A controversial take on Myanmar in 2015

A beautiful country tainted by tourism? I know this opinion will not be very popular but I felt it was worth sharing our true experience in Myanmar as well sharing the undeniable beauty of a country so different from its neighbours.
Before I start, I’d just like to say that the country is beautiful and everyone is extremely friendly. The pagodas are breathtaking and it’s true – Myanmar offers a very different vibe than the rest of Southeast Asia. Some of my favourite views and most spectacular photographs have come from Myanmar – the beautiful Bagan. However, the new burst of tourism has resulted in some less positive outcomes.

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Our time in Myanmar 

We weren’t always going to travel to Myanmar but the fact that it was relatively untouched by tourism and persuasion from fellow travellers really encouraged us to go. People who had been recently told us that Myanmar needed to be visited now before tourism took over like it has in a lot of Southeast Asia. We applied for our visas – E-visas which are a really simple process, but then disaster struck: “Myanmar destroyed by flooding” filled the news. Each daily update seemed to be more bad news for the country. At one stage we thought we weren’t going to be able to visit at all but luckily we could.

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Battambang

Our bus dropped us way out of town in Battambang (pronounced Battam-bong) leaving us with only one option… Motorbike taxis. We were in a deserted area with no shops or people besides the dozens of men trying to get us to get on their bikes. Luckily, unlike the big cities in South East Asia, Battambang is pretty tame and the ride was safe enough – at least in Cambodian terms.

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Crossing the border (Vietnam to Cambodia)

Crossing the border into Cambodia was another new experience.

We purchased our tickets from Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), from the reputable travel agent Sinh Tourist for the equivalent of £5.50 each. Our bus was due to depart at 8.30am with Long Phuong bus company. At 8.15, ahead of schedule, a guy came and got us from the waiting room and ushered us on to the bus and we departed. So far so good, this was the first bus in Vietnam we hadn’t had to wait an hour for. 

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Our brief encounter with Ho Chi Minh 

Ho Chi Minh was our final destination in Vietnam, we arrived the morning of the 1st September and we were on a bus to Cambodia 24 hours later.

In our short time we changed hotel rooms to escape the bed bugs we found. (Free upgrade). Walked around the city, tried to go to the War remnants mueseum (but it’s closed for 2 hours over lunch) so instead we went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and saw a range of equipment used in the war. From weaponary to transport and the history of Vietnamese currency.

The city is the most “English” of those we have visited in Vietnam, with large numbers of shops and restaurants with English signs. The streets are filled with hotels, mini marts and travel agents; it’s definitely a city catered to tourism.

We booked ourselves on to a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, which is about 60km out of the city, for the afternoon. We learnt about the tunnelling system the Vietnamese used in the war against the Americans.

Tiny entrances:

the real entrances were 10% smaller than this one

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