6. BBQ it
You may find that Burmese food doesn’t quite match up to that of its neighbours: it can lack the freshness and inventiveness of Thai cuisine, and the depth and variety of flavour of Indian curries.
That’s not to say finding a decent meal is impossible, but – much like accommodation – you should do your research to find the tastiest places to eat.
A dependable, easy and popular option is to go to food stalls serving an array of different meat, fish and seafood, which you select, drop into a basket and hand over to be grilled right in front of you. Yangon’s 19th Street and the night market in Nyaungshwe, by Inle Lake, both have plenty of fresh, appetizing choices.
7. Don’t rely on wifi
Wifi in Myanmar is very limited. Even in upmarket hotels, connections are often patchy and very slow. Since 2014, however, SIM cards have become much more affordable, and buying one means you can use 3G relatively cheaply.
However, don’t expect to find 3G coverage everywhere. Taking a guidebook with you is essential to make sure you’re never without accommodation and eating options, and you can find your way around without the internet.
8. Burma or Myanmar? Know your names
The military junta renamed the country Myanmar in 1989, on the basis that Burma was a colonial name. Some countries still officially call it Burma, and even the co-ruling party, the National League for Democracy, prefer Burma. However, on a day-to-day basis you’ll find most local people call it Myanmar. While visiting, you can use both interchangeably.
9. Think before you speak
The first democratically elected government came into power in early 2016, after decades of military rule. However, the military still hold around a third of the seats in government, and the country still has a long way to go before people can freely express their views without fear of retribution. Discussing politics with Burmese citizens remains a delicate issue and people still fear it will get them into trouble.
On the other hand, engaging people in conversations about their lives in general and how the country is rapidly changing – without directly asking about politics – is a great way to get a better understanding of modern life and culture in Myanmar.
The Burmese people are exceptionally welcoming, warm and friendly; don’t miss the opportunity to get to know your hosts while you’re there.
10. Think about your spending
Bearing all this in mind, travellers should consider limiting the amount of their money that makes it to the government and its associates. Some expenses are unavoidable, including visa fees, while others are hard to avoid if you want to see some of the main tourist attractions, such as the $10 multi-site fee in Mandalay. It can also be difficult to know exactly which businesses in Myanmar are affiliated with the government or its cronies. On the other hand, by staying in budget accommodation your money is already more likely to be going to ordinary individuals or small family businesses than to companies with strong government links.
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