I took this shot in Burma (Myanmar). I rented a car and driver to go to Mount Popa. We got behind a school bus. Kids are the same everywhere.
- Bill Stanhope
I took this shot in Burma (Myanmar). I rented a car and driver to go to Mount Popa. We got behind a school bus. Kids are the same everywhere.
- Bill Stanhope
This is my favorite photo! I was in Rangoon Burma waiting for the fast train to Mandalay. I had time to kill so I left the magnificent late nineteenth century British railroad station and walked out to the yard. I was surprised to see cows walking through the tracks. There were also many people camped in the yard. I saw a small walk over bridge which took you from one side of the yard to the opposite side. As I was walking over the bridge and looked down to see these two ladies waiting for some train. It was an amazing sight.
Another wonderful dispatch on life in Myanmar/Burma from the intrepid Bill Stanhope - [Kevin เควิน Khaosan]
A few years ago I was backpacking through Burma. I arrived in Mandalay by the fast train (which took 18 hours, and stopped at every station that I could see) from Rangoon. One of the places I wanted to see was Mandalay Hill. There was a great temple at the top where the Buddha had stood and pointed down to the plains, and said "Someday their will be a great city here. So Mandalay was born.
When I got to the bottom of The Hill there were two ways to get up. The first was to walk by the two giant guardian protectors and up 400 steps. The second way was by taxi. It was really hot, so I decided to go up by taxi. I know what you are thinking, Bright yellow cab with a meter. That's not it. It was a 25 year old Nisson pick up truck with a fabric surry on top of the bed. Fine with me. Waiting with me were five young Burmese ladies. We stood there in the sun waiting for the signal, from the driver, to get in the back of the truck. It came, and we all piled in. I smiled at them and they all giggled. The ride up was slow and bumpy. I had my camera on my lap, and picked it up and motioned to them that I would like to take their picture. They giggled and chattered back and forth to each other. I took that as yes and started taking a few pictures. They laughed and giggled and several covered their faces with their hands. We reached the top and I thanked them and bowed. They all giggled. The Temple is huge on top. There were many rooms. It was breath taking. I just walked around taking pictures. And every so often we would run into each other and they would dissolve into giggles every time they saw me. And, I would take their picture.
I was traveling on a 50 year old Chinese steamer down the Irrawaddy River in Burma. It was a three day trip on this local steamer because it stopped at every village along the way. I was the only westerner on the boat. And I was the only westerner that some of the passengers had ever seen. Young children burst into tears at the mere sight of me. Which caused the parents to smile and laugh at their children's discomfort and to assure me that they were fine with my being there. No one has a beard in Burma and I must have looked pretty scary.
I had no idea what to expect when I climbed up the one wooden plank to board the ship. I had paid for a cabin and it turned out that I was the only person staying in one. Everyone else quickly marked off their place on one of the three decks. As I walked past this colorful mass of people, many people called to me to join them, and started to make room for me to put down my blanket. I smiled and thanked them, but, I didn't feel comfortable doing that. At least not right away. So I went past a bunch of unoccupied cabins to find mine. It was a metal box with two metal beds attached to the wall with space between them, a sink, a window and one bare light bulb in the ceiling. Well it was quiet. The bathroom, I found out, was a big common room with a trough on one side and several holes in the floor. Right out in the open. And it was at the stern of the ship.
The first day we slid down the river like a dream. Dotted along the banks were beautiful gold and white temples. Every village had it's own pagoda. Sometimes just the top of a golden spire was visible poking up through the palm trees. The new passengers were huddled in a colorful mass at the edge of the beach, with there bundles, and bags of vegetables, and chickens. The steamer would just plow into the sand beach and put down a single plank and they would scurry aboard in a big hurry to get their spaces marked out.
I spent the first day standing by the rail and watched the countryside slip by. I was anxious to take pictures, but, I was afraid of insulting the passengers. So, I just had the camera with me. Pretty soon some family would smile at me and indicate that they would like me to take a picture of them. Gradually they excepted me and my camera and when I pointed my camera at the them, everyone would smile.
I discovered there was no dining room. Everyone brought their own food. I had brought three packages of Ramon Noodles which is almost all I ate. Their were faucets of boiling water which is how I made my soup. I was often offered food by the passengers, but, I always politely refused. I was afraid of getting sick. But, I did except one egg and a banana. I thought they would be safe.
As the day wained the steamer prepared for the coming night. I found out that because of all the sand bars the ship didn't run at night. What they did was ram the steamer into the beach and a crew member would scramble off the bow with a rope and drag it up into the jungle and tie us to a tree. Then as the evening darkened other ships, attracted by our bright lights would maneuver next to us and tie the boats together. In about an hour we had five other ships hooked on. The bright lights attracted a plethora of moths. They were every where. But, all of a sudden the lights went out. My cabin was black.
I walked back to the deck and was amazed to see little cooking fires, like fireflies, all across the deck.
There was an excitement in the air. A din of conversation chirped through the night. After dinner and clean up. Everyone began singing the most haunting melody. These were Buddhist prayers that everyone knew. It was beautiful beyond description.
Myanmar is part of Southeast Asia and is bordered by Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east. This is a country rich with natural beauty, culture, wildlife, forests, coastal resorts and temples and in many ways is the perfect tourist destination.
However, Myanmar is ruled by a brutal military regime, and many people avoid visiting Myanmar in order to avoid supporting this regime. However, the sad truth is that most tourist services such as guesthouses, restaurants and tours are run by the people themselves and not the government. The recent reduction in tourism has simply meant that the people of Myanmar are forced to suffer from lost earnings in addition to the numerous hardships and constraints imposed by the government. As long as you are careful to avoid government run hotels, buses and other services, it is possible to experience the most of this captivating country and possibly make a bit of a difference at the same time.
Although various parts of Myanmar are currently closed to tourists, the tourist numbers have been rising over the last couple of years, allowing many resorts to reopen. The Irrawaddy River runs through the centre of the country and this is a great way to travel and see the countryside.
Travelling through Myanmar feels like stepping into the past. Even though the capital city is fairly modern compared with the rest of the country it is still perhaps half a century behind many modern Southeast Asian capitals such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, while the country’s remote villages have changed little of the last few centuries.
