Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Travel Like a "Real" Burmese

One of best ways to discover a country is immersing in the local life, eating their food, wearing their costumes, staying at their home, talking to them or traveling like them.

Just opening recently, Myanmar has still maintained unique features which are hard to find in any other country. To understand more deeply about Burma, travelers can transfer like native people and be one of them.

1. Pedicab

Myanmar’s pedicabs are really classical in style, which evoke some typical images of the past 100 years ago.

Pedicabs before Custom House, Strand Road, Yangon, Myanmar

Same to many South & Southeast Asia nations, pedicab is also a characteristic mode of transport of Myanmar, especially in big cities like Yangon or Mandalay. But, different from some countries where majorly use cycle rickshaw for tourism, pedicab in Myanmar is just an affordable vehicle that normal residents all can use for daily life’s purposes like going to work, going to pagoda, going to market.

In Yangon, you can sightsee colonial buildings on a classical pedicab, which can lead you around old streets, old buildings with people surrounding all wear traditional clothes. Feeling like to being lost in Southeast Asia in 1990s. In Mandalay, you can take pedicab to reach Royal Palace or roam around the city.

Pedicabs before Accountant General Office, Yangon, MyanmarPedicabs before Accountant General Office, Yangon, Myanmar

Pedicab in Switte, Myanmar
Pedicab in Switte, Myanmar

2. “Crazy” train

Called as “crazy” train, train in Myanmar is truly a horror. Why??? Foremost, it shakes very much, continuously, swaying up, down, left, then right, such an extent that you can jump from a place to another place though you are sitting. (Can you imagine, view this video to know clearly). Secondly, why it shakes really much. Perhaps because the railway system is old, degraded and not upgraded regularly. Train in Myanmar is even extremely much older than in Vietnam though Vietnam’s trains are old-fashioned. However, if you accept this terrible thing, you will have a real adventure, a fun, unique experience that you just only find in Myanmar. Burmese people still travel by this crazy train every day. They do that, and you can do that too. :)

So, let view some recommends below for this “unforgettable” experience.

- Circular train in Yangon

This 1 USD train will take you through countryside around Yangon city. Burmese people usually use the train for daily life. Forget a high-class board with air-conditioning if you want to have a clear view about poor Burmese people or an authentic challenge; let choose the normal type. In this way, you can see how labors go to market or go to work.

Yangon circular train - normal type
Yangon circular train - normal type

- Creepy train through Gokteik viaduct – most majestic bridge in Myanmar

Train from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin will pass over this impressive viaduct, the highest bridge for train in Myanmar, which was completed in 1900. As crossing Gokteik, the train will move at the speed of walker with the total time of 25 minutes. Spectacular scenery and creepy feeling are gifts you will receive on this adventure.

train through Gokteik viaduct

- Yangon to Mandalay

Be an adventurous person and want to challenge yourself, you can think of this “adrenaline” train journey, which lasts “15 hours”. However, before deciding to attempt it, let make sure that you are strong enough to survive to the final minutes.

>> Anthony Bourdain traveled on a Myanmar crazy train. View his video.

3. Horse cart & ox cart

Horse cart & ox cart are an outstanding, typical mean of transport in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. On a cart, you can relax, enjoy scenery and feel the mood of Burma.

In Bagan, horse cared has been used for tours. A cart ride can lead travelers to off-beaten-track temples and hidden craft villages.

Bagan horse cart

One of remarkable features in Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) is classical, colorful horse carts, which can bring you a special way to contemplate landscape of this lovely town, old British colonial houses, stunning flowers gardens and strawberry farms.

Pyin Oo Lwin horse cart

It is also fabulous to enjoy an exotic ox-cart on beaches like Ngapali or Chuang Tha.

Ox-cart Chaung Tha beach

4. Boat

Travelers can try traditional boats or boats that Burmese inhabitants usually use. Some can be really noisy with naked engine, but the experience is actually interesting.

Small boats are the main transferring mode in Inle lake. Boating is the best way to discover life on this unique lake, where you can witness leg-rowing fishermen, floating houses, floating gardens, trade boat, etc.

On the way to Mrauk U, it is possible to boat along with locals. There are two kinds, slow boat and speed boat. Hiring a private boat if you want to be alone. However, immersing in local life is better to discover a country.

Travelers can also attempt other kinds of original boats on Irrawaddy river for deep exploration or on the way from Mrauk U to Chin villages.

traditional sailboat on Kaladan river to Chin villagesTraditional sailboat on Kaladan river to Chin villages

5. Plane

In fact, domestic airline in Myanmar has an old, classical style. This style bring passengers experiences of the past which are no longer today in many countries like PAPER ticket, STICKERS and free seat (no seat allocation.). A whole country has numerous domestic airlines with small fleet of about 2 – 5 planes, most of them are ATR aircrafts. Truly these planes commonly stop at one or some places (called LAYOVERS) to collect more passengers then they just continue flying to the last destination. With this reason, they are so-called as “buses on air” or “commuter buses”.

To know more bizarre airline system in Myanmar, you can view here.

By Xuan Tran (ActiveTravel Asia)
Photo: Internet & ATA