Darina Allen shares her top tips for navigating Myanmar (Burma) safely and successfully…
- What’s that slightly odd flavour in virtually all Burmese food? Soups, curries, sauces, even salads… It’s chicken powder, made by that well-known brand of flavour enhancers, Knorr. It’s even for sale on market stalls in tiny rural villages. Vegetarians should bear this in mind.
- As ever, most of the best food is to be found at local restaurants and on street stalls. Lunch is often freshest, as food can be reheated for evening meals.
- Be brave, get a real taste of the country and avoid hotel buffets as far as possible.
- Eat local yoghurt every day – it’s delicious and helps to guard against “gippy tummy”. The Burmese tend to eat early; most restaurants will be closed by 10pm. Many hotels and airports advertise free wifi but, in reality, there is either no connection or a very weak and erratic one. It’s worth noting that hotels and many shops charge a 3-4% surcharge if you pay by credit card.
- Cooking classes are fun to do, but choose carefully. Hotel cooking classes for individuals can be extortionately expensive, and accompanying recipes sketchy and often inaccurate and misspelt. Be sure to take exact notes and photos during the class as an aid to memory if you really want to be able to reproduce the dishes later.
- It’s a good idea to keep some tissues in your bag: rural tourist sites and airport toilet facilities may still be a work in progress.
- Bring a small, powerful torch so you can see the beautiful frescoes in the pagodas in Bagan; not all guides carry a torch.
Image: A trader at Heho market, courtesy Darina Allen
Read Darina’s full travel and foodie guide to Myanmar, only in our gorgeous new March-April issue, on shelves now.