides of the argument, and make up your own mind.
Find flights to Yangon
The Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle an illustrated account of a year spent in Burma