Here at Rickshaw we love to share our passion for travel with others – this is why we organise different competitions that will give you a chance to experience firsthand what we do best. And talking about competitions, we’ve interviewed Nina, who last year won a holiday to Myanmar with us…
1. You won a holiday to Myanmar and travelled just after the Rohingya conflict, what were your first impressions of Myanmar? Did you feel safe?
I tried to read a bit about the conflict before we went but sometimes it’s quite hard to judge what the situation is like in a country just through the media, as its often quite different to what it is really like for the people living there. So I think we both went with an open mind and undeterred. Our first impression of Myanmar was Yangon – it was a very safe and friendly city and a great introduction to the country. I don’t think that there was ever a time when we didn’t feel safe throughout the trip.
2. Was Myanmar how you imagined it would be?
It was even more beautiful than I imagined and so green and fertile a country. I’d seen many pictures of main sites such as Bagan but found some of the lesser known places just as stunning, calm and really unspoilt. I really liked the calmness. Also, I thought the country might already be more developed or westernised. Outside of the cities, I was surprised at how many places were still quite rural. I really liked how strongly many traditions and customs were being followed, not only in villages but even in cities like Yangon. Most men still wear the traditional (and very comfortable looking) longi and I love that most women (and some men) apply Thanakha to their faces every day as a sign of beauty.
3. What did you like about travelling with Rickshaw?
We loved travelling with Rickshaw! It felt like we were backpacking but without the stress of having to arrange our own accommodation, activities/hikes and getting from A to B. I loved how you booked all this for us including the train/bus tickets and transfers from the local transport to our hotels and vice versa. We also had a superb mix of activities and free time so it didn’t feel like we were being rushed from one place to the next. It was a perfectly paced itinerary that took us off the beaten track with lots of inclusions. I definitely want to travel with you again!
4. We’re all about having ‘Meaningful experiences’ when we travel. This could be anything from a train ride with local people through the countryside to an epic sunset on a secluded beach or learning to cook a tasty new dish. Which Meaningful moment sticks out from your travels and why?
We were met off the local bus by a tour guide when we arrived at a little town called Kyaukme and transferred to our hotel by motorbike before starting our one day hike to a hilltop village. This was very special. We had lunch (delicious Shan noodles) in a local home and met many villagers who were very pleased to see us. Back at our guesthouse that evening, our guide made us dinner and had it delivered to where we were staying. There were so many meaningful experiences and this was just one of many.
5. Did you feel this trip changed you in any way? Did it broaden your mind somehow?
Yes I think it did broaden my mind as it made me appreciate different cultures and ways of life, I was really fascinated by the Buddhism followed there, it seemed to be a part of every aspect of life in Myanmar. I really liked the calmness and kindness of the people and hearing their own perspectives on things.
6. What are local people like? What did you learn from the local communities you visited?
The local people were lovely and actually one of the biggest highlights of the trip. They are so friendly and eager to talk to you and hear about where you are from and tell you their own stories. Many of our guides were local to the towns and villages we visited, so they would often know many of the local people, so we would stop and chat to people along the way. I felt a very strong sense of community wherever we went, people were very hard working and would help each other out. I liked how honest and straightforward people were too, they were happy to talk and would give an honest opinion, if we asked questions about the country or their own situation. Life in Myanmar is hard and many people are poor but they are also very proud of their country. They really do have a very positive outlook on life.
7. What tips would you offer other travellers heading to Myanmar?
- I would say go soon before too many tourists get there, so you can experience the real country.
- Having a local guide is a must, as it will give you much more personal experience and insight into the country.
- Travel around as much as possible as each state, city, town, or village even is different. Each has its own vibe and personality and they vary so much you need to experience it all.
8. If you could describe Myanmar in 3 words, what would they be?
Friendly, Traditional, Unspoilt.
9. Share your favourite Myanmar photo
Myanmar is a very picturesque country and I managed to take over a thousand photos but this one of a sleeping monk taken from the window of the “must do” Circular train ride in Yangon is probably my favourite. Some of the others can be found on my photography Facebook page NinaShermanPhotography and Instagram ninasherman1.
10. Name two things you would never travel without?
A camera is a must to capture all those memories (my Instagram is ninasherman1) and a cotton scarf as it can be used as a towel and a sarong.
11. What would you say to people that are thinking about travelling there but might be unsure?
Don’t hesitate it is a very safe and friendly country. It’s rare these days to get to experience a country that hasn’t been too influenced by the outside world and tourism is still so new. So go and I’m sure you will have a wonderful experience too.
12. Take a look at our website: Which Rickshaw destination would you travel to next and why?
I see you go to Bhutan, Tibet, China and Japan! I’m a huge fan of Asia and all of these destinations are high up on my list. I think Japan has to be next though. I love the Japanese culture and cuisine and it would be wonderful to see the beautiful famous cherry blossom trees.