This is a large part of Myanmar’s charm and as you explore you will discover ancient marvels such as the 4000 sacred stupas which are scattered across the plains of Bagan and the mysterious golden rock that somehow manages to balance on the edge of a chasm. As you ride in a Wild West stagecoach you will pass grand British mansions and men wearing traditional long skirt-like cloths around their waists.
Despite their years of suffering, the people of Myanmar are friendly, gentle and have a unique sense of humour. As you wander through villages and small towns you will probably be invited to get to know these people and share a part of their lives, an incomparable experience.
One of the best things about Myanmar is that it hasn’t been inflicted by the blight of Starbucks, McDonalds and other chain outlets that cover most Asian countries. Myanmar’s charms are subtle but they are authentically Asian and this is one of the few places in the world where you can experience true Asian culture without the integration of Western consumerism.
There are many sides to this fascinating city. Wander along the waterfront and you will discover aged streets full of British colonial-era architecture, while other streets such as the Strand or Pansodan Street have been renovated and have an ultra-modern feel.
In many ways Yangon feels like a Western city with tree-lined avenues, picturesque lakes and colonial architecture. A trip to Chinatown offers a different dimension to the city and this is a particularly good place to get an evening meal and wander through the bright lights and colourful decorations.
Most tours of the city will start with its temples and pagodas and there are certainly plenty to see. Top of the list should be the ancient Sule Pagoda, the mirrored maze inside the Botataung Pagoda and the Maha Pasan Guha.
Despite its often chaotic feel, there are plenty of places to relax in Yangon. Take a walk through the Mahabandoola Garden and you will find a beautiful rose garden, while there is a water fountain and informative museum in People’s Park.
Take a boat trip on the large Inya Lake before viewing the traditional Burmese royal boat at Kandawgyi Lake.
Those interested in the city’s history can visit Aung San’s house, which has been turned into a museum of sorts, before visiting the place where Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for so many years.
There is plenty to see just outside Yangon such as the Naga-Yone enclosure near Myinkaba. Here you will find a large Buddhist statue, while the Golden Rock Pagoda at Kyaik Tyo is an 18 foot high shrine built on a gold-plated boulder on top of a cliff.
Take the The Dallah Ferry across the river to visit the pretty village of Dallah. The ride itself is beautiful and provides an interesting inside into country life as people try hard to sell their ways and compete for attention.
Pyin U Lwin is situated in the northern foot hills of Shan State and was formerly known as Maymyo during the time when many British governors lived here. There are many interesting ways to get around the town, and one of the most pleasant is by stately Victorian horse drawn carriage known as a gharry.
For the ultimate luxurious feel, take a gharry to the National Kandawgyi Gardens for a stroll in the shade and breathe in the fresh, pine scented air. Established in 1915 by Alex Rodger, the gardens are a great place to explore the area’s flora and fauna, while the pond with its central stupa makes an excellent photograph.
A tour of the town will take you to the Purcell Tower and on to the English Cemetery before stopping to allow you to inspect the pretty Shiva Temple and Chinese Temple. To the south of the town you will find the Candacraig, which is a colonial mansion built as a guesthouse and offers an interesting insight into colonial life.
Venture out of the town and you will discover a couple of pretty waterfalls. Anisakan Falls is a great place to visit for those who enjoy hiking, and you can trek for half a day through jungle to get witness the inviting cascade of water and nearby temple. Pwe Kauk Falls are a popular picnic spot and you can simply hire a taxi to get there before relaxing or hiking to the nearby caves of U Naung Gu.
There are a number of great restaurants in this area and Western food is quite easy to find, while traditional cooking is hot and spicy, moderated with flavours of Chinese and Indian cuisine.
Follow the flow of the Pathein River to explore this scenic area. There are a number of pretty Buddhist temples to walk around and umbrella shops where you can watch the colourful umbrellas being made.
Pathein was once part of the Mon Kingdom and this region is still very multi-cultural, with a blend of Muslim, Mon, Karen and Rakhine people, all bringing their own unique sense of style, food and customs to the mix.
One of the most prominent sites in Pathein is the Shwemokhtaw Paya, which is a Buddhist temple founded by the Indian King Asoka in 305 BC. The stupa was raised to a height of 11 meters in 1115 AD and then to 40 meters in 1263 AD by King Samodogossa. Decorated with a top layer of solid gold, a middle tier of silver and the third of bronze, the stupa is an unmissable and unforgettable sight.
Another great place to get a feel for the devotion of the people of Pathein is the Yekyi Yenauk Lake. The name means clear and turbid water in English and a large number of legends surround the lake, drawing people here to worship from all over Myanmar.
For those with a sweet tooth, the area is also famous for Har-la-war, which is a traditional sweet dessert. A good place to pick it up is at the bustling Pathein Myoma Market, or the night market situated along Strand Road.
A great way to reach Pathein is by overnight ferry from Yangon. The journey is about 120 miles and is a relaxing way to see the countryside as you sail under a blanket of stars.
Ngwe Saung Beach has only recently opened to tourism, so now is the perfect time to visit. Although you won’t find many cheap places to stay, this is a good place for those with a little extra to spend who appreciate beauty and luxury.
Although relaxation is key here, there is also plenty to do for those with energy to spare. Beach volley ball is a popular past time, and are water sports such as kayaking, wind surfing and fishing.
After a busy day of sunbathing and swimming, you can soothe aching muscles in one of the beauty spas located along the beach, or ride in a bullock cart as the sun sets. Hiring a bicycle is also a good way to explore and the narrow lanes and roads around Ngwe Saung Beach are in good condition.
Another great way to see the area is by going on a boat trip, while thrill seekers will enjoy the speed boat rides. The tropical rain forests and the towering Rakhine mountain range make an excellent backdrop to this beautiful resort and are also good places to explore.
This is a great place to eat fresh seafood and a large number of beach front restaurants have delicious seafood BBQs in the evening where you can simply choose from the catch of the day and eat at a candlelit table on the sand.
A great way to reach Ngwe Saung Beach is by taking the tourist ferry from Yangon. The ferry goes at night and the trip takes around six hours, giving you plenty of time to catch some shut eye or look at the stars as you sail.
Inle Lake is located around 30 miles to the west of Kalaw and this is a popular place for hiking to. As you hike through to countryside you will discover a number of small Shan villages, where the people are warm and welcoming and you can witness the gentle nuances of traditional life. Watch as the people weave their colourful clothing and roll cigars from the leaves of the Thanatphet trees.
