.. Like all of South east asia Beware of snakes when "out and about". Burma has one of the biggest snakes in the world along with many others that are widely spread over SouthEast Asia.The biggest of course is the Burmese python. This particular snake can grow large enough to swallow a small child. Just be careful around waterways and also snakes don't like the heat...They will always try and find a cool spot out of the sun..Be aware when in dark Temples and the like...ALWAYS carry a small torch with you at all times..You can buy really strong torches that are small to carry and inexpensive to buy..
Wear strong footwear ..
Watch where you are walking!!
Treat every snake that you may come across as venomous ...although a lot aren't.
Give snakes lots of space ..
BAGAN. Upon arriving at the many sites there are to visit in Bagan be prepared to be overwhelmed by vendors...These vendors selling various clothing,especially T shirts, leatherware ,other craft items or the many children selling postcards it surely is difficult to say no...but I found out that this is a neccesity just a pleasant " no thank you" and keep walking...mind you you will find that the vendors are really persistent and can sometimes be annoying...nevertheless I found that I did buy some things as I knew the difficulties that these loveable people were having as this is their only form of income.
When travelling in Myanmar ALWAYSmake sure that you are carrying US currency as this is the only currency that is accepted by the Myanmar Government for Entry and Departure taxes in all regions visited..
IMPORTANTLY make sure that ALL notes are new and crisp bills otherwise they will not be accepted.,.also make sure that you have smaller denominations ie: a couple of $20's, $10's $5's and singles. This will make life easy for you as you can pay the correct amount when needed..as you DONT want change in Burmese Kyiat's. This is so as you wont be stuck with any Burmese "KYIAT" when you leave as it is worthless outside Myanmar..There are no ATM's ..Banks give a really low rate .and travellers cheques are not accepted..Best Xchange rates will be at your Hotel. Talk to the man.This is really so important a french guy that was travelling with us one day had a pocket full of US $'s and none were accepted anywhere he went.
While in Bagan (and all of Burma) I always carried plenty of fresh bottled water when I was "out and about" for the day..(and a bottle for the horse).The temperatures are usually really high and can be extreme with lots of humidity. I have never been as hot as I was in Burma anywhere that I have ever travelled. There are not many shops usually out in the site areas to buy bottled water . The heat and humidity of the day can be severe here and your fluid losses will be intense. Be aware as dehydration can "creep up" on you quickly. Don't underestimate the power of the sun.... a hat and sunglasses are aslo good to have .I found it good to also carry a small torch for inside dark pagodas.
I was made very aware how neccesary it is to have adeqate travel Insurance. Beleive me Myanmar (Burma) is one such place. To find yourself with some form of injuries here is to be in major trouble.Hospitals are few and far between with little modern technology..This was bought to my attention and mind when one evening I had climbed one of the many red-brick chedis. The climb to the top was rather difficult as the steps were extremely narrow and I had to place my foot sideways to use the steps. I was sitting on the top with a marvellous view of the sun setting on these red brick structures creating a wonderful glowing colour. When finally the sun had set I was very happy as I had captured some nice photos and it had rapidly got dark.I then realised that I had to climb down and what a mjor problem that then presented...anyway I got down slowly without mishap BUT had I fallen here I would have had a major problem.So glad that I had my small torch with me..I beleive that when obtaining travel insurance ALWAYS include repatriation as part of the contract... I never travel without adequate travel insurance cover.
I found travelling here that it was necessary to ALWAYS have and use a good strong Mosquito and Insect repellant..Malaria and Dengue fever is prevelant here and to use a repellant is a must...in the evening wear long sleeves and long pants..don't be worried by the "fragrance" as everybody is wearing it..make sure what you have is what you need...
ALWAYS CARRY A TORCH WITH YOU HERE
Due to the fact that the power can be turned off at any time of the day or night by the establishment, make sure that you have your torch with you..The large Hotels and Hostels have large backup power generators out the front of their buisinesses as you will notice..unfortuneately the poorer places don't..so..I carried my torch with me all the time...also very few streets have lighting..
Mt. Bopa is crowded with monkeys - and they are totally spoiled by pilgrims and tourists so that they lost all shyness and can get really clinging if not aggressive for foodhunting.
Another thing is that they pee and poo everywhere, which was a very nice experience walking barefoot (on holy ground, of course) when it started to rain heavily and a yellow flood came down the stairs making it impossible to avoid contact with it. Grrrrreat!
Right now there are many calls for (tourist)boycotting this country - but this only hits the common people - not the Junta leaders. Especially now, the people of Burma are in desperate need for (the attentive) visitors.
I mentioned "attentive" tourists, because you have to look carefully where you spend your money. Avoiding all profit for the Generals and their crew might be impossible since visa fees, taxes or also entry fees end up in their pockets, but by all means avoid luxury 5-star hotels, government airlines and all business involved with the Junta and the generals who try to keep all business within their "families".
For Bagan, especially avoid the watchtower - those 10 bucks certainly go to the wrong pockets.
For Burma right now, I guess individual travelling is the best solution, since you have a better control of your spendings. You can minimize the Juntas profits and maximize the benefit to the common people.
Watch out for snakes - on my first day I already had contact with two of them crossing my way. Also dont expect hospitals (if you get there at all) to have antidote. I heard Burma has one of the highest death rates on snakebites.
....there's always things to buy!! The usual roaming eagle eyed kids with postcards, T shirts and other bits. They accost you from the moment you arrive, and then again when you leave! If you stop, you will be surrounded - and it can be difficult to buy from one only. No matter how much resolve I start out with, I always end up coming home with dozens of postcards - often dirty and dogeared!
If you really don't want to buy anything, just be polite and say "no thank you" and keep walking.
It can be funny to watch the cluster when a bus pulls up at a temple! - particularly if you are not ON the bus!
This is more of a giggle story really than a tip - but, those amongst us who may be overly sensitive about body dimensions may be well warned!!!
Some of the temple based vendors have clothes besides the usual t- shirts. I nearly fell over laughing when this little girl came running over holding up this shirt - for ME! She looked thoroughly confused when I went into laughing convulsions and took her pic - errr and said "no thanks" when I regathered myself.
I guess we just look bigger than them - and big can be any number of X's before the L's!
By the entrance of every temple you'll more or less find a number of vendors selling crafts. All of them will persuade you to buy, some are more persistent than others. If you don't want your visit to be spoiled by a continuous chase of soiuvenir sellers, then just ignore them. More persistent are postcard selling children who are even heart breaking to deny.
Keep in mind though that selling souvenirs is an important source of income for these people.
As Bagan lies in a plain and you've planned your trip during the dry season (mainly Jan onwards), remember to take your sunlotion and a hat as the sun can be very hot during midday. A bottle of water is a must (usually provided for free from upmarket hotels).
Consider also to break your journey in the heat of the day either by resting in your hotel or having a lunch somewhere with a slight breeze of air.
Things are better if you take a horse cart (they have a tent overhead), but if you opt for a bicycle then beware of a possible sunburn
According to my horse cart driver, beware of snake if you intend to visit the temples after the sunset or night time.