Moral dilemma: there’s a country with wonderful sites you’d love to see, but your tourist dollars might end up in the pockets of a military regime. Should you still go?
That’s the central theme in this New York Times article: Visiting Myanmar: It’s Complicated. Since the nation has made small steps toward political reform, the U.S. has removed sanctions. This has created an influx of tourists, NGOs and businesspeople into the Southeast Asian country. However, one must pause and consider the ethics of traveling to a country like Myanmar.
As our Rolf Potts has advised in Vagabonding, you can maximize how much of your cash reaches the people by staying in local guesthouses and eating at mom-and-pop restaurants. Stay away from big businesses run as joint ventures with the Myanmar government.
Having been to Myanmar, I can say that it was the highlight of my backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Magnificent temples, friendly people and an authentic feel that’s missing in more touristy places. It’s a Buddhist wonderland. When friends ask me what it’s like, I tell them, “Going to Burma is the closest I’ve come to feeling like Indiana Jones.”
Have you ever visited a country with a pariah government? It could be Myanmar or somewhere else. Please share your experiences in the comments.