We spent 3 days/2 nights trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, which was 65km in total. Then we spent another 2 days/1 night in Hsipaw for another 35km. Seeing 100km as the total distance covered is something special for me, but that’s not the reason why we left our hearts in Myanmar.
There’s something special about being able to take what you’re given and turn it into something magical. So often we take for granted all of the blessings we have been given in daily life. We like the idea of visiting a mountain village or to lend a helping hand there, but could we thrive there if that was our home? In Myanmar, they call what we would see as a disadvantage being part of the very core of what makes them human.
Here are 6 other reasons why I and the team feel like we’ve left part of ourselves behind after our recent visit.
#1. The Landscapes Have a Mythic Quality To Them
“Myanmar took my breath away with its ever-changing terrain from bare lands, lush jungles, padi fields, tea plantations to picturesque backdrops of mountains. It’s as if i had trekked the globe in 10 days within this nation.” – Chun Ho
Even if the days aren’t bright and sunny, there is still something about the landscape that takes your breath away. Some might say it is a simple beauty. Others might say that the rolling hills remind them of their own home. Whatever the case may be, each footstep taken in Myanmar leaves a lasting impression on your soul.
“I enjoyed combing through the fields (yes, even under 40deg of heat)… the vast natural landscape which for me, weirdly resembled the Italian countryside, unlike the tropical landscape that I had expected… I’ve never been on a trek and be presented with such wide variety of crops that are farmed, from rice to vegetables to fruits to tea and spices… All in a single trek.” – Hazel
#2. It’s All About the Local Culture
There is a rush to embrace strangers with a visit to Myanmar. Hospitality is almost a currency. You can rest assured that you’re going to be given the best possible treatment during your stay in any village or home.
“The people in the villages are really hospitable and sweet. The wide variety of cultures in the different parts of Myanmar – I wish we had more time to learn about them. There’s also the wide spectrum of natural beauty available- mountains, lakes, forest, even the pagodas. But I do feel that the major enjoyment of this trip was the awesome company. Wouldn’t have been the same experience if it were a different group.” – Rachel
#3. Even the Animals Play a Role
There was this dog named Prince. He joined us for over 4 hours during our time in Myanmar and took his job as an ambassador quite seriously. Our entire team found his company to be enjoyable and one of the reasons why we left our hearts there.
Part of the cultural experience Myanmar offers is a close relationship with the animals. Playing with them, swimming with them, even bathing them: it’s a very personal experience. It’s not worship like you see in some cultures, nor is it companionship like in others. If anything, it’s a mix of both that seems just perfect.
“Watching the bathing of the buffaloes at the river banks was a treat and having Prince, the village dog, trek with us for a good 4 hours really warmed my heart. Myanmar will be a place worth a second visit!” – Janice
#4. It’s About the Experience
“For me, it was the non-complicated and innocent people. Friendly, sincere, and easy-going; with rare exceptions, of course. The rolling hills and valleys were also something that touched my heart. I was particularly fond of the culturally rich and history, mostly untouched by modern human civilisation – eg the archeological sites in Bagan.” – Susan
Bagan might have more than 3,000 temples that date back more than 1,000 years, yet visiting this ancient city feels more like a visit to a quiet village than a tourist destination. Myanmar is of the few nations left in the world that is virtually untouched by modern culture. There aren’t the shopping malls, quick service restaurants, or other tourist trappings… yet.
Then there’s the Burmese cuisine. Finding a Burmese restaurant anywhere in the world is very rare. You’ll find a blend of Chinese, Indian, and Thai ingredients fusing together into something that seems very familiar, yet also feels completely different to anything you’ve ever had.
#5. It’s a Once In a Lifetime Opportunity
So often we see a trip through rose-colored glasses. We remember only the good things. The other memories just fade away. Myanmar is different. The effort of the journey, so often one of the most miserable components of a trip, becomes the definition of who you are in this country. A difficult trail becomes a moment to find confidence. A long wait becomes and opportunity to explore. Myanmar changes your perspective.
No other place can turn the things that so many often see as a negative part of life into something that is positive uplifting.
“I left a piece of my heart in Myanmar because I know that I would never be able to experience the same thing again in another trip. The people especially will differ. It was truly an unique experience to travel with such a positive bunch. To enjoy the trip whatever the difficulties we faced and to turn an otherwise uncomfortable weather/experience into fun moments was quite meaningful.” – Sucan
#6. The Children Are Everything
There is a simple innocence about Myanmar that you don’t expect to be there after such a long time of local strife. Yet there it is, offered up in bright eyes, warm smiles, and the quickness of a helping hand to the tired traveller.
It is a complete change from other cultures in today’s world where the recommendation is to not interact with children. To give nothing of yourself because everyone will want to have something if you do. The children of Myanmar rush forward, arms outstretched, but it’s not because they want something. Their arms are extended for a welcoming embrace – one that really never lets you go.
“The happy, excited faces of the children warmed my heart as they came running like a pack of wolves, not to devour, but to welcome and entertain us with their songs and little groovy moves. The people and the magnificent pagodas and paddy fields are what enthralled me and I certainly want to be back in Myanmar to see more of it.” – Gwen
A Final Thought
Perhaps Myanmar, after being shut off from the rest of the world for so many years, is like a Burmese lady whose face is heavily powdered with thanaka. At first glance, some may not even notice her. They may just walk by her and ignore her. But when the decision is made to stop to talk to her, to get to know and understand her, and you will see beyond the cosmetic mask. You will see that there is an authentic beauty and a resolute spirit within her.
This is why our hearts were left in Myanmar after 100km of walking.
Other related articles: