This week, we’ll be sharing with you how Burmese wine is slowly becoming a top attraction for tourists, how entrepreneurs have been offering options for tourists who desire an extraordinary experience, and last, but not least, the news of Myanmar’s recent vote as “Top Country” by Wanderlust Travel Awards.
Discussing the wine industry in Myanmar may come as a surprise to many, but as we have seen thus far, it has been gaining its own unique following. It is out to conquer a niche market and ultimately, “put the nation on the map for the quality of its wine”.
The first Burmese vineyards were set up in 1998 by Mr. Bert Morsbach, a German national. Arriving in Burma with the original intention of exporting rice, he turned to vines after the confiscation of his business by a government minister. He planted 4,000 vines imported from France in Karenni State but
he was prohibited by the government from ten
ding to his vineyard because of the conflict between army and Karenni rebels. Despite these challenges, he persisted, replicating the process in Shan State.
As expected, “the challenges of wine growing in Myanmar are not just related to its complex political history.” It also has to do with the particular geographic situation of the country. The country’s tropical climate, relatively short days during the bud and maturation periods and fungus threat restrict the number of vine grapes ready for cultivation. Luckily, the “cold” weather “produces the nice aromas.”
Burmese winemakers have to be “very experimental” in order for them to be successful in a very competitive market. Fortunately, travelers are learning to appreciate Burmese wines. As one commented, “I was quite shocked about the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, I thought they were really very very good”. The wine industry is aware that it can rely on the image of a country that has the wind in its sails! This marked success of pioneer winemakers has encouraged the emergence of smaller farms offering a high-quality, locally-produced product.
So there you go, time to treat yourself with a glass of tasty Burmese wine!
“Burma’s economic revival is spawning some unusual businesses by entrepreneurs willing to tread where no-one has gone before.” These savvy businessmen have engaged into a widely lucrative business: that of extreme outdoor adventures. Many tour operators have started to feature high-powered attractions specifically catered to a demanding clientele with high purchasing power. This can range from a “luxury –priced 14 days trekking holidays” or “45-minute air balloon rides over the ancient temple-festooned landscape”.
Going back to our discussion on the wine industry, the article mentions that wine bottles have been selling well in hotels and restaurants while waiting to be exported. This situation has given stiff competition to Thai wines, which are considered of quality but are pegged with “ridiculously high taxes.”
While these interesting developments offer the ordinary tourist something new to experience, we wonder about its repercussions on responsible tourism. The question of whether it would be more valuable and enriching to get out of the comfortable bubble of the ‘tourist circuit,’ and instead meet and interact with locals persists. Given that the latter will better provide a closer view of Burma’s unique cultural traditions. It may be also more appropriate (but certainly less profitable) to focus on the increasingly pressing issue of providing good quality accommodation.
“Readers of the British travel magazine, Wanderlust, have chosen Myanmar as the top travel destination for the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2013“. With a 96.98% ranking, Myanmar reaches first place ahead of Peru, New Zealand, Bhutan, Jordan, Namibia, Chile, Iceland, Vietnam, Botswana and Chile.
Along with these wonderful developments come the ever present challenges facing Burma with regards to tourism, mainly a lack of basic infrastructures and tourist services which can significantly curb this incredible progression.