Asia, Human Rights, Myanmar, Travel

The Truth About Myanmar

The Truth

When telling others of my urge to travel to Myanmar, I received horrified looks, firstly for my safety, and secondly if I had any moral fibre within my body- why would I want to visit a country where rape, murder and brutality are more common than I cared to admit? Why would I dare to turn a blind eye and continue with my trip to Myanmar, ignoring the fact that a mass genocide is happening? Why would I ignore the fact that blood is being spilt on the same ground as the very same tea plantations I would hike up?

Honestly, I did feel quite the hypocrite.

Although, as I began to lose myself in the beauty of the country I realised that Myanmar is different to what I had perceived, or had been thought to perceive. The fear mongering news pin pointed one issue that the country has had for a number of years and focused on it until there is no other vision of Myanmar to see, a real trait for many journalists.

I am no expert in the historical and political situations of Myanmar, I only know the basic facts like any other visitor of Myanmar, but I do know how the racial segregation and injustice has been embedded within the Myanmar people and their society for many years and where attacks on either side have developed murdering each other, and no one is truly innocent. The locals that are brave enough to talk it about with me, shake their heads and remark on how awful it is, some reply in bewilderment as they realise that the local media has hidden vast amounts of reality from their own eyes, and others highlight just how many problems Myanmar has, and this is only one of them. Many are unaware of the fortitude in which the foreign media has propelled the racial segregation and hatred, they are unaware of the mass genocide that the government and military are forcing the Myanmar country to adopt, and they are unaware of how their underlying problems that have been in their country for decades, have now become the whole world’s concerns.

I myself, have seen the authoritative presence and power of the military, the “Orwellian” power and control that still reigns over the country and the people, either through the various checkpoints that travellers and locals have to shuttle themselves through or the restrictive zones that no one is allowed to pass. I am afraid I haven’t seen the horrors of the genocide by my own eyes, I haven’t seen the pain and suffering of the Rohingya people, which I am sure are aplenty and are atrocious.

What I have seen, is the pure happiness and joy of the local Myanmar people when receiving visitors from all over the world, when sharing facts about the beauty of their country and their excitement on what tourism brings and what they hope continues to bring them in the future.

I have only seen the world that the government and military are happy to share with visitors, the stunning scenes of nature that leave you speechless and that is what I can report on.

The Country

Myanmar is a country unparalleled to any other I have been to. Okay, so the food may not be as delicious as neighbouring Thailand or India, and the scenery at times is reminiscent of Vietnam or Laos, but the hopeful optimism and positivism of the local people, despite their harsh and bleak history, is something else.

After years of dictatorship and living under a ruthless regime, local people beam with smiles and greet you with wide open arms into their country. Partly this lies with the tourism industry still being relatively new to Myanmar, still continuing to grow and on the whole, hasn’t consumed the country and transformed the minds and motives of the local people-yet. Of course, Myanmar has dramatically changed since it first opened its doors, with coca cola now being served in Myanmar, ATM’s everywhere (even in Pagodas!) and a sufficient tourist transport network. The country still has a long way to go before local people become entirely deflated by the arrival of visitors, thus local charm is overwhelming, although of course, time can change that.

The landscape is stunning and varies from an untouched archipelago, voluptuous mountains, serene beaches and ancient temples. Trekking and visiting the thousands of temples that are dotted all over Myanmar, are the most popular tourist attractions at the moment.

The Route

Because I had booked a hot air balloon in Bagan (which unfortunately got cancelled due to a thunderstorm, its best to book in November for a sure flight). I arranged my trip around the route Yangon-Hpa An-Inle Lake-Kalaw-Bagan-Mandalay so I could work my way up the country and organise my time to be in Bagan for the start of the hot air balloon season.

A more popular route is to start in Yangon heading into Mandalay or Mandalay-Bagan-Kalaw-Inle Lake-South-Yangon, thus flying in and out of two international airports and and making sure to trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake where it is a more popular route.

Other common destinations include:

Ngapali Beach

Hpa An (my personal favourite)

Hispaw  (for more authentic trekking and the famous viaduct)


Kyaikto (for the Golden Rock)

Naypyidaw (the new capital)


After much research, I found that I couldn’t get kyats outside of Myanmar, but only in Myanmar, thus dollars are recommended to bring in. Many guide books and travel blogs insisted dollars could be used anywhere, but what they didn’t highlight was the pristine condition that they had to be in,  which made using dollars extremely difficult to use. All ATMs give kyats and all places take kyats no matter the quality, so realistically it is much safer for you to pay in kyats and travel with some emergency dollars with you.


As I said before, the food in Myanmar is not as tasty as its neighbours, however luckily for the local people, lots of people move to Myanmar from surrounding countries meaning there is a rich diversity in food; with many restaurants serving Thai, Chinese, Nepalese and Indian food. Chicken fried rice is a cheap staple diet for a backpacker on a budget but if wanting to branch out try the delicious Shan noodles from the Shan state. It is also fairly common to choose a meat dish in a local restaurant and for that dish to come with rice, soup and a number of fermented vegetables- I warn you, their unique taste is not for everyone!


