Worlds worst place to backpack # 13

Myanmar - the golden land...

Flag of the Union of Myanmar (1974-present)

Burma or Myanmar call it what you will, it's home to one of the worlds most repressive and abusive regimes. Many countries don't recognise the regime that changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar but at the end of the day, we all know where we are talking about.

Mountain chains link their way up across the country, which is surprising quite a large land mass, the second largest country in South East Asia.

Myanmar <span class=

Some of its valleys are laden with rare gems and exquisite rocks and emeralds. 90% of the worlds rubies actually come from Burma. But you wont get your hands on one. A large proportion of the country is off limits to foreigners. Your movements are generally watched with suspicion, so remember to put the seat back down on the toilet.
Soldiers in Tia’<span class=
Officially known as The Republic Union of Myanmar, the country is a text book example of a police state. You can interact with the locals but they don't usually like to be seen mixing it up merrily with foreigners. It usually means them being dragged behind a wall after you move off.
So basically if you keep your mouth shut your entire journey, chances of you or one of the locals not getting hurt are considerably higher.

Flag and head band male

If you didn't read between the lines, Freedom of speech is more or less crushed. So if your taxi price is a fixed one. Don't haggle.

During world war 2, Burma was used and abused, sacked and abandoned. famous for all the wrong reasons, over 300,000 Burmese fled the destructing country to the jungles and mountains to India, just under 10% of them made it. Great books have been written about ‘The Trek’, I vividly recall the amazing story told by Colin McPhedran in the book White Butterflies..., I highly recommend the read, it was one of the worst but least documented refugee tragedies of World War II.

children to Danu ethnic village

The man who architect ed Burmas independence from the British and gave Burma a glimpse of a new future was the father of Aung San Suu Kyi......, Aung San. He got assassinated and things have been pretty grim ever since.

Although its independent, by no means is it a free country. since the coup of ’62, Burma has clenched up its butt cheeks and remained tight lipped. The analogy between arseholes and military rule is no mistake.

Free Burma!

Unfortunately they call the shots. The “junta’ will control your travels. Not only do you need a visa but you need permits and government appointed guides to visit a lot of other places. There is a civil war taking place, ethnic minorities who have been persecuted over the years have given birth to various insurgent groups.

An Afghan National Policeman looking out for insurgents

No slogging off the 'Military Junta' or disrespect anyone in uniform, or you might find yourself holed up in one of the many jails that are populated throughout the country. The sounds that reportedly come out of those prisons make the 'rustling of a plastic shopping bag at 4am in a packed hostel dormitory' sound like a piece of musical harmony.

The military is notorious for its rampant use of sexual violence as a means of control. So do what your told or you might get uhmm .............. hurt.

Last week, the jammy 'Junta' released Aung San Suu Kyi, she was under house arrest from roughly 1989 until last week. This is what happens if you speak too loudly in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma forms part of the golden triangle of opium production. Conflicting reports as to who enjoys it but there is no surprising who controls it.

Burma - Old Lady with the cigar, another shoot from Bagan's countryside

There has always been a moral dilemma for travelers heading for Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi pleads with people not to support the ruling government and therefore not travel to Burma. A lot of western governments support her stance.

Free Burma - Sit - 04.10.07 -

But on the flip side, some locals do benefit from your presence, that's if you eat at local restaurants and guesthouses.

Sandwich lunch arriving in the banana house

Its not the Burmese people that will make your stay an unpleasant one, quite the opposite, backpackers who do venture here rave about the Burmese people, the landscapes and the culture.
On the Dhamma-yan-gyi Pahto

Make no doubt about it, its the military/police/government/w@nkers that make this the worlds worst place to backpack # 13.

World's worst places to backpack #13

Zimbabwe - House of Stone

Flag of the Republic of Zimbabwe (1980-present)

Its that nagging moral dilemma that lingers in the minds of potential travellers. If i enter this country am i effectively endorsing the current ruling body, whether that be a shady 'elected' government or a straight out military dictatorship. Am i acknowledging them as a legitimate force? In same way or form, respecting them? The very thought disgusts some travellers. leaves them with a taste of distain in their mouths. So they dont go. Simple.

Free Zimbabwe graffiti

Other travellers on the flip side may cast these thoughts and reasonings aside and for all god intentions, enter the country believing that their actions will have more or less positive ripple effect on the country and is people. Fair enough. If your a conscious traveller and make attempts to circulate and distribute your money amongst communities and individuals then your intentions for entering that country deserved to be labelled moral in someway.

Zimbabwe Border

So there you have it, a traveling moral dilemma. Zimbabwe, where the majority of the nations people have seen living standards drop and where Robert Mugabe resides and rules.

Wanted: Robert Mugabe poster outside the Zimbabwe information centre

For a start, to travel anywhere is going to require two backpacks or perhaps 3 smaller flashpacks. Due to the worlds highest hyperinflation figures, carrying cash around is going to be awkward. Lets face it, they issued a 100 trillion dollar note. Looooose.

Zimbabwe: 100 000 000 000 000

Guys shouldn't hang around too long, Zim has one of the lowest life expectancy rankings in the world, just a mere 44 for males. Not that you'd want to hang around long. Ok theres Victoria Falls, one of the most fascinating waterfalls in the world.


Victoria Falls

The Zambezi river of course, a major drawcard, famous for its wild roar. A favourite for any rafting enthusiasit out there. One of the more crazier rivers in the world to raft, unfortunately the majority of the best part lies in neighbouring Zambia.

Zimbabwe - Aug 10th

Zimbabwe - Aug 10th
"Been there, done that, got the t-shirt"

And of course, theres the animals.

Walking with Lions in Zimbabwe

This is a stunning country, the topography is classic southern africa. A landlocked nation that borders along two of Africa's famous rivers, the bamboozling Zambezi and the limpid and long Limpopo. But it suffers. Zimbabwe suffers from internal bleeding.

The Eye

The large swaths of rainforest have virtually disappeared. The rule of law is toyed with like a cat and a half dead mouse. Human rights abuses are as commonplace as the bouts of cholera that break out. The government have drained the coffers of the nations wealth and in the process, abused natural resources and abused the human resources, the Zimbabwean people.

The countries recent history is turbulent. I visited when Mugabe first initated the land reform program. It was loco. Quite tense, almost sent the country back into civil war. Its poo control and lack of vision over the entire process has effectively crippled the economy. Perhaps the aims of fairer land distribution were fair, viewed in an objective manner, but the way about which the government and its bands of war vetrans went about it have been the epicentre of conflict ever since Mugabe and the Rhodesian Bush war.

Anti-Guerrilla Operations in Rhodesia

Mugabe has sort to punish and blame the colinizers for most of his countries problems. By no means was Rhodesia a saint of a country, nor its colonial rulers, but Mugabes 30 year rule begs a lot of questions.

So after weighing up the pros and cons of traveling in Zimbabwe it has made it on my list of worlds worst places to backpack at #11.

World's worst places to backpack #3

A discombobulated country on the horn of Africa. Affectionally known as 'the land of spices'


Somalia. Its certainly hot and spicy.

U.S. Forces in Somalia - Department of Defense Joint Combat Camera Center DD-SD-00-01033

A backpacking trip through here would guarantee a bit of a rush. The experience would leave you with the hair permanently standing up on the back of your neck. Or just leave you.....

Its a country when pretty much anything goes. The reality of day to day life in Somalia is the stuff hopelessness is made of.

victims of grenade attack - somalia

Without a functioning government in this country since 1991, the country has gone through a bit of a turbulent time of late, a bit of a free-for-all. And by that I dont mean freebies or free-dom in any sense.. The large land mass that was once home to the largest army in Africa during the 80's, has now barely enough soldiers to protect the fragmented capital city of Mogadishu.
Corruption and extortion seem to be the very threads that hold together the fiscal policy of the country, the entire economy is based upon these two pillars of power abuse.

Just say NO to corruption

From the barely audible or rarely visible government to the dare devil rooky pirates, there's plenty of characters in between who are just as shady.

_DSC0760 Somaliland

Al-Shabab fighters control the southern and central parts of the country. Proudly charging round on camels sprouting their religious and political ideologies, they even have the odd crack at taking Mogadishu, the country's capital city, also known as the 'city of death'. The transitional government only controls a few square blocks of the capital city. The rest is controlled by rogue war lords, powerful clans and/or extreme Islamic inspired militias.
Fair to say, you could probably haggle on the price of your hostel room, playing them all off on each other.

'ah come on...willy the warload said he'd do it for a fiver...Al Shabab don't have any mixed dorms available.....and your the government, surely you could offer me a bit more of a 'discount' ..."

Loosely interpreted, the name Al Shabab can mean 'the youth' and as it happens to be there are no girls in the gang, so they are also known as 'the lads', or at least thats what they call themselves.

Standard sharia law applies in the southern and central regions and 'the lads' are known for their no-nonsense responses, you don't really don't want to be cracking out the skimpy bathers down at the beach.

Dead U.S. Soldier in Mogadishu
This photo of a dead US solider being dragged through the streets was taken by a journalist whose collagues were only days earlier beaten to death for taking photos.

If your volunteerpacking, be very wary of the stats stacked up against you, in the past two years, 42 relief workers have been merked. gone.

Mogdishu gunmen

Paul and Rachel Chandler, a couple of greypackers traveling around the world got mixed up in the madness, to say the least. The couple now hold the accolades for the longest held captives by Somali pirates, a cushy 400 days at the hands of these ruthless thugs and criminals of the high seas.

They were released a couple of months ago. Needless to say, don't think they'll be going back anytime soon.

So basically, any form of independent backpacking adventure would basically classify as suicidal. The only way you can even think about moving about is with armoured guards, private security or Ethiopian or official Somali troops. It is likely no matter which one of these options you choose, you will engage in some form of street battle.

On the convoy

Pack a bullet proof vest. And your hanky. There might be tears.

Bon Voyage!!!

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