While taking a nice long vacation wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, picking Myanmar as the destination was certainly a quick choice.  Some friends of friends had just come back from a trip and were talking about it being an absolutely amazing place and that was enough for Jess and I to make a decision on planning our own trip there.

For a country that’s been repeatedly described as “Asia’s best kept secret”, the secret of Myanmar is definitely out of the bag.  Just within the time since we’ve gone (Dec 2012 – Jan 2013) there’s been numerous publications about it being the next hot travel destination. Even earlier on when we were planning there were multiple New York Times articles (Visiting Myanmar: It’s Complicated, So You Want To Go To Myanmar?) that piqued a lot of interest.

Overall you can rest assured all the hoopla about this wonderful country is well deserved.  Despite it being a short visit, Obama’s historic visit has helped bolster the sense of pride and visibility of the Myanmar people. As a result a lot of interest is being paid and the tourism industry and economy as a whole is going to undergo a huge revival and innovation.

Mastercard just recently conducted its first ATM transaction in November and from the people I spoke with it looks like they’re in the works to setup the proper infrastructure to support credit card transactions fairly shortly in the first part of 2013. While this is great for the country as a whole, it does take away from that whole “untouched” feel and it’s only a matter of time before more Western influences penetrate the country.

While you can easily book a tour package, we ended up just planning everything out ourselves which turned out to be amazing.  I’d highly recommend it.  It can be a bit daunting and requires plenty of time since the majority of the accommodations and transportation options have limited to no internet presence, but in the end I feel it gives you a bit more flexibility in what you end up doing. We observed plenty of other tourists with varying tour groups get shuttled to what seemed to be all the same sights, restaurants and shops.

In the end I would say being able to wander as you please instead of following an specific itinerary (especially in places like Bagan) will grant you the ability to really explore and see all the nuances of the country and its people.

If you’re planning on heading to Myanmar, it’s definitely true that you’ll need to bring all the US cash you need for the entire trip with you.  This will be true at least until the entire ATM network becomes installed country wide.  You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of storage space for your camera as it truly is a unique and beautiful place where you’ll surely snap many photographs.

Here’s a documentary available on Netflix which provides a visual sneak peak of Myanmar: They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain