Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Myanmar Trip

Just came back from Myanmar for 2 weeks visit. The country is seeing influx of foreign tourists lately. It was interesting to visit this self isolated country. Bagan is definitely the jewel of all the tourist spots, rest are not really spectacular. What I enjoyed was the interaction with local people.

Quick Facts

- USD is the most popular and accepted foreign currency. Exchange rate is approx. USD1=Myanmar Kyat 1000. Strictly instructed by Myanmar Central Bank, only the crisp clean USD bills are accepted. Any old, slightly torn, marked or rumpled bills would be rejected.

- The ordinary worker earns USD30 / month but the living costs are quite high, e.g. normal meal in the restaurants USD 1-2.

- Power failure is quite common throughout the country. Many hotel operators have generator installed.

- The vehicle fuel is rationed, but far too less. People have to source from black market which costs 25% higher. Gas filling stations are rarely seen in the city.

- The internet is heavily controlled/ filtered, many webpages are inaccessible. Internet café charge USD 0.40 – 1.00 per hr. Speed was slow.

- Lots of lots of pagodas, stupas in the country.

- People are mostly genuinely friendly. I had been asked “Where are you from?” not less than 50 times a day!

- Many part time guides and vendors gathered at tourist sites offering their service and products.

- Some people asked for different country notes/ coins as “souvenir”. Instead they will exchange with other tourists later. It’s a tourist scam.

- Some vendors asked me to trade my watch with their products, they thought I have a cheap fake watch?

- When renting bicycle, no one asked for deposit or document. They trust all people would return to them.

- Double pricing system are widely practiced on foreigners, e.g. entrance fees for sight seeing, transportation (but not the food).