Foods, Culture and Everything You Should Know About Magnificent Myanmar
(Yangon City, Myanmar) – Myanmar may not be a touristy place before because of political restrictions but that has changed. Today this beautiful country rich with culture is open to visitors. Magnificent Myanmar (Burma) is located in Southeast Asia. Its neighboring countries are India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Laos. There are 51 million people in the country as of 2014.
Here are some guidelines if you’re planning to travel to the country.
The official name of Myanmar is Republic of the Union of Myanmar but it’s still popular as Burma. The capital city used to be Yangon but it was changed to Naypyidaw in 2005. The 4 major religions in the country are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Their official currency is Burmese kyat (MMK).
Myanmar Visa Requirements
Going to Myanmar is visa-free if you’re a Philippine passport holder. If not, you can apply for their eVisa online. You need to pay a $50 fee, submit a digital, passport size photo taken within the last three months. You’ll then receive an approval letter (valid for 90 days before entering the country) through email in 3 days. Present the printed letter in the airport of Myanmar. The visa allows 28 days in Myanmar and has single entry validity.
Accommodations in Myanmar
There are government-approved hotels in Myanmar but prices are higher than hostel dorm rooms which are available in tourist areas. Although the prices are higher for government-approved hotels, their service is top notch and you get the best amenities.
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Going to Myanmar
There are no direct flights from Western countries to Myanmar but there are connecting flights to other Asian countries like China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
Getting Around in Myanmar
Tourists can ride either the train or bus. Riding the train in Myanmar can be quite an experience as the ride can be a bit bumpy. The train’s windows are open so you can see breathtaking views of the rural parts of the country.
What to Eat in Myanmar
Like any Asian country, Burmese cuisine is often accompanied by white rice. It’s their most common starch. They like to use vermicelli and rice noodles as well as pickled mango and fermented shrimp or fish. They have a colorful ethnic background so you can expect that their food is somehow influenced by it.
- Mohinga is their national dish. It’s an all-in-one meal. It consists of fish, yellow-colored fish stock, rice noodles and herbs. It’s often served with local coffee and lime wedge.
- Laphet means pickled tea leaves. It’s mixed together with tomatoes, garlic, chilli and cabbage. They use fish sauce or peanut oil for dressing and a squeeze of lime.
- Ohn No Khao Swè is much like Malaysian laksa. It means “coconut milk noodles”. They use wheat noodles and put in a coconut milk broth together with curried chicken. They use bean fritters, sliced onions, chilis, sliced hard-boiled eggs and crisp noodles as garnish. They also make use of lemon or lime juice and fish sauce.
- A Kyaw Sone (Vegetable Fritters) is probably one of the cheapest foods you can eat in Myanmar. They’re vegetables that are chopped and coated in batter then deep-fried so you could imagine just how good that is. They usually accompany the dish with dipping sauce.
- Shan Khauk Swe is a dish made of boiled noodles that’s been mixed with sautéed vegetables (pickled mustard greens) and a choice of chicken or pork. It can be served with sauce or as is.
- Eat like a royal by trying the Burmese Buffet. You’ll be served very generous portions of beef, chicken, pork, seafood (not all the time) and vegetables. You’ll be given a heaping bowl of rice and a smaller bowl of soup.
- Kyat Thar Si Pyam means “oil returns” referring to the chicken fat that “separates from the sauce” as it cooks. You’ll have a taste of garlic, onions, cinnamon and ginger. Coconut oil and other spices are also used in this dish.
- Shwe Yin Aye is a sweet Burmese delight that is popular even from street vendors. It’s made from coconut cream, jellies and clear tapioca. It’s served with ice and a piece of bread.
Past political problems in Myanmar limited its opportunity to boost tourism however, this secluded country is beginning to promote and develop their nation.
If you’re visiting the country and wish to get friendly with the locals, you could say Mengalaba (Meng-gah-lah-bar) meaning hello or Chesube (Tseh-soo-beh) meaning thank you. Traditional Burmese clothes for women are Longyi and Pasu for men. Their traditional make-up is called Thanaka (paste from thanaka tree bark). It’s used to paint the cheeks and nose. It’s even considered an effective sunblock. Burmese also chew on Kun-ya made of areca nuts and dried herbs wrapped in betel leaves. This stains the teeth though.
There are festivities in which tourists are allowed to join in. It’s a big no-no to take photos of women bathing and meditating monks. Some tribes also consider it disrespectful if you take photos of pregnant women. Always ask before you take photos of locals.
Majority of Burmese people practice Buddhism so they will expect you to wear proper attire if you’re visiting religious sites. It’s prohibited to disturb people meditating inside the temples and to touch a monk’s robe. You also must pay your respects to the Buddha.
You’re not allowed to touch people’s heads including the kids. Your feet can’t point objects or touch them and they should always be under yourself when sitting. You can’t sit with your feet pointing away from you or pointing at someone else or a pagoda.
PDA (public display of affection) can offend the locals as they’re a conservative people.
Going to Myanmar means buying some of the local stuffs you could take home with you like precious stones (jade), agricultural goods like rice and textile and wood products.
Places to Visit
Shwedagon Pagoda is located in Yangon. This gigantic golden temple is one of the most iconic pagodas in the world. You’d see it from a rooftop in the city. You can enter at any of the 4 entrances heading to the platform. 8 planetary posts represent each day of the week except for Wednesday which has 2. Every post has a corresponding animal and Burmese people will pray at the planetary post where they were born.
There’s walking tour of Yangon where you can immerse in the life in Yangon. You could also visit Inle Lake where heritage stilt houses are located. It’s possible to stay at hotel or go to nearby town Nyaungshwe where you can eat local and international cuisines. You can also try diving in Myeik Arhcipelago, ride a train to Gokteik Viaduct and visit the temples of Bagan.
Mrauk U in Northern Rakhine State isn’t as popular as Bagan but gives this place a try and you’ll be treated with foggy mornings and ancient pagodas.
There’s so much more to do and things to learn about the country. Every place you’ll go there could give you a unique travel experience. The conservative yet friendly nation has a lot to offer so travel now and experience Magnificent Myanmar.