Just after we moved into the renovated office last month, the second Covid-19 wave arrived in Myanmar and we worked for a few weeks from home. We’re back at the office and I would like to give you an update on what’s happening in Myanmar.
Let’s start with some good news; according to the Charities Aid Foundation, Myanmar scored high again (no 2!) in the World Giving Index.
The report surveyed over 1.3 million people in 125 countries looking at three aspects of giving behaviour:
· Helped a stranger
· Donated money to a charity
· Volunteered time to an organization
Other countries in the top 10 are UK, Australia, United States as well as Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Tourists who have visited Myanmar will not be surprised the country scores very high every year as the friendliness of the Myanmar people is always commented on. In my 20 years living in Myanmar, I continuously experience first-hand how generous and helpful Myanmar people are; during cyclone Nargis and now again during Covid-19, I see everybody is chipping in and supporting each other. See the full article here.
The “second wave” has started in Myanmar. Yangon faced a semi-lockdown for a few weeks whereby everybody was encouraged to work from home. Food supplies, markets, government offices, public transport and banks are open while restaurants are only allowed to provide take-away food. Bars, karaoke and shops are closed and also airports continue to be closed (currently till 31 October and likely to be extended). The number of Covid-19 related deaths is under 1000 and according to Johns Hopkins (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality) Myanmar is around place 120 in terms of worldwide mortality per 100.000 people.
Meanwhile the Myanmar government issued clear guidelines for the tourism industry how to make sure to operate safely for customers and staff. The Tourism National Guidelines for Covid 19 Safe Services were issued for hotels, restaurants, airlines, museums & temples, transportation companies, tour operators and guides. Operations are checked by the ministry of hotel & tourism together with local authorities from the ministry of health before they are allowed to re-open again. Do let us know if you want to receive a copy of the guidelines (30 pages in English). The government also started using the rapid Covid-19 test for truck drivers before being allowed on the Yangon – Mandalay highway. I personally do hope that eventually this rapid test will be used as well on arrival at Yangon airport.
The Myanmar elections will take place on 8 November and campaigning is currently mostly done online. In some areas with continuous unrest like Northern Rakhine, Kachin and some areas in Shan state there will be no voting due to safety concerns. These areas are very much in line with the areas that are never “safe to visit” for tourists and the areas mentioned in the Netflix series “The business of drugs” I spoke about in the last newsletter.
If you’re very interested in the elections, read the following report on a survey of general perceptions of the citizens of Myanmar. Basically it shows that people have confidence in the election process to be free and fair (and that’s also what shows on the ground). The NLD is likely to win the elections as Aung San Suu Kyi continues to be very popular with probably more seats for some of the ethnic parties as well.
People are worried about the spreading of Covid-19 during the elections and as a result it’s made possible for elderly people to vote in advance (and avoid the crowds). The government also made it possible to vote from the city people work (rather than their native town) to avoid too many people travelling.
Once people start travelling again, I am confident travellers like to be outdoors and be active. I recently tested the new tour from our sister company Grasshopper Adventures Myanmar called Inle Bike & Bites.This biking tour is a half day exploration of the countryside around Nyaung Shwe while focussing on Shan food; both eating it and learning about the traditional production methods that are still in use in the area. It’s an easy ride that takes you from the back streets, through villages and out into the countryside, stopping frequently to try all kinds of local dishes and snacks led by our guide. Exploration Travel recently took over Grasshopper Adventures Myanmar and we want to expand the number of biking and trekking experiences all around Myanmar with good quality mountain bikes and experiential trekking.
Meanwhile at our sister company Lalay Lodge we have been busy with training and continuously maintaining this 9 rooms sustainable beach property. Read more about the decisions to keep all the staff from the community in this blog: https://lalaylodge.com/f/covid-19-and-lalay-lodge
I think we can all use a bit of a fairy-tale at the moment and one of my favourite books that helps you understand the history of the country is Miss Burma from Charmaine Craig. The authordescribes the true life story of her mother who was crowned to be the first Miss Burma in 1956. She later marries a Karen revolutionary leader and becomes actively involved in the struggle of the Karen people. Part of it reads as a fairy-tale while another part makes you realise the Covid-19 restrictions we’re going through at the moment aren’t that bad. Buy it now and let me know what you think of it!
I hope my email gives you inspiration for Myanmar articles or updates to share with your clients. As always; do let us know if you need updated programs, pictures, videos etc. so you can continue to communicate about Myanmar with your clients.
In case you missed the previous newsletter have a look at our website: https://exploration.travel/newsletters.
Managing Director Exploration Travel
Edwin Briels and his team have been creating experiences for travellers to Myanmar for over 20 years. After working for companies as Balloons over Bagan and most recently Khiri Travel, Edwin Briels continuously finds new paths to travel and experiences to show clients the story of Myanmar and engages you in a fascinating journey through this country with the most welcoming people you will ever meet.