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Myanmar – Travel Advice

I was thinking about going to Myanmar. Has anyone already experience in this country (former Burma)? Or any advice? I don’t know yet, if I really go there, ‘cause I heared tourists only bring money to the military government, that’s why I’m hesitating… Thanks for your help!

Phil, Switzerland

by Philipp Reinmann at 2008-01-15 16:55:37 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Bern , Switzerland | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I was there in Dec 2006, but that was before the monks held their protests. At that time, it’s generally safe to walk around- the people there are pretty friendly and looked somewhat resigned. other than at the airport, they mostly keep to themselves. we took the train once and it was nice. we also move around quickly, and try not to attract too much attention. we stayed at this hotel called the panda hotel – really quite decent. monitor the political situation, i’m a little out of touch with what’s going on now..

by Stefanus Elliot Lee | 16 Jan 2008 03:01 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
Hi Phil

I was there in 2006….it’s easy to find guesthouses that are family run vs. government run. The government run hotels are easy to spot as they are super fancy. Also, if you choose to fly around the country there is a government run airline and private airlines.

So overall it’s easy to choose where to put your money.

Also, you HAVE to fly into Yangon to enter the country…you can’t go overland (although this may be different if entering from up north…anyone know the situaation there??)

I don’t think you can say it’s good or bad either way…there are positives and negatives to going and not going. Just be wise about how you spend your dollars and you’ll be ok.
cheers
Jonathan

by | 16 Jan 2008 07:01 | Canmore, Canada | | Report spam→
I was there last year, about a month before the big protests.

Overall, I’ve heard both sides about the ethics of visiting — but having been there, I definitely encourage others to do the same. The sanctions in place punish the people more than the generals — trust me, I don’t think the army needs your cash; they have forests and minerals to plunder.

That said, avoid government-run businesses when possible. But go, look around and make up your own mind.

A couple of pointers: there are no ATMs — so you’ll have to carry US dollars, change them for a brick-sized stack of local notes.

There are Internet cafes, but are severely restricted: don’t expect access to Hotmail, Yahoo or any of the major email services. Connectivity is slow.

Here are my photos:
http://monsoon.smugmug.com/gallery/3142980#172462366

by Alan Soon | 16 Jan 2008 08:01 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
I just got back (today). (I was reporting for NPR.) I can put you in touch with some people who can help translate. Plus NLD members and other leaders. Let me know what help you need.

by Zack Baddorf | 16 Jan 2008 17:01 | Vancouver, Canada | | Report spam→
Phil, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t go. This whole policy of advising people not to travel to Burma really doesn’t help matters, it just further serves to isolate the country and its people, and the junta is quite in favor of that. The gov announced just this week they’re jacking up the satellite TV fees from $5 to $800 so it will be almost impossible for the average person to get news from outside Burma. Just be careful not to be seen photographing something you shouldn’t be photographing and you’ll be fine.

by [former member] | 18 Jan 2008 05:01 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
Nicely said Will.

by Alan Soon | 18 Jan 2008 09:01 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
The info you have gotten here is fine. I happen to live in Yangon. As for hotels, some are owned by Singaporean entities and have nothing to do with the government, other than they have to deal with them. Someone else made a good point, though, which is that the government does not need nor care about your money. China, Thailand and India combined do about $5 billion a year of business, which represents upwards of 95% of the budget. Most of this is natural gas, but includes timber, industrial minerals, some foodstuffs, and jade.

As for your own money, it is sometimes possible to use a credit card, but transactions are booked via Singapore. Cash money, preferably dollars, should be new, clean, and devoid of even the slightest tear. This is a peculiarity of the Central Bank.

Cameras should not be any problem, unless of course the situation deteriorates again.

Regarding the sanctions, what the US and the EU do in terms of imports is not only useless, it is harmful. A few years ago I watched when a few hundred thousand young women were thrown out of work when textile exports to the US were cut off. Jobs are not so easy to get, so when one is laid off, one does not eat. Many women turned to prostitution, others were forced to pull their children from school. The government lost an amount of money that would not even be a rounding error in their budget.

