- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications; 8th edition (January 9, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1740591909
- ISBN-13: 978-1740591904
- Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,777,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Myanmar (Burma) (Lonely Planet) Paperback – January 9, 2002
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The History, Snapshot, and similar sections are great, but if you have a brain of your own - use it. Forget their restaurant and hotel recommendations, as I'm not even sure they visit the places. Sometimes they have history or comments on places that is worthwhile to read, though. All tourbooks may have these drawbacks, to be fair.
Finally, I think I'm going to stop buying Lonely Planet's, though. First, they always act like driving is so scary everywhere, when it's actually quite easy to anyone with a brain. They also forget to give worthwhile tips on getting a car, etc. I imagine that this is their way of "saving the Earth". To a person who does care about the Earth, but doesn't believe that being a dirty hippie is going to save anything, this - and all their other BS trying to coerce their opinions onto you as fact - gets really freakin' old. Yes, yes, I know, LP is founded by some hippie freak from AUS or something - whooptie doo. That doesn't mean I have to pay some jerk who's going to push his politics on me, whether I agree with them or not.
Lonely Planet Myanmar's real strength is its discussions of Burmese culture past and present, within the context of a travel guide. Thus, while having great beach time at Sittwe, I could track down the birthplace of Saki (the writer, not the wine), and muse that British merchant ships were just beginning to come into its harbor around the time their influence in Boston was beginning to wane. I tried but failed to get into one of Burma's nature preserves to see one of the world's remaining free tigers. Not that they want my advice, but it seems to me that the military government could burnish their reputation and bring in tons of foreign currency at the same time by arranging tours of the domains of these vanishing cats. By doing so, it seems to me they could far outstrip places like Costa Rica, which are raking in billions of eco-tourism dollars even without the benefit of so-called "charismatic megafauna". Say what you will about the tiger, but if there's one thing it's got over the rest of us faunae, it's charisma.
In the course of my travels I met a guide by the name of Aree. She was from the vicinity of Mandalay, and specialized in the ancient capitals of the north. I didn't know any way of verifying her claim to be descended from one of the last royal families of Burma, but she certainly looked every inch the princess, in spite of the Kia she drove. And I can thank this Lonely Planet guide for the privilege of her company, since without the warnings on pages 54 and 106 against public displays of affection, I would undoubtedly have alienated her and had to traipse through the ruins by myself. As it was, I learned an immense amount from her about Burma and its history, all delivered in intermediate English with the Southeast Asian accent that is so charming. I recall in particular her spiel on the ailing Kia, which needed "a blake job and a toom up and a hando for door... all these things vely expenshiv". I can only hope my halting Burmese sounds half so winsome.
On the subject of language and pronunciation, LP Myanmar could be improved by the addition of International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciation guides in the glossary and for the major place names. It would be nice, when buying tickets in Yangon to know how to pronounce Mrauk U and Shinbithalyaung and Wetkyi-in. Still and all, it is mainly the reader who may be improved by a thorough reading of this excellent volume prior to a trip to Burma.
This is the latest edition (8th) that was released only about a year ago. Things really changed in this edition compared to its predecessor; more authors are involved and new and updated information is added (though many sections remain).
Important note: When it comes to Myanmar, things can change for better or worse overnight due to the nature of the ruling government, while some other things tend to stay the same. Especially here, pay close attention to all the small details given in the chapters "Facts for the visitor", "Getting there and away" and "Getting around" - they matter greatly.
As a whole, the guide will be a valuable asset for you if you're planning on traveling there, and there is absolutely no doubt whether to buy it or not - it's an essential purchase. To a great extent it will help you plan your budget, your destinations, how to get there and when, what to bring and so forth.
You should know that there are some beautiful places to visit in the country. One of them, the Shwedagon Paya in Yangon, strikes me as one of the most beautiful man made structures in the world. Imagine a 100 meters high Stupa (Buddhist religious monument), all covered with golden leaves, set on top of a hill, in the center of smaller golden temples and Buddha statues. The sight was breathtaking and alone was worth coming. Another famous place, yet less astounding, is Bagan, the city of Stupas in the north. There you can find numerous Stupas some of which were built more than 1000 ago. And yes, almost in every city and town you will see at least one golden Stupa (that immensely contradict the poverty of the people) that give Myanmar the name "The Golden Land".
The tagline on the cover of this book is "should you go?" It is misleading due to the fact that the answer they give inside is "yes". If you want to go - go, the political status is not of your concern, you're a traveler not a world freedom fighter. You wouldn't help the local people by avoiding the country - they benefit from your staying there - and that is all that you should care about.
Nevertheless, the authors don't really prepare you for the level of poverty you're going to meet there (the same way another author hasn't done in the Cambodia book yet); this is one of the poorest countries in the world and that's why you should always be careful and never trust anybody - they're there for your money (mostly). I really don't like, after being around, the attitude of "the locals are so nice and we can learn so much from them"; some of them are really nice and helpful, but others are nice because you spend your money there and it's downright blatant. Expect it; don't fall for it and BE CAREFUL of forced and immediate friendliness. Remember that as a tourist you're regarded as very rich and compared to them you are.
I want to mention the fact that as a traveler and a guest you will receive the best services even in budget hotels - they treated my friend and me like royalty in each and every hotel, and that was something we really enjoyed and appreciated. It's the best service all over South East Asia, and it does say something about the people as a nation.
I hope their days of freedom will come soon. ...