Pack Your Bags: Burma is full of surprises. Its people are warm and proud, the country has stunning mountains, tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses and wild buffalo, and its cities are filled with gorgeous Buddhist temples and the remains of earlier monuments. Burma is one of the world's principle source of jade, pearls and sapphires; Burmese rubies are considered among the most beautiful in the world.
Rain Check: The repressive Burmese government jails opposition figures and cracks down on any political protests. Forced labor has been used to build many tourist sites, according to Human Rights Watch. Tourists will find a country that is poor, with little infrastructure and a rampant opium market. Burma has still not recovered from the cyclone that hit earlier this year and much of the country remains off-limits, as the government wants to cut down on interactions between foreigners and ordinary Burmese.
Tourist Blurb: "We believe that small-scale tourism can create more benefits than harm. So long as tourists are fully aware of the situation and take steps to maximize their positive impact and minimize the negatives, we feel their visit can be beneficial overall," says Voices for Burma, an independent, not-for-profit NGO.
by Patrice Poltzer