Travelled to around more than 100 countries by now, capt Krishan Sharma, Managing Director, and Joint Editor India Post USA, shares his Travelogue of Myanmar, Burma
Visiting Myanmar after a gap of 50 years was like an experience one can never explain. Many things have changed; still, some remain the same as if time has come to a stop. The Shwedagon Pagoda with its glittering gold is still standing tall jutting into the skyline of Yangon. Shwedagon Pagoda believed to be built 2,500 years ago is one of the most revered temples. The Burmese people and their humble hospitality surpass any culture in the world. From one of the richest countries being called the rice bowl of Southeast Asia in the early sixties, it became the poorest country by 2005.
Not anymore. Myanmar is back on the map of developing nations with the change of leadership and democratic reforms. There are now several hotels and traveling has become easier and tourist friendly. There are hotels for all travelers including many 5 star ones. The Strand Hotel, which is over 100 years old, was under renovation keeping its colonial look with super luxury 36 rooms. Traveling to other cities has become much easier with Myanmar Airlines and other domestic airways now available.
Yangon with its broad roads is clean and traffic rules are strictly followed. It is also very green and pedestrian friendly. One of the main markets is Bogyoke Aung San Market, earlier known as Scott Market is a great place to shop for Burmese lacquerware and other jewelry, including Burmese rubies. The market is full of traditional arts and paintings.
Burmese food is another culinary delight. Not to mention Mohinga and KoughtSwe available everywhere. Avoid cold cuts and roadside vendors. Anything boiled or heated should be safe for any traveler.
Another city for a must visit is Mandalay, which was the last kingdom of the Burmese kings. The Mandalay Fort is still the same but much cleaner around the moat. So is the Mandalay Hill and Pagoda. The MahaMyamuni Pagoda is one of the renowned places one must visit.
PyinOoLwin, also known earlier as Maymyo, is only 40 miles from Mandalay and is a well-known hill station located in the Shan States. PyinOolwin is famous for strawberries and flowers during winters and a great place to be away from the heat during summer months. If one has a choice, stay few days at PyinOoLwin Hotel with its cottages by the Kandawgyi Lake to experience the pristine luxury and tranquil atmosphere.
PyinOoLwin is also famous for the horse drawn carriages which started in the colonial era. It is totally unique and serves as the local transport in the city even today. There are several local festivals during the year and do check with the hotel manager while you are there.
There are at least 6 to 7 other cities one can visit. Pagan 9th century kingdom, which is one of the oldest cities consisting of almost over 2000 Pagodas, is also a must while visiting Myanmar. Several airlines provide good connections throughout the year. Taungyi and Kalaw are other hill stations one can visit. One must check with the Government authorities before making any plans to visit other areas.
Myanmar is now considered a preferred destination for investment. Areas include hospitality; IT, pharmacy and it may become a major manufacturing hub for the apparel industry.
The dollar is now valued at 1350 Kyats which is considered excellent for any business venture. Disciplined labour, hardworking and economical, which is extremely hard to find in any country. What else! It is the country of my birth.