In a dozen years in the country I have not heard a single Burmese person living in the country (vs. an exile) who is in favor of the US and now EU sanctions (other than DASSK). The reason is simple: whatever they might want their future to be, they would like to be alive when it comes.

So go there, spend some money, and enjoy it. You will do no harm, but may end up doing some good and helping put food on people’s tables.

by Andrew McGrath | 19 Jan 2008 07:01 | Yangon, Myanmar | | Report spam→
Phillip,
There is already some good advice here but may I suggest a couple of books:

Badlands – from the creator of Lonely Planet. He recounts his trip to Myanmar and several other places that are generally frowned upon by the rest of the world.

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Lands-Lonely-Planet-Travel/dp/1741791863/ref=pd_bbs_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1200818775&sr=8-5

And the following guidebook will probably prove handy but it is about 2 years old now:

http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Planet-Myanmar-Burma-Robert/dp/1740596951/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1200819023&sr=1-6

Good luck and update us with your travels if you go!

by Jeffery Patch | 20 Jan 2008 08:01 | Calif., United States | | Report spam→
Here’s another great book:

http://www.amazon.com/Finding-George-Orwell-Burma-Larkin/dp/B000EUKQWI

by Alan Soon | 20 Jan 2008 09:01 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
Good advice here, thanks! I have a couple of questions myself since I will be going there at the end of Feb. I am following a US NGO invited by the Burmese government. Could that present a problem? What is the general feeling towards international NGO working in Myanmar?

Lastly since I am based in China, I will be arriving with Yuan (RMB) Chinese currency. Can it be exchanged there? Or should exchange in Beijing and bring crisp Benjamins?

Thanks again guys!

by Raul Vasquez | 21 Jan 2008 14:01 | Beijing, China | | Report spam→
I think it’s better to bring in US Dollars from China. Before I went there I had to exchange Singapore Dollars into sequential US Dollars. They say you get better rates that way too. But beats me. I’m not too sure about that. Sounds exciting, Raul..

And I’m not sure , but think the general attitude towards NGOs are quite good.

by Stefanus Elliot Lee | 22 Jan 2008 09:01 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
Thank you all for your answers…one more question: Did anybody have any troubles with their gear (lenses, bodies, mp3-recorder) at the airport?

Phil

by Philipp Reinmann | 22 Feb 2008 18:02 | Bern, Switzerland | | Report spam→
of course I cannot speak for the majority of photographers that have entered Myanmar recently but I wasn’t checked at all last month, carrying two digital bodies, five lenses and a laptop. Neither were my 17 fellow travelers who all came on different days and flights carrying comparable gear.
I was told not to list “photographer” as profession on my visa though…

by Bas Uterwijk | 23 Feb 2008 09:02 | oikake, Netherlands | | Report spam→
I had no problems at all. Some of the airport officials were even happy to have their photos taken.

by Alan Soon | 24 Feb 2008 03:02 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→

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Participants

Philipp Reinmann, Producer Philipp Reinmann
Producer
New York City , United States ( JFK )
Stefanus Elliot Lee, Photographer Stefanus Elliot Lee
Photographer
Singapore , Singapore ( SIN )
, Photographer
Photographer
(Documentary Travel Photographe)
Canmore , Canada
Alan Soon, Journalist/Photographer Alan Soon
Journalist/Photographer
(monsoonphoto.net)
Singapore , Singapore
Zack Baddorf, Journalism Zack Baddorf
Journalism
(Freelance Reporter)
Rumbek , Southern Sudan
Andrew McGrath, Andrew McGrath
Yangon , Myanmar
Jeffery Patch, student Jeffery Patch
student
(time to see the world)
Calif. , United States
Raul Vasquez, Photojournalist Raul Vasquez
Photojournalist
Beijing , China ( PEK )
Bas Uterwijk, Freelance Photographer Bas Uterwijk
Freelance Photographer
Amsterdam , Netherlands ( AMS )


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