The buttons below link to details of our visit to Myanmar. The gallery link takes you to photos of our trip and 'About' includes travel practicalities as well as a reading list.

Introduction Yangon to Mandalay Places - Bagan and InlePeople Crafts about Gallery

Vicky's blog has a lot more detail and colour. You can read the first episode here

We travelled with Panoramic Journeys.

 

People

The people of Myanmar have seen tremendous change over the past five years. Mobile phone networks have been installed and become affordable, ATMs are now available in most large locations, western dress is widely seen and cars and motorbikes are easier to obtain. At the same time the traditions of the country are still widely visible. Men and women both wear longhis - women wear the htamein tied at the side as a full length skirt and men where the pasoe, tied at the front.

Yangon ladies

Also very noticeable is the yellowish paste, thanaka, that women and girls wear on their face as protection from the sun. It is made from ground tree bark and either made fresh each morning or from a pot when travelling - not so good as our guide, Ghi Ghi, explains.

Betel nut seller

In common with other Asian countries many people chew betel nut and you see vendors (above) with their carefully stacked leaves on street corners and in the markets. Street food is also abundant, from little barbeque stands where people sit on low stools while the vendor cooks up meat on sticks, to the street cafes where everyone is eating the traditional "mohinga" noodle soup in the mornings (below). We try this in our hotels and it is delicious. Starting with a meat or fish broth you add noodles, coriander leaves, lime juice, chilli, and onions as you wish.

Soup  vendor

Buddhism is a big part of people's lives and everywhere we went we saw monks, temples, monasteries and stupas. Every man has to live as a monk at least twice in their lives - there are around 400,000 monks in Burma. Women can become nuns but are not expected to do so. Most men spend their first period as a monk as novices at the age of 9 or 10 and then enter a monastery again in their teens or early twenties. They are expected to beg food for their daily meal - you see the monks in the morning going from door to door with their bowls. In the villages each house makes donations of food and flowers everyday to the village monastery. The Burmese follow Theravada Buddhism, similar to that followed in Thailand and different from the Mahayana Buddhism practiced in Tibet, Nepal, China, Korea and Japan. In addition to their Buddhism the Burmese also consult with astrologers for important occasions. Most would check with an astrologer before setting a date for a wedding.

Monks

Despite the obvious poverty, particularly in the countryside, free primary education is available to everyone in Myanmar. Like other poor countries the children turn up for school in smart uniforms regardless of their family backgrounds. In the village school we visited the schoolhouse was divided into several classes and the 40 schoolchildren had several teachers to teach them to write Burmese, as well as learning arithmatic and basic English.

Pwasaw school

Everyone we met was friendly, cheerful and helpful. No doubt people have their problems but Ghi Ghi told us that "Burmese are happy-go-lucky people". Even the many postcard and souvenir sellers that accost you at tourist sites were polite and unagressive. Only once did we come across rude boys. Whether this will change as the country continues to modernise time will tell.

Village woman