Myanmar through the Lens of Solo Travel

Visiting Myanmar: Myanmar through the Lens of Solo Travel

foreign-correspondent badge finalPassport? Check. Money? Check. Plan of some sort— check.

Despite living in Thailand for the last seven months, I couldn’t help but be slightly nervous for my first travel experience alone. I was traveling to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Myanmar is a developing country that only opened its doors to foreigners in recent years.

I double-checked that I had everything I needed for ten days of travel. I made sure to pack long skirts, shirts that covered my shoulders, bug spray, sneakers and a camera. I took a deep breath and boarded the plane to a very foreign land.

Traveling alone has benefits and disadvantages. On one hand, everything I did was entirely up to me.

Visiting Myanmar
Jenny had never traveled alone before her Myanmar adventure.

I traveled all over the country–from Yangon to Bagan to Kalaw to Inle Lake to Mandalay. Each location was a little bit different and provided a new perspective of the country and culture. To my surprise, everything went pretty flawlessly. I had no trouble finding hostels, taking public transportation or doing things on my own. I also felt completely safe in all of the locations. The only thing that went wrong was that I got a nasty burn from the exhaust of a motorbike, which was my own clumsy fault. Luckily I was given traditional Burmese medicine; also know as a tomato to ease the pain.

Traveling alone has benefits and disadvantages. On one hand, everything I did was entirely up to me. I had complete control over where I stayed, what I ate and where I went. On the other hand, traveling alone was expensive and got a little lonely at times. But I did manage to make some friends along the way and had company for the entirety of my three-day trek in the Shan Hills. The trek was led by two young Burmese women, who made the journey feel safe and comfortable for female travelers.

friends in myanmar
Making friends in Myanmar

The trek was actually my favorite part of the trip. Not only did I have good company, but I also saw true Burmese culture without tourist traps and scams. The trek was long and it was challenging. However, it was incredible to see Burmese people in their true state. There was no running water in the villages, people wore traditional hill-tribe outfits and watching 50-year-old women carry buckets of water on their heads gave me encouragement when I grew tired. We were offered green tea at every place we stopped, and I felt welcomed by warm smiles and waves. We even stopped at a wedding party, where we were offered a full meal, cigars and candies.

I feel more independent and confident that I can do things on my own without the approval or reliance on others.

The rest of the trip was wonderful, but not much could top the authenticity of the trek. However, I did see some pretty fantastic temples, was greeted by friendly monks and got my picture taken by nearly every Burmese person who owned a camera. Myanmar definitely has its own uniqueness and special quality. The country has everything from horse drawn carriages to men spitting blood red beetle juice to a cosmetic paste on women’s faces to traditional clothing. These aspects make Myanmar feel traditional and somewhat “unchanged” despite tourism.

I think Myanmar’s violent and corrupt political history could scare people away from visiting. But it is definitely not a place to be afraid of. Burmese people are friendly and there are so many beautiful aspects to the country. There is no reason to feel unsafe, especially considering the strong Buddhist presence in Myanmar.

Visiting Myanmar alone was definitely a good decision. I feel more independent and confident that I can do things on my own without the approval or reliance on others. It is a place I would encourage other women to travel to if looking for an authentic and cultural experience.

 

Visiting Myanmar: Myanmar through the Lens of Solo Travel

About Jenny Tolep

Jenny TolepJenny Tolep is currently working as an English teacher in Bangkok, Thailand. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to new places, meeting new people and photography.

One thought on “Myanmar through the Lens of Solo Travel

  1. joan walen
    April 17, 2015
    Reply

    I’m getting some interest in visiting Thailand or Myanmar.
    My husband and I are 74-75. We are active seniors and enjoy bike riding.
    We like to explore on our own and not as part of a tour.
    What is your opinion . Should we choose Thailand or Myanmar?
    I guess we have about 2 weeks..we are of course traveling on a budget.
    The 3 day trek in the Shan Hills sounds like something we would do.
    We just got back from Nicaragua..it was challenging but we learned how to enjoy the challenges.

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