This is a great place to relax for a while and enjoy the slow pace of life. Kalaw was a former British colonial town and you will find a number of churches such as Christ the King church and other British style buildings. Tudor-style houses sit amongst English rose gardens, making an interesting contrast to the traditional Burmese villages that surround the town.
There are still plenty of examples of Asian architecture in and around Kalaw however. An interesting example is the Hnee Phaya, which is an old and highly revered pagoda featuring a Buddha image made from woven strips of bamboo. Also worth visiting is the Shweumin Pagoda, which is built inside a natural limestone cave. There are a number of Buddha images inside the cave that were commissioned by King Narapataesithu.
Climbing one of the surrounding hills provides a fantastic view of Kalaw. As you explore you will see spectacular scenery such as elephants working in the pine forests, sweeping tea and coffee plantations and women plucking tea leaves from the low bushes.
The vibrant Kalaw market is held every five days and is a great place to stock up on supplies for your trek. People travel from all over the areas to sell their wares and the market is a very lively affair. This is a great place to pick up a bargain or two and sample a delicious variety of local food and drink.
Inle Lake is a great place to relax for a few days. There is so much to do here and there are a wide range of water sports to try such as canoeing, sailing and windsailing, while swimming is a great way to keep cool on a hot day. Fishing is also a popular pastime and you can easily hire a rod and join the locals as they try to land the catch of the day.
Hiring a bicycle is a great way to explore the surrounding countryside. Make sure you stop in at the Nanthe monastery, where the meditating monks have taught their cats to jump. The area is also famous for the Intha people’s unusual leg rowing skills, and you might be lucky enough to witness this as you cycle along the banks of the lake.
There are many interesting and unusual things to discover in this charming area such as the 300 year old Banyan tree with its aerial roots and wide canopy. Walk through the paddy fields and perhaps ride a water buffalo and watch the sun set over the lake.
The nearby floating market is a great place to witness traditional life and shop bargains as well as getting a tasty meal. Fresh fish is top of the menu and there are a large number of fish curries and other dishes to try. Most people tend to stay in the nearby village of Nyaugshwe, where there is a good variety of cheap guesthouses and restaurants catering to backpackers.
A great time to visit Inle Lake is between September and October when you will have the chance to witness and perhaps take part in the Phaung Daw U festival and also the Thadingyut festival. These festivals are very lively and feature much singing and dancing as well as performances of traditional folk tales.
There are a number of interesting places to visit in and around Hsipaw. Top of the list should be the Shan Palace, which is located to the north of town and was the former residence of the Sawbwas of Hsipaw, who lived here for many generations until the last one was forced to flee during the military coup of 1962.
Another interesting place to visit is the Bawgyo Paya, a large Shan Pagoda about 5 miles out of town. Here you will find not only Buddha statues but also Hindu statues outside the temple and the journey to and from the town is very scenic.
Just before sunset climb to the top of Sunset watching at Five Buddha Hill or Nine Buddha Hill, both of which are located just over a mile outside Hsipaw. Hire a bicycle and reach the top of the hill for spectacular views over the town and surrounding countryside.
A massage is a great way to soothe aching muscles after a day of hiking and there are a number of massage parlours and basic spas scattered around Hsipaw. The city is located near the banks of the Dokhtawaddi River, and it is possible to take a short boat trip here to see the countryside.
The morning riverside market is a great place to get a bite to eat and sample some of the region’s delicious fruit and handmade sweets. A large percentage of the population here are Chinese and there are a good variety of Chinese dishes to try. You can also shop for souvenirs here and exchange friendly banter with the stall holders.
The Bawgyo Paya Pwe festival is held in Hsipaw in late February or early March and the somewhat sleepy town really comes alive during this time, celebrating with traditional songs, dancing and storytelling.
Chaungtha Beach is particularly popular on weekends and holidays, so for those who want to recreate that desert island feel it is best to visit during the week when there are few visitors to share the pure white sands and clear waters with.
Once you have found your place in the sun, there is plenty to see and do in the area. Take a boat trip to some of the pretty islands to explore. Among the best are White Sand Island and Pho Kalar Island, both of which are great places for swimming and snorkelling.
Chaungtha Beach is an area of great natural beauty that has been hardly touched by the ravishes of tourism. Accommodation is constructed to fir with the natural feel of the place and there are no bright neon signs and drunken beach discos like in many other beach resorts around the world. This is a great place for families to visit and for those who want to experience true tropical life.
Instead of the usual Bob Marley tracks and 80s pop classics, natural music is provided by the wind in the trees and the gentle whisper of the waves on the shore. Simply place your beach mat on the sand and drift away for awhile.
If you feel like exploring, hire a bicycle and cycle to Kyaut Maung Nhama, which is about two hours away, or three if you prefer to walk. Here you will find beautiful rocky shores and a temple balanced on a large boulder.
This is a great place to dine on fresh seafood and crab is particularly popular here. Wash it down with a glass of coconut juice or something a little stronger if you prefer while you sit on the beach gazing at the stars.
Many people simply pass by Bago on their way to Mandalay, but those who take the time to stop and look around will come across many unique features. Here you will find literally thousands of Buddha images in carved niches in a rocky cavern and an interesting array of pagodas, temples and other buildings.
The site of Bago was founded in 573 AD by two Mon princes and paid an important role in the history of both Mon land and Myanmar before being destroyed by the Burmese King Alaungpaya in 1757. Although only a few buildings remain as testimony to this interesting period of history, those that do are worth taking the time to investigate.
Bago has a number of large pagodas, of which the Shwemawdaw or Golden Shrine is the most sacred as it is believed to contain a couple of hairs belonging to the Gautama Buddha. As you explore the town you will discover the Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha statue and the impressive Kalyani Sima or Hall of Ordination.
There are a number of interesting places to explore on the outskirts of Bago. Just 40 miles to the east is one of Myanmar’s most prominent landmarks. Also know as Golden Rock, the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a 5.5 meter high pagoda atop a large bolder covered with gold leaf. What makes this site so unusual is that the bolder is balanced on the very edge of a precipice and looks as though it will topple over the edge at any moment.
