To go and travel to Myanmar is a complicated question for some people. I spent a few weeks backpacking there and got my answer.
The short answer:
I do not agree to boycott Myanmar.
The long answer:
I’m writing these lines just a couple of days after spending three weeks backpacking in Myanmar and I recommend everyone to travel to this great country.
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From all the regular hostel conversations and the people I constantly meet traveling, this country is always one that we all seem to be intrigued about.
Not only because they opened their borders less than ten years ago so it’s still unspoilt by the masses, but also because of its famous Pagodas spread all over the country.
Still there’s so much more to discover but also so many areas that we’re actually not allowed to go. Still, in the areas we tourists are allowed, I felt safe at all times.
Myanmar is not having the best publicity out there due to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.
This is of course a terrible event, no genocide can ever be justified under any circumstances and because of this many people across the globe are calling all tourists to boycott the country and encouragin not to travel to Myanmar.
Of course I was tempted to do this before travelling there but I’m happy that I went and had the chance to learn more about Myanmar, not only its beautiful temples, landscapes and troubled history but also to have the chance to talk with the locals and hear their opinions on how life is living there and also what they think of their internal conflicts.
I started getting my firsts thoughts into this article when talking with a friendly guide at the Yangon Free Walking Tour which was advertised on my hostel.
If you happen to be in Yangon I highly recommend to do it, it’s only a couple of hours long and you will get some historic background, I really liked that the tour was more political than religious and I learnt a lot about its colonial era and subsequent military governments.
It’s free, but just give a contribution at the end of the walk to support the guides.
Some of the friendliest people that I have ever met travelling were in Myanmar, not everyone speaks English but many do have some knowledge and they are happy to open themselves and share their thoughts.
It was talking with locals that I discovered about the 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar, and all the consequences that this comes with.
Not only all of them have their own language but in most cases their own militias, many looking to get independent from the Myanmar state.
That includes the most well-known of the country’s conflicts with the Rohingya people, but does not paint the whole picture.
Again, I do not agree for a single second in discriminations of any kind but will not dare to attempt to “solve” the conflicts on this blog post.
One of the nicest people I met on my trip to Myanmar was during a long night bus between Hsipaw and Kalaw.
His name is Ronald Aug, and not only he’s a very kind person but happens to have an incredible story which at one point took him on a train to the Rakhine state for a music workshop with marginalised youth organised by NGO Turning Tables. A bit more on this video:
I could start putting many more examples of incredible people. Stories of relentless strive for a better life, taking them to other countries to provide for their families.
People that is economically “poor” for the western world but that are incredibly smart, talking in many cases +5 languages and having done many different jobs in between.
These are the sort of people never give up, people that are not only hard workers but humble and respectful. These are the people the populists want to scare you about in Europe and the US.
But, going back to the calls for boycott because of the Rohingya crisis. I think the opposite is required.
The more people that visits the country the more exposed the government will be and more conscious should have to act.
On the other hand, if we boycott all countries that do not respect human rights we should start by looking at our own countries first as every single one is doing some sort of harm.
From the Mediterranean and the Eastern European land borders to the US Southern border, we should boycott all these countries as well if we follow the same logic.
I also want to believe that the more tourists that visit Myanmar perhaps it could also help for the armed conflicts to be reduced and even stopped as the local population on these states will be aware on how the “safe” areas (such as Bagan, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Hsipaw…) are thriving with the influx of travellers pouring money into the local economy.
Do you still think differently? feel free to drop a message. This blog is not supposed to be and not intended to be political but I’m all open for comments into why I should not promote this wonderful country instead.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to recommend everyone to travel to Myanmar!