- Chewing tobacco
Myanmar is one of the last countries in Asia not to have banned chewing tobacco. A very large part of its population, especially in rural areas, continues to chew tobacco regularly. It consists of a plant leaf into which a red tobacco paste is put and a kind of white food glue to hold it together. Once they have finished chewing, they spit out the residue of red paste. That’s how you can see red stains all over the floor. As a result, most of them have really damaged teeth.
- Little “shopkeeper”
It is difficult to negotiate in Myanmar, but nevertheless most people give you a reasonable price. Moreover, taxis are lined up to have similar prices. Only sometimes, because we are tourists, people raise the prices and don’t want to argue at all. We had to turn down many offers because they were much more expensive than what we were told, and rather than go back on the right price, a merchant will prefer not to do business rather than lose face.
- Road traffic
It is very difficult to anticipate the behaviour of motorists on the road. Highway code is anecdotal here. However, as the Burmese learn from an early age how to cope in this environment, and how to drive in relation to other motorists, there are few accidents. It should be added that the country is in the midst of an infrastructure boom, especially the roads that are paved all over the main highways, facilitating traffic.
- Network coverage
Myanmar may be lagging behind in many areas, but in telecoms the country is doing well. When we arrived, we got a sim card with 10go for a little less than 10$ and we always had 4g network except for some remote areas. Most teenagers have a smartphone and seem to be very connected. It’s incredible when you consider that in 2013 we were buying blank sim cards for several hundred dollars. It’s also important to know that the country is one of the countries with the highest penetration of the smartphone market as almost 90% of Burmese people have one.
The Burmese food, although different according to each ethnic group, is not very diversified. The Burmese dishes is made of chicken or pork accompanied by rice but also sometimes potatoes. It is a rather fatty cooking in oil, or at least very often sauced. Vegetables are varied and depend on the region where you are. It must also be said that the dishes are generally good.
- The Thanaka
The Burmese apply a light-coloured cream on their face called Thanaka. Even if the tradition is lost in some places, it is still quite widespread. It consists in coating the faces of women, young girls and to a lesser extent those of men with a paste of vegetable origin. Thanaka comes from the wood of several trees produced in different parts of the country. The cream is applied in simple, often circular patterns and has many beneficial effects on the skin, including protection from the sun.
- Their beliefs
The Burmese are mostly Buddhist, they build pagodas absolutely everywhere, and finance them with donations. For this, in front of the pagodas under construction, one can find people making a quest for the project with some kind of bowl they shake. To attract attention, there are also often speakers and music with the volume turned up.
- Safety and security
At first we were very reluctant to leave our bikes, even a few meters away from us, unattended, or to take our cell phones out in the street, but we soon realized that we were safe. No look at our stuff, not even at our cell phones. One of the reasons for this is that they all already have a similar model of cell phone.
- The rubbish
In the country’s major cities, the streets are rather clean, but as soon as you get a little further away from them, you will find real garbage dumps on the sides of the roads, and this is widespread throughout the country.
- Slash-and-burn agriculture
In most of the areas we passed through, we were able to come across whole fields burning. It’s a certain crop called burnt land.
- There are no big ready-to-wear brands in Myanmar.
That’s why we were able to meet expatriates who have set up their own ready-to-wear brand. It also explains why a lot of Burmese people have football T-shirts from famous European clubs and dj Alan Walker.
As well as various other facts:
- Water bottles are filled to the exact millimetre up to the neck, so when you open one, you put water everywhere.
- The vast majority of their restaurants are sponsored by the Burmese beer “Myanmar”, from signs to cutlery holders.
- There are billboards for a brand of whisky everywhere.
- Our bikes aroused a lot of curiosity, especially when we stopped, it rarely takes more than 5 minutes before there is a crowd around it.
- The Burmese are very helpful and always try to give tourists the best possible experience of the country. This can be seen especially at the entrance of the cities where signs say “take care of tourists”.
- Scooters are banned in Yangon but very developed in other cities of the country, for example in Mandalay where we saw almost no cars.
- They celebrate at the beginning of April, the end of the dry period with big water festivals during which the country is paralyzed.