Bago is situated between the forested Pegu Mountains to the west and the Sittang River to the east. Surrounded by picturesque paddy fields, this is a good area to explore to get a real feel for Myanmar. There are number of places to get a bite to eat around Bagan and a couple of cosy places to stay.
Although the collection of pagodas and temples at Bagan is still very impressive, their number once totaled around 13,000, and they were built in the years between 1044-1287 before finally being abandoned when Kublai Khan invaded the area from China and people literally ran to the hills.
Although the detailed carvings on each pagoda and temple make them all special in their own way, the most highly revered temple is considered to be Ananda, which was built by King Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. The main feature of the temple is the four large Buddhas, which represent the first four holy men to have achieved enlightenment.
Another great temple to visit is the Thatbyinnyu Temple, which is Bagan’s highest point and provides spectacular views of the entire area, while the Shwegugyi Temple was built in 1311 and is decorated with especially attractive carvings. Also worth looking out for is the Gawdawpalin Temple, which despite some damage during the 1975 earthquake is still very impressive.
There are quite a few decent places to stay in Bagan as well as restaurants, markets and surrounding beauty, making this a great place to spend a day or two while you explore slowly. While you’re here, check out Bagan’s interesting museum and lacquerware workshops.
For a fresh perspective and excellent views, take a hot air balloon ride over the Bagan Plain at sunset. This is a truly memorable experience and provides the opportunity to take some fantastic photographs.
Bagan is situated on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River, and sunset cruise on the river is a relaxing experience, while you can also be driven around the area in a horse cart or hire a bicycle and peddle around.
Although the official language is Myanmar, there are over 100 dialects spoken in this diverse country and English is generally used when conducting business. The majority of people (around 87%) are Buddhist, with other people being Hindu, Muslim, Christian and animist.
The history of Myanmar is turbulent to stay the least. Originally named Burma, the country’s proximity to so many dominant nations has mean that wars and land right disputes have been going on for centuries and the territory wasn’t reunified until the middle of the 16th century. Years of war followed as this now unified nation invaded first the Mon people and then Thailand in an attempt to gain more land.
Burma became part of British India towards the end of the 19th century, during which time the British helped develop the country and establish trade relations. The British were driven out of the country during WW II and Burma became independent in 1948. However, the hill tribes, communists, Muslims and Mons within Burma all revolted, causing chaos.
General Ne Win led a revolt in 1962 and basically seized control of the country, eliminating the democratic government. The economy crumbled over the years that followed and people started to demonstrate in 1987 and 1988 in order to get Ne Win to resign. The general resisted and conflicts between the between pro-democracy demonstrators and the military ended in around 3,000 deaths in just six weeks.
General Saw Maung and his State Law & Order Council (SLORC) took control of the government after a military coup and there was an election. However, despite the fact that the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi scored a massive victory, the party leaders were prevented from taking office and were actually arrested under very dubious circumstances while a know drug baron took over the running of the country.
During her years of imprisonment, Aung San Suu Kyi has attempted to spread the world of Myanmar’s dictatorship government and her illegal house arrest, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and finally her freedom in 2002.
The state of affairs in Myanmar was finally put into the spotlight in 2007 when thousands of monks marched in protest at the unfair beating of three of their fellow monks were beaten at a protest march. Although the government tried to suppress the march by firing on the crowds and closing communications, the word was already out and people around the globe are becoming aware of the conditions opposed on the people of Myanmar.
Although things are still tightly controlled in Myanmar there seems to be hope on the horizon and many are optimistic that the situation will soon improve.
There are more than sixty airstrips located within Myanmar and this is by far the easiest way to travel. There are four domestic airlines, although many people prefer to avoid Myanma Airlines as it is run by the government. The three private airlines are Air Bagan, Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways. One-way tickets need to be bought at least a day in advance and are cheaper at travel agencies than airline offices. Unfortunately, flights tend to be irregular and the safety record is not the best, so it might be better to consider other options.
There is an extensive river network running through Myanmar and travelling by boat is by far the best way to see the country. The service between Mandalay and Bagan is particularly popular with travellers and you can choose between the ferry or speedboat service. Boats can sail along the Irrawaddy River even in the dry season and places such as Bhamo and Myitkyina are easy to get to, while Yangon can be reached via the Twante Canal. However, boat trips can only be arranged as part of an organized tour group, which limits your options and the journey takes a lot longer than by road or air.
Bus travel is cheap and the buses run regularly, making this a convenient form of transport. While it is better to avoid the old, crowded buses, the newer long distance buses are quite comfortable. The older buses break down frequently and are often delayed by several hours. Try to buy you ticket in advance to snag a good seat. Bus fares are priced in Kyat and can sometimes be bought from guesthouses as well as the chaotic bus station. The front of the bus is always the best as the back is usually crowded and uncomfortable.
Myanmar Railways is owned by the government and it is best to avoid travelling by train. In addition, foreigners are forced to pay at least six times the standard fare, and train travel is slow and quite dangerous as the trains regularly derail.
Car and Motorcycle
Although it is possible to hire a car or motorbike in places such as Mandalay, International Driving Licences and British licences are not accepted and you must apply for a Myanmar licence at the Department for Road Transport and Administration in Yangon first.
Local transport options include bicycle rickshaws or trishaws known as sai-kaa, horse carts -myint hlei - ancient taxis and modern Japanese pick-up trucks. Fares are negotiable and it is essential to agree on the fee before getting in.
Most people prefer to visit Myanmar in the cool season, probably arriving around November and heading out by the time the weather starts to turn at the end of January. Temperatures start to climb dramatically in the middle of February and April is scorching hot, peaking at around 45?C. The rains arrive in the middle of May and cool things down considerably, although this time of year can also be rather humid.
You can expect rain showers pretty much every day during the monsoon season, although in many places such as Yangon the rain tends to fall in two short showers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In other parts of Myanmar such as Bagan and Mandalay the rainfall is rather low.
If you are visiting Myanmar in the summer head to the hills as temperatures tend to be much lower here than in the rest of the country, meaning that you will need warm clothes if you are visiting during the cool or wet seasons.
Local people can get in serious trouble for discussing politics so avoid bringing up the topic. If you are keen to find out local opinion be discrete and wait for the subject to be raised by others.
