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Thread: Going to Myanmar...

  1. #1
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    Default Going to Myanmar...

    Anyone brought camera gears to Myanmar lately? Especially after the cyclone recently? They seems to be are exceptionally sensitive to foreigners, and especially to journalist.

    I'm not a journalist. But since many lay people seems to regard a budget and professional SLR as the same, and given a DSLR is probably not too common there, I am afraid to be mistaken as one by the customs or the police. So I want to know if I should be bringing my DSLR or just a P&S.

    I've heard from friends who traveled there in group for just a couple of days that there are spies lurking outside their hotels when they were there (sounds ridiculous?). I can't really imagine what it is like being there. I don't know if I am being paranoidal, but I don't want to have my camera gears confiscated or even myself deported or detained because I have a "big" camera with me.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    No your friends are not being paranoid. It is not impossible to have spies outside the hotel and even tailing you. It all depends on how "risky" you are to the government but having said that they don't have that much manpower to go tail everyone. In the past this task was under the wing of MI or Military Intelligence. But this department has been purged in the last few years after the ex PM and ex MI chief was placed under house arrest.

    I don't know if you will face problems bringing your DSLR in especially in view of the media clampdown in Myanmar due to the cyclone. And it's not only now... but all along Myanmar has been very wary of foreigners. Don't know about now, but in the past, one had to surrender his or her hp and laptop at the customs. Collect upon departure.


    Tips for you. For occupation, never list yourself as anything to do with the media. Its sure to get you into tons of trouble as the government is paranoid of foreign media. You might even get your visa application rejected.

    Don't ever say you are an amateur camera man.. basically don't act as if you know anything about photography beyond what a layman would know. Just say you are tourist and the big camera is old camera.... very lousy etc etc. The more they think you are doing this for a living... the more you are going to get it.

    Don't bring along any books or magazines that they will find offensive. And this I mean newspapers, American Magazines like time, newsweek etc. So don't go taking the newspapers etc off the plane. These are all considered undesirable materials.

    Hope it helps.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Thanks, that is very helpful. You seem to know a lot about the situation there.

    I have a friend who brought his film SLR with no problem, but that was before the cyclone.

    I am also told to dress down, preferably wear what people there are wearing. I am told that most people there wear sandals and shoes are not what people everyday, is that true?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Hmmm traditionally the men and women wear a traditional or modern top like shirt, t-shirt etc and for bottom a longgyi. It's their version of a sarong. The chinese community tend to dress in dated shirts and pants. And your so called "young punks" dress in jeans and all.

    Yes you should dress down to avoid attention and bring along a pair of slippers and moisturizing cream. Reasoning, you will have to take off your footwear when entering temples, houses etc etc... if you wear a pair of boots that takes ages to remove.... you will faint. The new SAF boots is a good boot to wear if you really need to wear boots. Easy to take out and put on.

    The cream is for your feet, if you are going to be wearing just slippers, please moisturize your feet everyday. The air there is drier than here, and going bare feet all the time can have your heels drying up and cracking... trust me it's really painful.... as the crack goes all the way to your flesh. So it's a wound that cannot heal as you are walking all the time and each time you walk the heel cracks up.

    When you are there... due to the seriousness of the Cyclone and the determination of the government to shut things up.... do be careful... and don't go to places you are not supposed to go, don't take photos of things you are not supposed to take. At night after midnight, certain areas are patrolled by police officers and the army armed to the teeth with assault rifles. Seriously human rights, photographer rights all don't exist there.... they will shoot you first and talk later.....

    Also one last thing, the clergy, Monks are very respected there. So even if you are not a Buddhist, show them respect. You are expected to give up your seat to them in a boat, bus, car whatever. and the thai wat greeting (hands clasped together and bowing) should be made to them. The locals will look at you more favorably if you show respect to the monks.
    Last edited by aeskywan; 4th August 2008 at 11:46 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Stick to Rangoon and the larger cities for now. The outlying regions are still fairly unstable.

    Pack extra charged batteries for your mobile phone. And like aeskywan mentioned, try to blend in, and do steer clear of controversial locations if you are going around taking photos, e.g Aung San Suu Kyi's villa.
    Last edited by LazerLordz; 4th August 2008 at 12:00 PM.
    We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities. - Oscar Wilde

  6. #6

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    They have phone network now for our phones? Last time I went there, our phones all can't work. And yes... Ms Aung's villa is one place to get you into really big trouble and earn you an "bodyguard" to tail you for the rest of the holiday if you decide to even go have a look at that place.
    Last edited by aeskywan; 4th August 2008 at 12:02 PM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Quote Originally Posted by aeskywan View Post
    They have phone network now for our phones?
    GSM comms should be up albeit not too good coverage, but if TS wants to travel around, better to have charged batteries, right?
    We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities. - Oscar Wilde

  8. #8

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Hah I see, I didn't know they have GSM now.... 3 years ago, they only had their own internal network and even if you bring a phone in also pointless... no reception...

  9. #9

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Which part of Myanmar are you going by the way and how long is your stay?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Thanks guys for your inputs. I've got cracked feet before, yea it'll take time to heal and it's painful.

    I'll be going to Yangon, and may be some nearby areas, but will not venture far. I'll stay about 4 days or so.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    For Yangon, go to the Shwedagon Temple as one of the must sees. And avoid all temples at noon... the scorching heat turns the floor burning hot...

    Check out the chinatown too. if you dare and your stomach is strong enough tons of street food to eat.

    Finally outside the Trader's hotel, there is a street market on weekends and go to the Aung San gem market to ogle at gems.

    Outskirts of Yangon, go to http://www.explore-myanmar.com/Golden_rock.asp another worth while thing to see.

    One more thing, do know that although there are gems for sale in Myanmar and its relatively cheap. It is a very serious offence to bring any uncut and unset gems out of Myanmar. So be careful if people ask you to bring gems out for them to their friends overseas.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Thanks for all your inputs.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Going to Myanmar...

    Ok, here's a gyst.

    Touch down in Yangon, go see the Shwedagone pagoda early in the morning. I can't stress EARLY in the morning enough, as most of the interesting scenes of offerings etc happen around 6:30am. You're pretty much done by 9:30am.

    After that, git da hell out of Yangon and go to Mandalay, the old capital, and the capital of bicycles. Spend about 2 days looking around, taking street scenes etc. Notable sites are the Zay Cho market, U Pein bridge, the old palace etc.

    After that, you can go to Inn Lay lake. Huge! Very nice people, good food, and interesting lifestyles. If you're into nice textured fabrics, that's the place to be.

    And of course, you must go and see Bagan, the ancient capital. When people say Myanmar is the land of the pagodas, they were pretty much referring to Bagan. Every direction you point at, is a pagoda.

    By then, you would have spent at least 9 to 10 days already. If you still have time on your side, you can consider visiting the highlands. These are places like Taung Gyi which is the capitol city of the Shan state. Very diverse food and people.

    The ones mentioned above are all safe, AS LONG AS YOU ENGAGE A LOCAL GUIDE!!! Every single place in the world, regardless of how "safe" they claim to be, always have places to avoid. The guides can steer you clear from these potholes.

    People are generally very nice, very warm, and obliging. Of course there are those that have been "spoilt" by tourists, but that's a minority. Just have fun, be polite, courteous, and you'll be fine

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