Would You Go To Myanmar?
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a controversial destination, known probably more for its years of dictatorial rule than for its serene landscapes and golden pagodas.
But in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Myanmar last week — signaling improved relations between the two countries as Myanmar continues to take greater steps towards democracy — travel companies are starting to beef up their Myanmar offerings in anticipation of increased demand for the off-the-beaten track destination.
"We definitely expect Ms. Clinton's arrival in Burma to further increase the popularity of our brand new 'Visions of Burma' trip," said Mickey Huang, marketing manager for General Tours World Traveler.
Huang said that General Tours added a new Myanmar trip with "guarded optimism" for 2012 as the country made "tentative but clear steps toward democracy," including the release of opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest last year.
Thus far, General Tours' "Visions of Burma" itinerary is already one of the most-viewed tours on the company's website, and of the 20 tours that are brand new for 2012, it is among its bestsellers, according to Huang.
Patricia Weismantel, product manager for Asia cycling adventure company SpiceRoads, said that bookings to Myanmar are "going extremely well."
One traveler just back from the Asian nation, said she was very impressed with what the country had to offer from a tourism point of view.
"I returned from Myanmar just over a week ago and am still trying to get my head around the absolutely fantastic travel experience this was," said Judie Parr of Malibu, Calif.
She said that despite all the preconceived ideas, concerns and worries, the actual travel experience was "amazing."
"This is the best trip I have done in 35 years and has become one of my very top travel experiences together with a safari and Papua New Guinea," said Parr. That's quite an endorsement, but not all travelers might feel the same.
There are definitely possible ideological issues tourists might have with heading to Myanmar, given its not-so-rosy political past. Would you consider going to Myanmar?
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Cuba has long been forbidden territory for Americans. Only the most intrepid travelers have made it to the country, mostly by going through Mexico or Canada. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('4396eea8-7d47-46f3-b1c9-a8d3dd7ebc74');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)But the rules are changing. This year, the Obama administration eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, making it possible for Americans to go to the small Caribbean island as long as they make the trip with a licensed tour operator performing "people-to-people" trips. The goal? To encourage interaction between the two countries. This week we introduced our first-ever deal to Cuba. At $1899, the price tag is higher than most of our deals, especially for a destination that is so close to home. The rate includes your visa, round-trip airfare to Havana, four nights in the city, all meals, transfers, and your tour guide. During the trip, you'll meet Cuban artists, a professor who specializes in U.S./Cuban relations, and you'll visit an elementary school and housing project. Our deals team spends an enormous amount of time finding and vetting deals to make sure that the offers we highlight in our Real Deals section are just that—real deals—not the smoke and mirror "discounts" you find on many other sites. We hemmed and hawed about whether or not to feature this deal. On the one hand, it's an opportunity to experience a picturesque city with a fascinating history, not to mention one that has traditionally been tricky for us to visit. On the other hand, it's pretty pricey and as anyone who knows anything about Cuba is aware—a Cuban vacation isn't your typical Caribbean getaway. You don't come here to work on your tan, down mojitos, and practice your moves in the disco. You come here to see the sights and learn about history. And careful planning is essential. You have to bring with you all the cash you plan to spend because there are no ATMs in the country and credit cards aren't accepted. WiFi connections are slow, chances are you won't get service on your cell phone, and the lack of streetlights makes it difficult to get around after dark. And good luck getting to know the locals—Cubans are notoriously reserved, especially around foreigners. Still, the price is pretty good when you consider that it covers pretty much everything you'll need while you're here (food, board, tours). Plus, there is the allure of this part of the world and the novelty of being able to visit an area formerly off limits. The case for including the deal was compelling and eventually, the "for Cuba" contingent of our office won—and the deal was featured. Whether you book it or not is up to you. What do you think? Were we right to include a deal to Cuba on our site? And would you ever consider booking a deal like this? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 8 Most Complicated Countries to Visit 10 Record-Breaking Bridges 10 Most Interesting Beaches
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