Power cuts are frequent and although most places have their own generator it is best to check before paying for a room in a guesthouse as it can get pretty hot at night without an electric fan to cool things down.
Although the local people are honest, Myanmar is one of the world's most corrupt countries and it is common for officials and other civil servants to discreetly ask travellers for bribes. These requests are rarely reinforced however and refusing to understand generally does the trick.
Although there have been bombings in Myanmar in the past these have now stopped and the main danger zones are off limits to tourists anyway. The situation in Myanmar is constantly changing and tourists and banned from several areas. Make sure you get the latest information before you go to avoid problems. It is possible to apply in Yangon for a permit to enter restricted areas, although such requests are seldom granted.
Changing your Money
Plenty of people will offer to change your money for you as you travel around Myanmar, although the best places to change money are guesthouses, shops and travel agencies. Of course, exchange rates fluctuate between places, so make sure you take a good look around before handing over your cash.
You can only exchange US Dollars and Euros, and rates tend to be slightly better in Yangon than in the rest of Myanmar. Check the serial number on your bank notes carefully as US Dollars that start with AB or BC are often refused.
There are no ATMs at all in Myanmar, so it is a good idea to stock up with cash or traveller’s cheques before entering the country. Traveller’s cheques can be changed at a few chic hotels in Yangon for a commission of between 3% and 10%.
Although not widely accepted, some major hotels, airlines, international shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, but Master Card is not currently accepted in Myanmar.
It is common practice to add 5 to 10 per cent to hotel and restaurant bills as a tip.
It is important to remember that the import and export of local currency is strictly prohibited.
Food in Myanmar tends to be cheap and tasty, making this a great place to experiment. There is plenty of fresh fruit available in the markets and food stalls can be found on practically every corner in the towns.
Although coffee can be hard to find, tea is popular, served with brightly hued spices. Most bars and select restaurants sell locally produced beer, whiskey and gin. Toddy juice is made from fermented palm sugar and tastes a lot like rum.
There are a large number of Chinese and Indian restaurants throughout Myanmar and Western food can be found in most hotels and an increasingly growing number of independent restaurants, although there are no fast food chains in Myanmar, which is probably a very good thing.
It is not safe to drink the tap water in Myanmar, but bottled water is cheap. It is also best to avoid ice as this may be made with tap water.
Here is a selection of the dishes you are likely to discover in Myanmar:
Lethok son – a very spicy salad using rice and vegetables.
Mohinga – filling fish curry soup with thin noodles.
Onnokauswe – a slightly sweet and creamy dish of rice noodles, chicken and coconut milk. This curry is strong and pungent.
Mee swan – noodles in a thick broth served with herbs and meat.
Palata – known as paratha in India, this thin bread is fried and served with sugar for breakfast and curried meat at lunch and dinnertime.
Here is a list of some of the most prominent festivals with details of what you can expect to experience.
This national holiday is celebrated on January 4th. Most businesses close for the day and foreigners are not permitted to join the ceremonies.
Ananda Pagoda Festival
Held between January 10th and February 1st in the city of Bagan, this lively festival features singing, dancing, plays, and film screenings. A large number of stalls set up and this is a good time to purchase local produce.
Celebrated in Mandalay in the second week of February, monks gather here to chant and the festival is also full of singing, dancing and traditional theatre.
On February 12th people gather and the hill tribes dance in their traditional dress.
Shwe Saryan Pagoda Festival
Take a boat along the river from Mandalay to witness this colourful festival and buy traditional products such as toys, boxes, baskets and mats.
Pindaya Cave Festival
Held on March 16th in Pindaya, this two day festival features much singing and dancing.
Similar to Songkran is Laos and Thailand, people throw water during this festival in mid April and most things are closed as everyone joins in the fun.
Sand Stupa Festival
In Mandalay in the middle of April intriguing sand stupas are built in different parts of the city using traditional techniques.
Waso Full Moon Day
Buddhist Lent begins in the middle of July and people gather at the temples and stupas to donate good to the monks.
On July 19th ceremonies are held to mark the assassination of General Aung San.
Taung Byone Festival
Travel to the village of Matara near Mandalay on August 8th to witness the traditional Nat dance.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
During this 2 week festival Buddhist images are placed in decorated barges and floated on Lake Inle.
Elephant Dance Festival
This vibrant festival is held on October 9th and 1oth near Mandalay.
On October 11th the whole country celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent
Fire Balloon Festival
This special three-day festival starts on November 16th in Taunggyi. Taunggyi the festival is celebrated with competitions of decorated hot-air balloons in different shapes and forms of animals such as elephants, cattle, the mythical Hintha bird and hens as well as with fireworks and firecrackers in the evening.
Robe Weaving Contest
Held in all major cities on November 7th, teams of women compete against each other to gain recognition as the best robe weavers.
People usually shake hands when they meet and use full names with U (pronounced oo) at the front for older and respected people, Aung in the case of younger men, Ko for adult males and Daw when you are greeting women. People often give small presents to each other when they meet.
People always cover their arms and legs in public so you should avoid wearing shorts and miniskirts, especially around sacred places. Shoes and socks must be removed before entering any religious building and often private houses as well. If you want to keep cool, don the traditional long skirt known as a longyi, which is worn by both men and women.
Dress respectfully around the temple and make sure you take off your socks before entering. Showing the soles of the feet is considered disrespectful, so make sure you sit with your feet tucked underneath you and never point to things with your feet. Women are not allowed to enter certain areas of the temple and everyone should avoid touching relics within the temple.
There are severe penalties for drug taking and trafficking, which range from five years’ imprisonment to a death sentence and homosexuality is also illegal in Myanmar.
Make sure you know which parts of Myanmar are out of bounds to foreigners and regularly check for updates.
Mae Hong Son, with a population of around 7,000 people, is also the name of the Province capital. The town can easily be reached from Chiang Mai or via Mae Hong Son Airport.
Mae Hong Son is surrounded by mountains and is much cooler than the rest of Thailand, making it a great place to visit in the scorching summer months. In fact, for most of the year the valley is shrouded by mist and fog, which adds a mystical quality to it.
For nature lovers, Mae Hong Son is the perfect destination. Here you will find sparkling waterfalls, glittering caves such as Tham Mae La Na and the beautiful Tham Pla National Park makes a great day trip.
