Fly between Rangoon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake and minority villages
After years of isolation from the outside world Burma is starting to emerge as a tourist destination. It has been given the all clear by Tourism Concern, which had previously boycotted the country, following Aung San Suu Kyi's request for visitors to return.
We will find a country with a colonial past but that has changed very little and is relatively untouched by the outside world for now. Bagan, with its thousands of temples, is an ancient wonder of the world - just as awe inspiring as Angkor in Cambodia but with far fewer tourists.
As well as visiting places whose names are familiar - Rangoon (Yangon), with the largest number of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia, and Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma - a highlight will be our time spent in the countryside visiting minority villages.
In Kalaw, a former colonial British hill station, we trek for the day on old trading routes, whilst on Inle Lake, as well as cruising and seeing the famous leg-rowing fishermen, we spend a day visiting cottage industries by bike rather than stepping of a bus. In order to maximise time at each destination and to avoid the shockingly bad bumpy roads we take 4 internal flights. Burmese hospitality and friendliness will be had everywhere.
Articles in the Press about Burma ...
Daily Mail: Chris Lawrence writes about Discovering Burma (March 2013).
What makes this trip responsible?
Tourism can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and a financial incentive to protect their natural environment. Ours is a 'total approach' to responsible tourism, covering everything from the way we plan and operate our trips to the practices of Exodus as a company.
There are many sensitive issues in returning to Burma and many questions asked about whether tour operators such as ourselves should be going back following years of boycott. George Orwell's famous novel 'Burmese Days' based on his experiences there during British rule includes the lines 'Free speech is unthinkable. All other kinds of freedom are permitted. You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance is dictated for you by the pukka sahibs' code'. Applying this quote to politics today and replacing 'pukka sahibs' with 'military junta' would arguably give an accurate reflection of life in Burma. The debate will continue to rage on if anything has changed under the current ruling junta but the simple answer is we still do not know; although we can research supply chains and try to ensure as much benefit as possible filters down directly to the people and communities there will be monies flowing into the military regime (junta).
Why we have chosen to return
Why we have chosen to return is on the back of a press release from the National League for Democracy in May 2011, this stated 'the NLD would welcome visitors who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country'. This statement echoes true with Exodus' long standing responsible tourism policy that, amongst other things states:
We will design and operate our holidays in a way that gives the highest degree of long-term economic benefit to the host communities, whilst also maintaining and/or improving the environment.
We will attempt to operate our holidays in a way that encourages positive cultural exchanges.
We will attempt to impart an insight and understanding of the host culture and community to our clients so that they can gain more from visiting them.
We have also taken advice from industry experts and organisations on our stance, Justin Francis the respected Managing Director of Responsibletravel.com and a leading voice in sustainable operations has endorsed our return stating 'The message from Aung San Suu Kyi is clear - she only wants tourism that will help the people of Burma and the conservation of the environment. Exodus, past winner of our Responsible Tourism Awards, has always excelled in this regard and I support their return to Burma and continuing commitment to responsible tourism.'
Please see our Responsible Tourism Policy for full details.