Myanmar Spending Summary
Overall score (Dan) = C
Overall score (Jocelyn) = C
Total days = 6 nights, 7 days
Total cost = $1,182
Cost per day = $169 / day
Flight costs = $450 R/T from Bangkok
Cities visited: Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan
Myanmar or Burma; regardless of the name, it’s a place I never thought I’d visit. In fact, if we traveled three years ago (before 2010) we wouldn’t have been able to visit because the military regime had the country closed down. Now they’re embracing the outside world while trying to hold on to their history and culture – which unfortunately includes massive amounts of corruption, cronyism, and a general non-chalante attitude towards the welfare of its own citizens.
All of the bad is easily forgotten when you spend some time with the people. Maybe it’s because they haven’t had enough time to get sick of tourists, but they were incredibly nice and loved talked to us. For most of them, they’ll never be able to leave their own country, so the only way they get outside is to experience other countries through tourists.
How far does your money go in Myanmar?
Although the country and most of the people are incredibly poor, Myanmar is an expensive place to visit due to the lack of tourist infrastructure. That’s why we spent more there per day than we did in any other country in Southeast Asia. Because of this, most of the tourists are older since many backpackers can’t afford it.
Myanmar’s currency is the Kyatt (sounds like Jet) and $1 US dollar equals approximately 970 Kyatt. Since there aren’t international ATMs there yet (but coming soon), it’s best to bring US cash and exchange at the airport or better yet, at one of the many money changers in town.
I’ll include the full spending details on the bottom of the post; here are our per day spending highlights:
Transportation = $94 / day
Lodging = $41 / day
Excursion = $18 / day
Food = $8.6 / day
Total hotel points used = One free night in Yangon on Agoda.com points
As mentioned earlier, one of Myanmar’s best assets is its people. However, the sites of Myanmar comes in a close second. From the 1,000 year old temples in Bagan to the unique inhabitants of Inle Lake, each new city offered up its own modern marvels.
Bagan is one of the places I’ve been most excited to visit on our entire trip – even though I had never even heard of it before we left on our trip! We talked to a traveler in Moorea who visited before the military cracked down on the country 25 years ago and he said it was one of the most amazing things he’d seen in his vast travels of the world. It didn’t disappoint. The desert landscape is covered with temples – including original temples, restored temples, and new temples they’re still building. There’s an estimated 4,000 temples throughout the landscape from very small temples the size of a shed to massive temples that rival some of the world’s best. The inside of the temples are filled with Buddhas and 18th century frescoes, but they’re empty of tourists. Our favorite thing was to find a abandoned temple to rest in while the breeze blew through the windows. The temples must have been designed with this in mind as it made a 95 degree day quite tolerable.
Although the military crackdown was incredibly hard on the people, the one thing it did do was preserve the culture. As they didn’t have any access to the outside world, they’re what most of the SE Asian countries were 25 years ago. We felt like we were just watching as they continued to do the things they’ve done for centuries – not yet giving it all up for tourism like many other countries have – and what Myanmar will probably someday do.
We only flew between the various cities which increased our overall expenses and why we averaged $94 per day on transportation. There are other options available – both train and bus – but the safety standards may not quite be up to par, and we didn’t have much time to waste. The safest option was to fly the airlines which unfortunately are owned by the government or its cronies which supports the “regime” that is still pretty rough on its people. Most of the money is concentrated in the hands of corrupt people and the challenge is to patronize businesses where weren’t included in that. For us, it was easy because we stayed in cheaper places, but for people staying in the nicest hotels, you can almost guarantee they’ll be government owned.
Taxis were also required to get around and added up – especially at Lake Inle where we had to pay $30 each way – much more than we were used to paying across SE Asia.
People love to talk about how “authentic” places are and they want to visit them before tourists overrun them – even though they’re the very tourists who are overrunning them! Sure this is great, but what it really means is the place is probably pretty underdeveloped for tourists. This explains why we spent more in Myanmar than any other country, and why our hotels weren’t up to par with the others! We stayed at some pretty rough places where dirty linens, smelly water, and bad breakfast was the norm. In fact, we got food poisoning at Lake Inle which made the rest of the Bagan trip pretty rough. However, it sure was authentic!
In conclusion, we’re so fortunate to have visited Myanmar and to have seen what the country is before its overrun by people like us. The wheels of progress are already turning and money is pouring into the big cities like Yangon as they renovate the dilapidated buildings built by the British in the last century. The people were still excited about the Obama visit months before and the US efforts to help clean up corruption. It will hopefully mean a better life for the Burmese people instead of only enriching the cronies.