Most of the country is Buddhist, 90 percent in fact, followed by Sikh, Muslim and Christian. To respect all religions and the local culture, cover your legs and shoulders, especially when going into temples. The locals are not used to the sight of women in revealing outfits and were slightly horrified when seeing so, please do dress moderately.

Getting Around and Accomodation

Bus is the main mode of transportation and varies in style and price. You could be travelling by a local bus that stops at every stop, or a VIP bus that provides bottled water and takeaway meals, all vary in price and comfort, similar to accommodation. If travelling in high season, I do recommend to book ahead as it is still a developing country within the tourism industry and there are as not as many options as one would see in Thailand for example, which does make travel more expensive. You can find cheap guesthouse priced at as little as 5 thousand kyat although a little dirty around the edges.  A rough average is 7 thousand for a local guesthouse you may see nearby to a touristic area, whom has no website. On booking websites, the more expensive and website owned places are available to book, but like all countries in Asia, if you take the time to look a little more around the area, then you will find a cheap and comfortable alternative that suits you.

Inle Lake

Extreme Sports in Myanmar 

As you may be aware, I am a massive fan of extreme sports and anything adrenaline filled, the extreme sports activities you will find in Myanmar at the moment are:

Hot Air Ballooning






Human Rights, Interviews, Latest Projects, Music

1 in 4

I wrote interviewed an incredible music artist named Jorrel for an article with the magazine Public Pressure. It focuses on his violent upbringing and his trauma from domestic violence which he has channelled into this storytelling cathartic songs. It’s a good one. Really.

Creative Arts, Human Rights, Latest Projects, Travel

BBC World Have Your Say Interview

After the violent attacks on two women in South America that spurred thousands of women to retaliate with the press on why women should travel alone, and how society is the problem not the travellers, I joined in and wrote a blog post which can be read here. It catalysed a movement on various platforms on social media with the hash tag #viajarsolo where I was approached by BBC World Have Your Say to come into their studios in London and talk about my experiences. The interview can be heard here and my segment begins roughly halfway, 35 minutes in, I don’t own the interview, all copyright belongs to the BBC.

Human Rights

Just a Quick Note on…

I am assuming most of you may have read the article on the attempted rape and murder of the two backpackers travelling in South America?

If not you can read it here.

Reading a few articles on the topic, I gather that after the two woman were robbed at their own hostel, and had made friends with two local men during the day, they took up the opportunity to stay at their house, on the pretence the two local men were doing them a favour. Thus, the men sexually assaulted them and killed them when things did not go their way. As disgusting, gross and inhumane this act is, what was worse was how the world, and media responded.

Society began to blame the victims, saying they were travelling alone, that they had no common sense, that it was their fault.

And right here, is where we have the fault. We are living in a society where people blame the two innocent women for being murdered, rather than the murderers themselves. Surely it is the people who think they can and will assault women, that they can treat women as a piece of meat, to take advantage of other’s people’s wholly good qualities for their own unjustifiable means. In this case, it is the greedy men who cannot control their mind or bodies, that lust after women and treat them as sexual objects, rather than the sisters that they are, and do such atrocious acts.

This highlights the way we are living now, in modern society, in more developed countries like the US or the UK. Where women in the work place are hired or fired on their looks, where women are still paid less, where women are told to “talk less” to gain yourself a man, where women are frowned at by men because of their independence, or judged instantly by what their wearing (by friends, family, and random men on the street). Where friends and family force you to follow standard conventions of marriage and “being on the market”- as if we are cattle being sold?! I could seriously go on. The amount of times my opinion has been overlooked- in the UK, because I am a woman, I have been shut down and out of a conversation because I am a woman, because when I beat a guy at beer pong, all the other guys in the room are mortified that… wait for it, a woman beat him at beer pong. The amount of times I have been assaulted in clubs, yelled at on the street, been pressured to take a guy home to sleep with him, is actually sickening and most men don’t even realise we face this daily. Not just in South America where the above incident happened, or Saudi Arabia where women are oppressed and hidden away from the wandering eyes of men, but right here, in our very homes.

Yes I am a feminist. But I am a realist. We can’t change the way people think, without women being subjected to violence because men can’t accept our refusals. But I am also a traveller as well. Going back to the article, these two women felt unsafe in the hostel, and following what many travellers do- make friends with locals, they decided to stay at their house. They were not naive, they just expected these men to be wholly good, and they weren’t. I’ve also stayed with locals in their houses, and (unlike these two women), I’ve travelled alone and faced sexual assault, violence, intimidation, verbal harassment and continuous proposals of marriage. And boy, is it tiring. It wears you out. To constantly be on your guard, to be able to fight back, to follow your instincts and to always be thinking of your surroundings. It’s terrifying. But, I haven’t let it stop me. And I never will. I will not allow other people to ruin my solo adventures, ruin my experiences. These people will not stop, until they realise we don’t like it. They will not stop, until the whole world shouts back at them- “No!”.

And that is what we need to do. Next time some creepy guy touches you, tell him you don’t like it and no one else does, or when someone at work makes a sexist comment- say you don’t appreciate it.  We need to fight this together. And those of you who are men, support the modern millennial of women, because nothing will change, we will keep getting stronger. Let her be her own individual person, rather than your sidekick, support her to stand strong, let her form her own opinions and thoughts and share with the world how she wants to. We need to be respected as individuals, as equal human beings.