Myanmar slowly opening up to tourism

YANGON, Myanmar — Democracy is slowly coming to this little-known Southeast Asian country of more than 50 million people, and with it tourists.

Isolated for half a century under an authoritarian military junta, visitors can now explore its wondrous pagodas, ancient archaeological sites and stately British colonial architecture.

I recently spent three days in Yangon, the largest city in the country formerly known as Myanmar. The visit was the highlight of Oceania Nautica’s 18-day cruise called Imperial Treasure, which departs from Hong Kong and ends in Mumbai via Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Cochin, India. All in all, we’ve covered over 5,000 miles.

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More tourists arrive as Myanmar slowly opens up

Young people play football on the streets of downtown Yangon.

For me, the most coveted treasure of this exotic itinerary was the port call in Yangon. The excitement among the locals is palpable within a five-minute tour bus ride on a one-hour cruise ship from the pier to downtown Yangon.

“The whole country is very happy,” said our guide Khin, discussing the country’s first democratically elected parliament, which came to power in February. The National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner and national hero Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory and now controls parliament. However, the military has not completely relinquished its grip on power, and Myanmar still has a long way to go to achieve full democracy.

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