Mae Hong Son Province is home to the Padaung Hill Tribe villages, also known as the 'Long Neck Women' tribes after the long coils the women wear around their necks, which can weight as much as 22kg!
Many people visit the province in order to go trekking and visit these intriguingly exotic hill tribes. The hill tribe village of Ban Ruam Thai is particularly welcoming to independent visitors, or travellers can opt to go on a trekking tour, where a guide will take you to several villages in the area.
After trekking, you may want to relax in the Pha Bang Hot Spring, or pay your respects at the many local temples. There are dozens of gleaming temples to explore, such as Wat Huang Wiang, Wat Jong Kham or the nearby Wat Si Bunruang.
For the adventurous, Mae Hong Son is a great place to go rafting, and all your retail needs can be met at the bustling night market.
Northern Thailand displays heavy influences from the neighboring cultures of Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan (China). The kingdoms of Lanna and Sukhothai were the first historical Thai nations.
A series of Communist insurgencies and the effects from Myanmar's drug battles and civil wars has meant that recently a large portion of northern Thailand was off limits. However, these problems have now been mostly resolved, and safe, easy travel is possible throughout the north.
Although standard Thai language is widely understood, the people of Northern Thailand have their own Thai dialect called Kham Meaung. The hilltribes also have their own languages, and if you wish to make extensive contact with them it may be a good idea to employ a translator/guide.
The main airport in Northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, which serves both domestic and international flights. There are also small domestic airports at Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai.
Spicy and bitter, Northern Thai food is quite different to that eaten in the rest of the country. There are dozens of local specialties and this is a great place to sample the traditional food of the hill tribes as well. A regional specialty is thick, slightly spicy sausages stuffed with raw garlic, the pride of Chiang Mai Province.
Other dishes to look out for include:
kaeng hang le - Burmese-style pork curry
khanom jiin naam ngiew - rice noodles with pork ribs and thick sauce
khao soi - a Burmese curry noodle soup served with shallots, lime and pickles to add as required.
Yelena writes: "Hello, I will be traveling to Thailand Summer 2008 for three weeks. I think for the most part I will stay in the major cities, but i would also like to see the jungle. I know that i need Hepetitis A and Typhoid vacination. What about Japanese encephalitis? Thank you."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. Japanese encephalitis is an important when you will be staying in Northern of Thailand for long period of time (more than 1 month). However, if you aren't to stay for long period of time you should protect of yourself by During the hours of darkness wear long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts. Using mosquito repellent. Staying in air conditioning room because this disease spread by mosquito. The illness is most prevalent in rural areas especially near pig farms. If you have any father inquiries, please, do not hesitate to let me know."
Nigel Andrews: Hi, I'm traveling to Thailand for ten days in two weeks time I'm spending 5 days in Phuket and 5 days Bangkok is it to late for jabs but what jabs do I need? Many Thanks Nigel.
BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. I would like to explain you about vaccinations you should get when you stay in Thailand. However, you should get before you come to Thailand 7-10 days. Are you traveling in Thailand now? So, it is too late. Therefore, I explain to you for next time. 1. You should receive Hepatitis A, Typhoid because these diseases transmission is primarily via person to person, generally through fecal contaminated and oral ingestion. The virus can be spread through contaminated food (such as uncooked fruits and vegetables), shellfish, ice and water. 2. If you like tattooing you should receive Hepatitis B also because this disease exposure to contaminated blood and blood products; use of contaminated needles, razors, dental and medical equipment, tattooing and body-piercing devices; and sexual contact with infected individuals. 3. Tetanus transmission typically occurs via contamination of wounds, burns and punctures so if you can protect yourself from these, you don't need tetanus vaccine. 4. Most of Thailand is malaria free except near the border areas of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, national forest and Koh Chang. There is no vaccine available for malaria yet. Also malaria prophylaxis medicine is not 100 % protective against malaria. Currently dengue fever is a problem (there is not medicine or vaccine for dengue.) Best are repellents, long sleeve clothing, and sleep in netted areas. If you would like to take medicine, Malarone would be the best but is not available in Thailand and South East Asia. It would be the best if you can buy it from home.
Christine Carver writes: "Dear Sir/madam, my friend has visited Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phi Phi, leaving Thailand on 14/2/07. Over the last 10 days she has had high temperatures, headaches, nausea and general aches and pains. The nausea has settled but she now has a slight cough. she has been generally very weak. There is no rash. Could you advise us if she is at risk of any tropial diseases from visiting these places in Thailand? We wondered about malaria or dengue fever. is there anything else we should be concerned about? We are very grateful for any advice you can give. Thank you so much."
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Carver, In this case it might be a viral infection. We would recommend you to see your doctor and have blood tests to confirm.
Finn Hjelmstrom writes: "We are going to stay for approx 3 weeks at the eastern part of Koh Chang in Jan/Feb next year. We do not know whether there is air con or not. Will this demand for any malaria prevention? Will our further trip to Cambodia (Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh) increase this demand? Thanks for your speedy reply Finn Hjelmstrom"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time (more than 1 month). Anyway anti malaria for Koh Chang and Cambodia is Doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. So if you arenÃ‚Â’t staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent."
Bob writes: "We are travelling to thailand with our 22 month old daughter and plan to stay for two months. we would prefer to avoid malaria risk areas so our daughter need not take any malaria pills. can you tell us whether any of the following possible travel destinations should be avoided: khao lak, koh lanta, kho phangan, kho tao, in the south and chang mai and pai, in the north... do you have any other recommondations for travelling with baby, other than sunscreen, mosquito nets and - repellent...?? thank you very much for having this forum available..."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We send file about risk area of malaria in Thailand for you. (See Malaria map in Thailand) I think this map can help you avoid malaria risk areas. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time."
A visitor writes: "My daughter is visiting Koh Phi Phi Island and was bitten by a monkey. Does she really need the vaccine? Has there been rabies on that island?"
