If you are planning holidays to Myanmar, there are several things you should know. Apart from being a different country with different laws and customs, there are some things that are worth knowing when you plan to visit another country. Myanmar tours are a lot more enjoyable when you know what to expect from your destination.
1. The internet is slow. It was censored at one time with absolutely no access to websites like Gmail and YouTube. Mobile phones are more popular than the internet but the prices are still pretty high in comparison to similar Asian countries. Cheaper SIM cards are a possible solution.
2. You might see people with red teeth. This is from chewing the betel nut which is a national pastime. There are street stalls that sell the leaves which are filled with hard squares of the betel nut. These are folded and put into the mouth then chewed. The result of chewing this product is a mild narcotic effect. Betel nut is cheap to purchase (about six cents a pop) but it leaves the teeth stained a reddish brown and then the packages are spat out when people are finished with them.
3. If you make a kissing sound (2 or 3 short ones) you get a beer at a restaurant. When Burmese patrons what the attention of a waiter they make the kissing sound. If you were to walk down into the Chinatown area you would find the area where the Burmese go to drink and you would hear a lot of that kissing sound. Myanmar Beer is the cheap local brew at about 60 cents a glass for the draught.
4. Train rides are bumpy. On your holidays in Myanmar if you have occasion to ride on a train, get ready for a serious shaking. The railway tracks are in very poor shape which makes for a seriously bumpy ride, but if you can handle that it is one of the best ways to see the country. The trains’ run slow and are always late. Some Myanmar tours will include train segments while others will not.
5. New Years Parties last four days. The New Year is a big deal in Burma and most things shut down over those four days including restaurants and shops. There is a water throwing frenzy where everyone gets wet. This symbolizes washing away the bad luck and sins of the previous year. Burmese monks used to spike their hair with glue so it would stay up during the water festival which meant they had to shave their heads afterwards. Today they simply use hairspray.
6. Men wear skirts. A traditional Burmese clothing item is the longyi which is a wraparound skirt which is worn by both men and women. Men tie theirs in front while women tie theirs on the side. Underwear are optional when these are worn at home or in the countryside.
7. The beaches are fantastic. One of the highlights of holidays to Myanmar are the beaches. There are over 2,000 kilometers of coastline with many pristine beaches untouched by development and undiscovered by tourists. Ngapali Beach is a 45 minute flight from Yangon and has two miles of white sand which is line with palm trees and overlooks the Andaman Sea. This is where a large number of resorts are located. Myanmar tours usually include seeing several local beaches.
8. Clean Cash is King. There are not many ATMs in Myanmar so you will need to bring a lot of cash with you. Money should not be creased, stained, torn or have any marks on it or it is considered worthless. Credit cards are not widely accepted, but this is slowly changing. In the meantime, one dollar will buy you about 882 kyat. The highest note is a 10,000 which is equal to about £7 so your wallet is going to be pretty fat.
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