Jeeps of Mandalay

If you’ve been to Mandalay, you might have noticed all the great custom-designed jeeps driving around the city. But why are they here?

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Getting a Myanmar visa in Bangkok

It seems scary, applying for the Myanmar visa, with many rules and limits and strictures, just like ordering a soup from Seinfeld’s ‘Soup Nazi’. But don’t worry, it’s dead simple.

It was actually quite straightforward in Bangkok (I applied for my visa in June 2012). A few weeks earlier in Hanoi I tried, but the embassy asked for all sorts of unusual paperwork, such as a recommendation letter from my employer (?), proof of inbound and outbound flights, and a detailed itinerary. So after a little internet research, I decided Bangkok was far easier.

Here’s what to do.

1. Go to Bangkok.

From my experience, and those who I talked to, applying here is a very smooth process. Kuala Lumpur is also a good option. You don’t need an agent to take care of it, it’s easily done at the Myanmar embassy.

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Visiting Myanmar in 2012, newly opened to the world

It’s not very often you feel like you’ve stepped into a new world.  Myanmar is the official name for the country most people know as Burma. This isolated place secretly hugs the shoulder of Thailand, touches under the wing of India, usually overlooked and almost forgotten. A land where cities and farms alike are dotted generously with pagodas of dazzling pure gold, where a greedy, backwards government enforces martial law through violence, taxation and censorship, and where people’s smiles and welcoming attitude instil a glimmer of hope where the UN thinks there is none.

Market, Inle Lake

How can this be true? Why does this unassuming, corrupt country deserve a mystique such as this? As Thailand’s neighbour, surely it must be quite similar, except for a few cultural differences? Not quite. Let me tell you why a journey through this country, recently coming out of isolation, is a strange and fantastic thing.

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