BNH Hospital answers: Vaccinations are available at every hospital in Thailand. There is no case of mokey bite but last year there was a dog found with rabies on the Island. To be safe she should take Rabbie vaccine and Tetanus as the monkey is wild monkey, you can never be sure if it has rabie or not. The wound should be wash throughly and make sure that it is clean. If the wound is very bad, or the monkey that bite your daughter is suspected to have rabbie, she should take Immunogloblin which is stronger than rabie too. The contact number is Phi Phi Hospital contact number is 03-501-7228 I tried to contact them but no one pick up the phone. They should have Rabie vaccines at ER. (Embedded image moved to file: pic22704.jpg) Another option is Krabi Hospital (2hrs from Phi Phi Island by boat) 075-611212 I have checked with Krabi Hospital. They have all the vaccines available at ER.
Samantha Edelsten writes: "I purchased a course of Malarone tablets(42) in the UK prior to travelling to SE Asia but have now decided to stay longer but need to purchase some more tablets. Is there anywhere in Bangkok I can do this or will I need to visit a doctor to get a prescription?"
BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. Malarone tablets is not available in Thailand. We available doxycycline (anti malaria tablet for SE Asia) may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue 1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. I think if you aren't staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (plants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent.
Shari Lemieux writes: "Hello We will be travelling to Thailand from Canada on Dec.15th/ 2006 to Jan.2nd /2007. Probably to Bangkok and then down south and back up again to Bangkok (Phuket, Chang mai, river Kwai & Phi Phi). I am a nurse and I already have had my Hepatitis B vaccination and also my Tetanus. Should It be wise for me to also receive the HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations? Would you recommend the TWINRIX series of shots for me? IS there any problems in any area of Thailand that we should know about before visiting? Thanks for your help in advance.
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, we always recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and Typhoid for traveller before come to Thailand. Twinrix is a vaccine that protection from Hepatitis A and B thus if you already have had hepatitis B vaccine, you should only receive Havrix (1440) vaccine for Hepatitis A."
Simona: "Do I need a prescription to buy Doxycicline from a chemist in Thailand? Will I find it in Koh Chang?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you will find it in Koh Chang. We recommend travelers to take doxycycline when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time because doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency fo candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet the day before you leave your country and 1 tablet each day of your stay, if in a risk area. On your return home you should complete the course of tablets by taking one each day for a month.
Victoria Smith writes: "I will be travelling to Thailand in Dec/ Jan. I will be visiting Chaing Mai, Phuket, Khao Sok, Koh Lanta & Bangkok. Will I need to take Malaria tablets? What other precautions can I take other than wearing long sleeves to ensure I do not get bitten??"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your enquiry. Regarding malaria tablet, it's depend on how long is your trip? And where will you stay? If you stay in a hotel, no problem but if you do camping in jungle you should to take anti Malaria tablet and bring mosquitoes repellent with you."
Rik writes: "Hello. I am travelling in November 206, to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Phi-Phi Don and Koh Samui. Please advise if I should take malaria tablets or any other vaccines."
BNH Hospital answers: "You should have HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations against diseases from food and water but not necessary for malaria tablet in Samui and Phuket because they are not risk areas."
Adam writes: "Myself and my girlfriend are travelling to Thailand in November for 3 weeks, we will be in Bangkok for 3 nights, Phuket for 4 nights, Krabi for 4 nights, Koh Samui for 6 nights and then back to Bangkok for 2 nights before flying home! Am I correct in thinking that we will need vacinations against HEP A and TYPHOID? Do we need to take any other precations apart being careful what we eat? Any help would be greatly appreciated!"
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you should have vaccinations against HepatitisA and Typhoid. The places you are staying are not malaria risk area so using mosquito repellents, wearing long sleeve shirts and stay in air-conditioned or netted aread should be sufficient."
Tracy Brown writes: "I am going to Bangkok and Pattaya for 11 days do I need to take malaria tablets?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding on your visit to Bangkok and Pattaya, both areas are not risk area. Wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient. Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccination is recommended on your visit as infection of these can be through food and water."
Laura Ient writes: "My daughter age 16 has just returned from Thailand. She tells me that during one or two days (she has not told me exactly!) of her trekking phase she did not take her malaria tablets. Please can you advise what the likely risk is. She has had lots of bites to her legs and ankles. Also should she take more malaria tablets for longer given the laps?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding the mosquito bites that your daughter has, she need not take any malaria tablet as it is only use for prevention. Observation is recommended, she should seek doctor's consultant in case she has any symptoms like fever or severe headache."
Maxine writes: "Family & friends (20) from New Zealand are coming to Thailand for my sons wedding in Burirum. We will be spending 4 days in bangkok & 5 days in Burirum and the day of the wedding in a village 45 minutes from Burirum. My questions are; 1 Is Burirum a Malarious Area. 2 For such a short stay is Typhoid & Rabies prevention required I have recommended to family & friends that they should have Hep A&B, Tetanus/diptheria."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your letter. Burirum is not a risk area. The vaccinations needed vary according to the length of time you are going to stay and the place where you are going to visit. For a visit less than two weeks Hepatitis A and Typhoid are required. JE Rabies and Tetanus/diphtheria are needed if you are staying over 3 months. The vaccination should be taken 2 weeks before the trip. However for a very short stay, paying more attention on food and drinks by not eating food from roadside and drink only from clean water bottles should be sufficient."
Camilla writes: "I am travelling to Thailand at the beginning of November for two weeks, i will be visiting Phuket, Phi, Phi and Krabi after flying into Bangkok - wondered whether there were any specific precautions to take for that area - eg vaccinations before hand."
BNH Hospital answers: "Camilla. Vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are HepatitisA and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water.The vaccinations should be taken 2 weeks before the trip.If you are concious about malaria, wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient."
Kevin writes: Hello I need a Hep A boost before travelling around asia and also to take malaria tablets. Is it too late to do this on arrival to Bangkok or should i need to do it before i leave home.
BNH Hospital answers: "We would recommend you to take the vaccine at least 2 weeks before the trip for the vaccine to be fully function."
Amanda writes: "We are travelling to thailand for 6 weeks what vaccinations do we really need? do we need to get malaria tablets?
