How to Effectively Prepare for Your Myanmar Trip
For a long time it was not easy to visit Myanmar (also known as Burma), meaning that its allure is unparalleled in the eyes of many. In the last few years, adventurers have flocked to Myanmar as it has become easier to visit. The country is becoming one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, with 3 million visitors in 2014.
It’s now easy to find ATMs on street corners, and WiFi is becoming increasingly available. Intrepid explorers have gone in and blazed a trail, but as tourists we have an obligation to try and cultivate a culture of responsible tourism. McDonald’s and Starbucks may appear eventually, but for the time being the country is largely free of such Western imports. Being mindful of our travel choices in places where the tourism industry is growing can help create a less corrupt and more sustainable system.
As a traveler, it’s important to have a positive impact when visiting regions in which tourism is still developing. Smart, responsible tourism choices can lead to a better trip for you and a better result for the country you’re visiting. Here are some tips for doing your bit and promoting responsible tourism in Myanmar. These ideas can also be used to inspire better travel choices in other destinations.
How to Prepare for Your Myanmar Trip
1. Buy fair trade
Those souvenirs purchased in developing countries may seem like the bargain of the century, but the cost may be higher than you think. Purchasing items at fair trade shops provides better wages and working conditions for farmers and small business owners. Try to find outlets that support local workers ethically.
I saved most of my souvenir shopping for the end of my trip. In Yangon I went straight to Pomelo. This store promotes fair wages for local artisans and workers, and sells a collection of wonderful goods from various producers. Work up an appetite and head next door to Monsoon Restaurant for a delicious post-shopping spree lunch.
2. Encourage women’s empowerment
Educating women and supporting entrepreneurship is giving a voice to the voiceless, and can be an integral part of fostering responsible tourism in a developing country. The Yangon Bakehouse facilitates life-changing opportunities for local women by employing them and teaching them valuable skills. It is an upbeat coffee shop and community space, plus the desserts are to die for (the carrot cake is beyond words!)
3. Be aware of wildlife conservation efforts
The ecosystem of Inle Lake is unique, offering a home to many species of birds and animals not found anywhere else in the world. It is important to protect these areas so that the wildlife can live and grow. The Inle Lake Wetland Sanctuary has created sustainable wetlands for migratory and local birds to live and nest. Be careful to avoid boat tours that disrupt or destroy this fragile environment.
4. Be mindful of food choices
If you are committed to your local farmer’s market movement, make a commitment to eat local, fresh food when you travel. Eating local not only gives you a taste of the area’s cuisine. It also gives you the opportunity to support local farmers and promote small business in the region.
5. Travel smart and go slow
While on holiday, people sometimes forget the good habits they have at home. One of the best ways to be environmentally conscious is to use public transportation. In Myanmar, buses and trains will take you to the larger cities, but are sometimes overlooked because they take longer than flying. I consider train travel part of the experience, not just a way of getting from point A to B. It usually allows you to see parts of the country other than tourist destinations, and gives you a glimpse into rural life.
The train from Inle Lake back to Yangon is a bumpy, exciting way to head south. Cut your carbon footprint while cutting travel costs by finding better transportation methods.
Bike tours are another great alternative to hiring a car. You can stretch your legs and do a bit of exercise while covering more ground than you would on foot. Grasshopper Adventures leads small-group biking tours of Mandalay, allowing you to see small villages. The tour finishes with a beautiful sunset at the famous U Bein Bridge.
Doing your bit in an up-and-coming tourism location like Myanmar helps set a standard for travel that could eventually be expected in other destinations. Making responsible tourism choices leaves you with an enriching experience that you may not find with other travel options.
What You’ll Want to Know to Prepare for Your Myanmar Trip photo credit: Abbie Synan
Have you traveled to Myanmar (Burma)? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.