As the bus bounced over the bumps in the mud-track road, my boyfriend and I scanned through our various guidebooks, tiredly looking for hotels or guest houses we had not yet tried to find a bed for the night.
We were approaching the Burmese town of Bagan, an ancient city in the centre in Myanmar, home to thousands of temples dotted across an enormous sandy plain and one of the country's hottest tourist destinations.Bagan:
We had called hotel, after guest house, after hostel, with all of them telling us they were full and could not take more people. We were about to give up, when we found one guest house that appeared in one of our German guide books but not in the English-language equivalents.
Holding our collective breath, we called the owner and asked if they had a room for two nights.
To our relief, they had a room we could have as soon as we arrived.
Travelling in Myanmar for three weeks, it was a problem we constantly stumbled upon:
Finding a room is difficult because they fill up far in advance and also, hotel owners are wary of taking bookings worried that travellers won't turn up and leave them with an empty room for the night.
As Myanmar has opened up to tourists, the number of people flooding into the country to visit Asia's final frontier has increased dramatically.
And yet, the hotel infrastructure has struggled to cope with the influx. This means that if you want make sure of a bed, you must find hotels willing to take a booking weeks in advance and pay prices, which have doubled or sometimes even tripled in recent years.
Still, the difficulties finding a room can make travelling in Myanmar very stressful especially if you are planning to remain on the beaten track: Bagan, the country's capital Yangon and its most famous lake – home to floating vegetable gardens and stilt-house villages – Inle Lake.
But despite all that, I believe Myanmar has a charm that is well worth the trouble.
While the top tourist spots may mark some of the most beautiful parts of the country, it is talking and interacting with the people that made my trip.
And you will always find someone wanting to converse in English and provide help where they can – even to the extent of being able to point you in the direction of a guest house or hotel not detailed in the guidebooks – some monasteries are even said to take in visitors where they are unable to find a room for a small fee and in some small villages, people may offer you a bed for the night.
If you plan in advance and are willing to stray away from the suggestions of guidebooks – as helpful as they are, they can also be a hindrance as everyone else will be using them too – you can talk to the people there and always find a place to stay.
And in the future, enterprising locals and foreign investors are sure to see the untapped potential for expansion in the hotel industry, of that I am sure. This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
Louise writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.comAlso Read at 4Hoteliers.com
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