For many people, Burma isn’t a destination that shouts family travel. It’s far away (for most of us), it’s hot, the transportation is rickety and the tourism industry is still in its infancy. It can be tricky to find fussy-child-friendly food, public sanitation levels leave something to be desired, and there are animals! Dirty animals! Running free!
If you are put off by things like this, you should probably just stay at home and wear a hazmat suit for the rest of your life. Yes, Burma is kind of dirty, kind of noisy, and kind of smelly – but where’s your sense of adventure? This is one of the few places left in the world where you – and your children – can see something really different: a society that has developed for many years outside the influence of Western culture. A society that’s currently in the throes of massive political and social change. And believe me, it won’t stay that way forever.
But what implications does this have for children in particular?
One of the upshots of Burma’s having been isolated for so long is that the Burmese people aren’t used to having visitors. Unlike the residents of other poor countries, who have become jaded by decades of mass tourism and see travellers as walking wads of dollar bills (and who can blame them?), many people in Burma are still delighted to meet foreigners and fascinated to hear about their lives. And since even fewer people bring their kids to Burma with them, your children will be a particular novelty, attracting attention and admiration wherever they go. You’ll find that everybody from the hotel receptionist to the man in the street will want to go out of their way to make your visit more comfortable – and without expecting anything in return.
This doesn’t just extend to adults either – children in Burma are exceptionally welcoming and ready to make friends with outsiders, and you’ll soon find that language is no barrier to making friends. Your kids might be expect to feel guilty seeing other children who have none of their privileges and possessions, but they can also learn an awful lot about what it means not to rely on these things yet still be happy. You don’t need an iPad and a laptop and Facebook to be happy: this is a good thing to learn.
Needless to say, Burma is packed with exciting experiences for children. There may not be as many organised or packaged activities as you’d find in, say, Thailand or Vietnam – but you won’t miss them when there is so much else on offer. This is a real adventure, not the made-for-tourists version.
One of the great things about Burma, for example, is that so many of its major sights lend themselves so well to both adults and children. There’s no chance to get bored while exploring Bagan’s ancient temples when you can cycle amongst them on mountain bikes, or soar above them in a hot air balloon. Likewise, gazing on beautiful Inle Lake might not appeal to small minds as much as it does to yours, but puttering about on it in a longtail boat or paddling around in a kayak is sure to be a hit. Throw in some horse-and-cart rides, a train journey through the hills, and a cruise on the Irrawaddy, and you’ll never have a dull moment on public transport in Burma.
There are cons to a family holiday in Burma just as there are cons to any holiday anywhere, but they are not as great as they might seem – and they certainly shouldn’t put you off taking your children on holiday here. Burma is, on the whole, a safe place to travel, and if you take all the ordinary precautions you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable family holiday.
Check out our dedicated family page for more tips and advice on travelling to Asia with children. At Inside Burma Tours we arrange trips for families of all shapes and sizes, tailoring every aspect of your holiday to the ages and interests of your children, as well as your budget and personal preferences. Click here to start planning your trip!