Myanmar is quite unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia or the world. The term ‘Southeast Asia’ is regularly used as a catch-all for the countries south of China and north of Australia. While these countries certainly have their similarities, they each retain their own unique features. Below, we've outlined 5 things that make Myanmar special and unique.

Genuine Hospitality

Sulamani pagoda
Monk in front of Sunamani Pagoda, Bagan

Myanmar consistently ranks as one of the friendliest countries in the world. The people never seem to stop smiling and, although English is not commonly spoken, the Myanmar people will go out of their way to help foreigners. It is not unusual for locals to share food with foreigners on the train or to invite travelers into their house for a cup of tea or a snack. The people genuinely love their country and want to share it with visitors, so don’t be timid if someone invites you in!

Incredible Food

Burmese food
An assortment of dishes from Myanmar 

Although not as well-known as Vietnamese or Thai food, Myanmar cuisine is surprisingly tasty. The dishes blend influences from India, China, and Thailand and vary from region to region. There are some items that are completely unique to Myanmar, such as mohinga (a fish-based soup with rice noodles and loads of garnishes) and le pet thoke (a salad of fermented tea leaves and fried beans). Be adventurous and try it all!

Rich Cultural Traditions

Shwedagon temple
Buddhist nuns at Shwedagon Temple during the Full Moon festival

Although Myanmar is increasingly modernizing, the people still hold tight to their traditional ways of life. Even in the big cities, men and women can be seen wearing longyis (traditional skirts) and thanaka (a yellow paste-like cosmetic). Festivals are one of the best times to experience Myanmar’s culture for yourself: there is nothing quite as exciting as joining the locals to celebrate with a flourish as they sing, dance and play traditional games.

Religion & Spirituality

Shwezigon Paya
Shwezigon Paya, Bagan: one of Myanmar's most sacred pagodas

It is estimated that 90% of the Myanmar population is Buddhist and religion plays an important role in the daily life of the people. Everywhere you turn you will find pagodas, monks in red robes and Buddhist nuns in pink robes. Find a quiet corner of a pagoda and sit and watch as devotees come to pray or wake up early and witness monks shuffling silently down the street to collect alms donations. Many of the locals also believe in nats, 37 spirits that are honored through daily donations and annual festivals.

Pristine Landscapes

Kyaiktiyo
Mountains surrounding Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar

Myanmar is a massive country with a relatively small population. There are miles upon miles of untouched landscapes — soaring mountains, pristine beaches and meandering waterways. Even in the big cities, like Mandalay, it is only a short distance from the busy downtown streets to the rice paddies and countryside. Try to make at least one road trip or go for a bike ride on your Myanmar holiday to appreciate these beautiful sceneries.