Ever since people started visiting Myanmar, meaningful travel has been paramount to preserving its communities and unparalleled natural beauty.
Despite the difficulties affecting Myanmar, the majority of visits are ‘trouble-free’, the UK FCO notes. As sustainable travel continues to thrive, companies such as Rickshaw Travel aim to combine immersive experiences with the support of community projects. As responsible tour operators, Rickshaw have been supporting those communities to maximise the social and environmental benefits of tourism, connecting travellers with local partners on the ground and only working with independent hotels, guides and drivers.
In the words of one local partner: ‘Since Myanmar opened to tourism a few years ago, thousands of local families and private small businesses across the country have become dependent on tourism income – from rickshaw drivers to food vendors, from handicraft artisans to hotel staff, from bicycle rental operators to tour guides.’
Myanmar’s fledgling tourism economy has suffered as a result of the country’s tumultuous political situation. However, travel can be of huge social and environmental benefit, according to Rickshaw Travel, which is urging people not to turn their backs on the country’s local communities, as it is the small businesses, hotels and private drivers that directly feel the impact when tourist numbers decrease. If you want to travel responsibly and respectfully, it is possible through meaningful travel experiences.
Myanmar has so much to offer a visitor. Hike through unspoilt emerald hills, experience village life on Inle Lake and marvel at the stilted bamboo houses. Learn about local traditions and beliefs, while ultimately giving back to the community. Support Myanmar’s people by booking with locally owned hotels and employing local tour guides, whose depth of knowledge offers a unique glimpse into the country’s culture.
For those heading to Myanmar for the first time, there are many ways to enjoy the country while being respectful of local customs and traditions. As Myanmar has a deeply religious culture, it is recommended that travellers cover their shoulders and knees. On Rickshaw Travel’s Spiritual Pagodas of Yangon trip, visitors can learn first-hand about the Buddhist religion while exploring the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda.
Likewise, it is considered disrespectful to photograph people without at least striking up conversation first. It is recommended that travellers avoid taking photos of locals, particularly while they are working and/or bathing. The benefit of having a local guide with you in Myanmar is learning local customs and having someone with you to help translate.
Visiting local markets is another way for travellers to immerse themselves in the local culture and cuisine. In Myanmar especially, shopping at a local market can go a long way in supporting Burmese artisans, farmers and home cooks, who come together to sell ornaments or jewellery alongside speciality food and dishes.
In each destination, Rickshaw Travel supports a local project, contributing part of the value of every booking to each venture, as well as encouraging their travellers to donate a small amount to a certain cause when they book. HEAL Kids is one such cause, a foundation supporting various projects throughout Myanmar, from life-changing operations to food and education programmes for orphans and disadvantaged children.
‘We’re committed to ensuring each of our destinations, and the communities within them, benefit from our trips,’ says Caroline King, a Meaningful Warrior at Rickshaw. ‘So, as part of our mission to make travel meaningful, we support a number of local projects, from a community school in Cambodia to a marine conservation project in Borneo.’
With its ancient temples, idyllic sunsets, rich culture and unparalleled natural beauty, Myanmar can take your breath away. The unique, beautiful culture of Myanmar, which opened its borders in 2012, is one that will stay with you well beyond your trip.
If you are considering visiting Myanmar, doing it the Rickshaw way helps ensure that your money is going to the people who live and work there, directly benefitting small businesses and local artisans.