BNH Hospital answers: "Ms. Sheridan, Thank you for your letter. The vaccinations needed will vary according to the lenght of time you stay and the place you are going to visit. For a six week visit in Bangkok the vaccinations needed are Hepatitis A and typhoid. If you plan to visit the jungle or staying over 3 months, it would be necessary to take JE, Rabies and Tetatus/dihtheria too.The vaccinations should be taken at least two weeks before the visit. Bangkok is not a Malaria risk area. If you plan to stay only in the city, try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve shirts and apply anti mosquito lotion would be sufficient. Again if you are going to visit the jungle or island we would recommend you to take malaria tablets. Malarone would be the best choice with the least side effect. You should purchase it from you country as it is not available here in Thailand and SEA. Doxycycline is cheaper and available here but may cause some side effects such asphosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Linda writes: "I am going to Bangkok for one week at the end of October. Do I need any injections, I am staying at the Amari Watergate Hotel,also what about malaria tablets. Thankyou."
BNH Hospital answers: "For a business visit of one week in Bangkok vaccinations is not required. Some recommendation would be to pay extra attention to food and drink. Try to avoid street side food and drink water only from clean clear bottles. Regarding malaria tablet, Bangkok is not a risk area. Try to avoid mosquito bite by waring long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion would be sufficient as Malaria tablets may cause some side effects."
Ms Collard writes: "Can we get our travel vaccinations while we are in thailand. as we are spending 6 months in thailand before we do a round the world trip? Where can we get them done (we will be staying near mbk) and how much?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Collard, Thank you for your letter. We would recommend you to take the vaccinations before coming to Thailand as some vaccinations needs to be done two weeks before the trip. The list of the vaccinations needed for a six months stay here are as followed:-
2. Hepatitis A
Regarding the round the world trip, vaccination required will be according to your destination and length of stay at the particular place. You can get your travel vaccinationation here in Thailand. The Internal Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) Located at the BNH Hospital Hospital can provide you the service. It is not far from MBK and it has the update of any disburst and news directly from WHO weekly. For any further information please contact the International Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) BNH Hospital Hospital Tel: 02-686-2700 ext 1165.
Darren writes: "Hi there can you confirm if Koh Chang is Malaria free or not .Thank you for your help?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Koh Chang is still a Malaria Risk area. For a short stay we suggest wearing long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion and try to avoid mosquito bite would be sufficient. If you are to stay over 15 days, you should take some malaria tablet. Malarone is the best choice but not available here in Thailand and SEA. We suggest Doxycycline, hospitals will have them in stock. Some caution is that it may have some side effect of phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Marie writes: "Dear Sirs/Dr I will be in Bangkok from 17th till 24th of this month, I will be staying in the bangkok area and will be staying at night in a hotel. During the day I will visit the city a bit. I would like to know if I need to take some malaria tablets. If Yes, could you please indicate which ones ( I beleive there are different ones for different degrees of resistance of the virus). Do I need to cover my skin with mosquitos repulsive lotion everyday? I beleive there will be 80% humidity so the lotion might go away quickly! thanks a lot for a precise answer. yours sincerely, Marie MORELLI"
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding your visit here in Thailand, Bangkok is not a Malaria Risk area, for your length of visit we do not recomment you to take any Malaria tablets. We suggest that wearing long sleeve shirt and applying mosquito repulsive lotion would be sufficient. (Mosquito repulsive lotion normally last around six hours. For your information, there are a few types of Malaria tablets available. The best option would be Malarone which is not available here in Thailand and South East Asia, you should try to buy it from your country as It has the least side effect. The best available here are doxycycline, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Sarah writes: "Hello I am travelling to thailand at the beginning of November staying 3 nights in bangkok and 8 nights in Koh Samui could you please tell me do i need any vaccinations before i go and if so when should i take them."
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Brooks, We are very sorry for the delay in reply. Vaccination required are .Hepatitis A and Typhoid, they should be taken two weeks before the trip. For your information Samui is still a malaria risk area, we suggest that you should wear long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotions."
Marcus Mehlkop writes: "I will be in Thailand for one week and plan to visit Koh Samet. Is Koh Samet a malaria risk area? Do I need to take anti malaria tabletts? Is it a good advise to buy malaria tabletts for standby in Germany? What tabletts should I buy for standby in Germany? Many Thanks
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding our question, yes Koh Samet is a risk area. However if you are well protected from mosquito bite by wearing long sleve shirt and apply anti mosquito lotion would be another option than having malaria tablets. If you would like to take malaria tablet there are a few choices, buying malarone from your country would be the best choice as it is effective and has the least side effect and is not availabe in South East Asia. Doxycycline is available here, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone."
Michelle McCarthy writes: "Is it possible to buy Doxycycline for anti malaria over the counter at a chemist in Bangkok?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Michelle, Thank you very much for your enquiry. Doxycycline is not available at the chemist counter. At Khaosanroad most of them provide Metfloquin which is not so effective as there are resistant. However most of the hospital in Bangkok do have them in stock."
Denise Hoey writes: "I will be in Thailand for two and a half weeks and plan to visit Bangkok, the River Kwai, Chiang Mai (including trekking to hill tribes), Ko Samui and some of the National parks (including Khao Yai and Khao Sok). What vaccinations or protection do you advise for these areas? many thanks."
BNH Hospital answers: There are a few choices available for the anti-malaria tablets. Malarone is the best choice with the least side effect also the most expensive,( it is not available in Thailand and South East Asia.) Doxycycline is cheaper but some side effects of medicine could be make you phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis although not everyone will get this side effects. We would suggest you to buy Malarone from your country. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip. Other vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are Hepatitis A and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water. If you have any further queires please don not hesitate to contact me. I hope you have an enjoyable holiday here in Thailand. Currently there are flood in some area of the North I suggest you should check it out before coming."
Coco writes: "What's happening with the bird flu? is it dangerous to eat eggs or chicken in Thailand?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding the bird flu I have checked with the BNH Hospital Hospital ITMC (International Travel Medicine Clinic) in Thailand so for there were no recent report, the latest incident report was 2 months ago in Karnjanaburi province. It is safe to eat eggs and chicken in Thailand provided that they are well cooked."
Heidi Henderson writes: "I am travelling to Thailand from Canada. I am 4 months pregnant and healthy. I want to be careful and ensure I have the vaccinations that are possible/necessary in my condition. I plan to travel north and to the islands. Any recommendations on what I should be doing/avoiding in terms of locations/food?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. We do not recommend vaccinations as it may have side effect with the baby. If you already have Hep B vaccination that would be good enough. Recommendations would be additional attention on food and water, make sure that the food is well cooked and drink clean water (available in bottles)."
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