Sleeping and Eating
A major concern for many visitors to Myanmar is the availability of comfortable hotels and edible food in a country so undeveloped. Yet there’s no need to worry. The major cities and towns all boast five-star accommodation and even smaller towns offer adequate lodgings. The country’s cuisine is also a revelation, with unusual dishes like lephet thoke (a tea leaf salad) and mohinga (rice noodle and fish soup) to titillate your taste buds. And when you order a simple curry, it usually comes with an array of side dishes, such as pickled vegetables, soup, spicy dips, and, of course, rice.
Myanmar is a country of artisans, and with such a diverse ethnic mix the range of products seems endless. The country is famed for its gems—particularly rubies, sapphire and jade—though there are plenty of fakes on sale in markets, so it’s best to buy these in government-authorized shops. Other distinctive souvenirs are lacquer-ware, puppets, umbrellas, paintings, Buddha images, wood carvings, tapestries, lotus silk shawls and textiles, particularly those of the various ethnic groups, sold in the form of shoulder bags, jackets or longyis.
The best place to hunt for gifts and souvenirs is in local markets, where you need to bargain to get a good deal. In Yangon, the mother of all markets is the Bogyoke Aung San Market, a vast, sprawling area of over a thousand stalls selling gems, fabrics and tapestries, paintings, lacquer-ware, silverware and all types of handicrafts. This is the best place in the country for a one-stop shopping spree. Mandalay and Bagan both feature small shops that sell handicrafts, textiles and lacquer-ware, and most tours of Inle Lake include visits to workshops where you can watch artisans at work and buy anything from local cheroots to shawls made from the fibre of the lotus root.