My mom and I recently traveled to Myanmar for an adventure of a lifetime, a story my mom and I have named “My Mom & Me in Myanmar.” My mom had previously visited when the country was called Burma, about 35 years ago, always wanting to return. Myanmar has been high on my list since it’s travel boom a few years back and you know me, I’m down to go wherever! We were beyond excited, sourcing travel tips anywhere we could find them. Despite countless hours of research, I still had no idea what to expect when finally arriving to Myanmar. With fellow travelers warning me of severe mosquitos, language barrier, currency challenges and general disconnection, I had prepared myself for an experience far more off-the-grid than I encountered.
I love luxury, and luxury loves me (hello Hotel Indigo, Bangkok!), but I am absolutely keen on camping as well. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest with a side of Southern Baja, I’m all about rustic. My “roughing it” limits are pretty high, however in Myanmar I never felt like we were even close to doing so. Even on our budget nights, the hotels were clean, safe and friendly. For the majority of our adventure, my mom and I had decided to take a luxurious route. Being that I’m always scouting for work, it’s important I become familiar with the quality standards and hospitality options available. I’ve found that this pampered approach to travel can be very helpful when traveling with, say, my mom. We love each other very much, but 10 days together can be a lot. Having amenities and comforts were essential in our adventure survival if you know what I mean. Sorry, not sorry, mom! I know the feeling is mutual.
Here are five interesting facts I found when planning for my adventure in Myanmar!
- IDENTITY: Many things changed for Myanmar! After the Junta took over the country in 1989, the official name was changed from Burma to Myanmar. Many cities have also changed names, including Rangon changed to Yangon, Pagan to Bagan, and the government officially proclaimed the new city of Nay Pyi Taw (Naypyidaw) the capital of the country in 2006. Here is a list of all renamed places in Myanmar.
- MONEY: You can bring US dollars with you since they are widely accepted in Myanmar, just be sure the bills are new and crisp. We changed our dollars to the kyat (pronounced chet) for better exchange at about 1000 MMK to $1 USD. Credit cards were accepted at all high-end hotels, some shops and restaurants. Definitely not the street vendors though, and that’s where the good food and shopping is so plan on using cash. There was a currency exchange kiosk and ATMs at the airport, as well as most touristic areas.
- TIME: Myanmar is 30 minutes ahead of the rest of South East Asia. The time in Myanmar is UTC +6:30, with 30 minute difference from the neighboring Thailand. I’ve never discovered a country that is 1/2 an hour different rather than an even hour. Have you?
- DRIVING: The right-hand drive in the right lane had me goin’ hmmmm? Myanmar was a British colony until 1948 so the traffic was left-hand. In 1970 they changed the traffic to right-hand but but the cars remained the same, suitable for left-hand traffic. Now imagine how confusing this is! Talk about a severe transition for everyone!
- WEIGHT: Myanmar is one of only three countries in the world that has not adopted the metric system of measurement. The other two are Liberia and the United States. The common local unit of weight in Myanmar is the peiktha, which equals to 3.6 pounds. Since 2013, however, the government has been trying to change this system and has began to adopt the International System of Units.
As my mom can attest, Myanmar has seen substantial change over the last 35 years. I found the country to be much more progressive than I had anticipated. English was spoken throughout, everyone was very eager to help with directions, travel, excursions, airport check-in, customs, anything really. All with the brightest smiling faces I’ve ever seen. We found Myanmar to be accessible, highly charismatic and enjoyable.