Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Out of date, but better than nothing, 19 Mar 2013
This review is from: Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
I have just returned from a 2 week holiday in Myanmar, where I travelled independently and used this Lonely Planet guidebook. Unfortunately, as many of the other reviews state, I was disappointed regarding the extent to which the content of this guidebook is out of date.

This was particularly disappointing because the book was apparently published in December 2011, only just over a year before my trip, so I had expected most of the information would be accurate. However, it was clear that much of the information contained in this guidebook had not been reviewed by the authors when this edition was produced, instead repeating information contained in older editions without checking its accuracy. For example, we went to a recommended riverside bar in Mandalay to watch the sunset over the Ayeyarwady, only to find that the premises were mothballed. Locals confirmed that the bar had been closed for several years. I would also suspect that the sections which were updated for this edition were actually researched quite a long time before the publication date of December 2011.

To be fair to the authors, having travelled in the country I can understand why producing an accurate guidebook on Myanmar is perhaps more difficult than for most other countries. Some areas of the country are extremely remote, requiring significant time to reach and explore. As foreign tourists can only get a 4-week visa, and Lonely Planet is notorious for paying their researchers a pittance to cover their travelling costs, there is clearly a limit to the amount of research which can be done. It appears that Lonely Planet have attempted to address this issue by assigning different parts of the country to the three authors. Unfortunately this leads to some segmentation, and also makes it difficult for the authors to compare experiences in different parts of the country. This leads to a tendency to describe sights with excessive enthusiasm.

Further, the rate at which political developments are leading to significant changes in the country are staggering. While I was there the National League for Democracy had their first party conference for years, and Aung San Suu Kyi's face was everywhere. I'm sure that even a year ago this would have been almost unimaginable. From the tourist perspective, things are also changing fast; for example, there are now a wide range of banks where you can exchange dollars for kyat at the fair going rate (including at the airports), removing the need to use the black market.

The book also has a few irritations and inconveniences. The Bagan chapter is split into two, requiring repeated jumping between sections, and despite its length it lacks a clear map. Maps are generally deficient in this edition, having previously been the biggest strength of an LP guidebook in my view. For example, downtown Yangon has been split across two maps, with the key central part now at the edge of two maps; it would be far more convenient to have this central area on a single map.

In conclusion, the guidebook is rather disappointing, although this is only partly the fault of the authors. However, at the time of writing it is the only guidebook devoted purely to Myanmar, so unless this changes I would probably still recommend buying the book if you're planning a trip to Myanmar. Just don't rely on it all being accurate - far better to speak to locals on the ground to confirm plans when you arrive.

With regard to the country itself, I can't recommend it highly enough. While there are a limited number of stand-out sights to see (the 'biggest' tourist sight is probably the temples at Bagan, which in my view pale in comparison to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, or some of the temples of Guatemala and Mexico), the people are without doubt and almost without exception the friendliest and most helpful I've ever come across. So although you may not be able to tick off too many big sights, if you approach the trip with a smile on your face you will have some incredible experiences.
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