Documented, lauded and explained by the likes of Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell, on first glance Burma seems like a work of fiction. But once you look a little closer, it’s clear that this land is full of real experiences. Real beauty, history, people and culture. In spite of the country’s dramatic past, the locals are welcoming, gentle and good-natured.
A visit to Burma is a little like a trip back in time – technology and services are decades behind that of the developed world – and that is, in every way, a good thing. Below is something of a starter kit of Burmese local knowledge. There’s no better way to reveal more of the country than to visit for yourself and let the locals guide you.
You may have heard of hacky sack – a game loved by beach-goers the world over. Burmese locals have their own version, known as chinlon. There are two versions of chinlon – one is almost identical to hacky sack, with locals standing in a circle whilst attempting to keep a small woven ball aloft for as long as possible. The other version, called sepaktakraw, involves a raised net and participants must use their legs and head to get the ball over the net to try and score a point against the opposing team.
2. Industry and agriculture
In Burma, the bulk of industry is made up of the production of knitted and woven items, copper, tin, iron, gems, tungsten (a metal used to make electric light filaments), jade and wooden wares. Agriculture consists mainly of sesame, beans, rice, fish, pulses and teak (hardwood).
3. Ngapali Beach
Though Burma’s already about as far off the beaten track as most travellers can hope to get in the modern age, Ngapali Beach is for those who wish to remove themselves even further from the rest of the world. Located on the southwest coast, the beach is a special kind of paradise. On a good day, the azure sky and ocean seemingly blend into one. Punctuated by a yawning white-sand beach, it’s surely one of the world’s finest locations to forget about it all.
4. Mutual respect
Burmese people, by and large, show one another a large amount of respect. They’ll extend their right arm in any offering or receipt of goods, whilst touching their left hand to their right elbow. People are referred to by their full name and title – it’s important to never shorten someone’s name on introduction.
5. Bogyoke Aung San Market
This 70-year-old market could be the ruin of any traveller’s schedule. With over 2000 stalls and more friendly, smiling locals to get lost in conversation with than you could imagine, this sprawl is an unmissable experience for anyone travelling through Yangon. If you’re planning a visit, you’d be smart to pack light – there’s a strong chance you could return to your lodging with more than you bargained for!
6. Food for thought
Though lesser known than its Chinese, Indian and Thai neighbours, Burmese cuisine is no less impressive. With over 180 ethnicities residing in Burma, the range of food and flavours you can find if you look in the right places is remarkable. For breakfast, perhaps try beq nanbya (beans and naan bread), for lunch, choose one of Burma’s salads, such as lapheq thoq (fermented tea leaf salad), and for dinner, give tohoo nooway (tofu and noodles) a go. We promise you will still be dreaming about these dishes long after you return home.
Longyi, a form of sarong, are worn by both men and women throughout Burma. Men usually opt for a darker colour, whilst women enjoy more colourful, patterned garments. Coupled with a pair of sandals, you have your quintessential Burmese dress code. We’re currently celebrating 20 years of local leaders by offering you a chance to win 20 trips in 20 days.
Enter the draw to win a spot on our Burma Unveiled trip.