Travels through Myanmar I – Mingalaba!!!

     I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about Myanmar lately, so I figured I would write a few articles about my recent trip to the country in the winter of 2010. I’ll start with a little introduction article and follow-up with an article a day for the next few days. I would love to do it all in one, but Myanmar deserves much more than just a small article, and I’m already up to two thousand words and barely touching the surface, so I’ll post a little at a time, with pictures of course. …at least pictures I have already gone through as I still have a whole bunch to look at. I’ll add links at the bottom of this, and all forthcoming articles, with the continued posts also, so you don’t have to go looking. If you’re interested in visiting, and are looking for something in particular, leave me a comment or send me an email.

Mingalaba!!!   

     Myanmar, Burma, Yangon, Rangoon, Bagan, Pagan, … One of the interesting nuances seen within the borders of this lesser traveled SE Asian country is the changes of names that have occurred in recent history. The country recognized now as Myanmar, often still called Burma by the various locals. Yangon, the capital, still abbreviated as RGN, for Rangoon, by a lot of airlines in the world. Bagan, Pagan, almost interchangeable in name. Whether old or new, it doesn’t really seem to matter as versions are used and intertwined in conversations around the world, as well as in the country itself. Seems to depend on each individuals political affiliation, as well as world views and opinion of the government there.

     Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism. Some call it the “Land of Green Ghosts”, others the true Land of Smiles. One of the last military regimes in the world. Often referred to as one of the most exotic destinations in the world. With fields of ancient temples for as far as the eye can see. Mountain top temples peaking through the clouds throughout the north. One of the centerpieces of Buddhism in the form of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. An endearing people and culture who are often cut off from the rest of the world. Some question whether it is morally right to go. I say yes. Go. See some of the great sights of this country and talk to some of the great people. Use local restaurants, hotels and transport, don’t support the government type establishments, and make it right to go. The people can use the money, and they can certainly use any information about the world outside of Myanmar’s borders.

     If you’re going, be prepared for frustration, poverty, child labor and lots of police and military with a lot of big guns. On the other hand, be prepared to meet some of the kindest, gentlest people you will probably ever meet. Sights like I have never seen in any other country, conversations that will leave you questioning many things, and a country full of history, life and color. Leave your cell phone at home, as well as your computer. ATM cards, useless, there are no ATM’s. Credit cards, only in a few select hotels in Yangon, otherwise …nope. It’s different, it’s exotic, and it’s an adventure.

     As an overview: I flew into Yangon. From the lively markets in the backstreets, surrounded by crumbling and moss-covered colonial architecture, to the massive, glowing Shwedagon Pagoda. A city almost lost in time and slowly fading as time goes by. Sitting on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy River, the city itself has the feeling of one just watching, and waiting. Never in a hurry, but knowing full well that one day that will change. Just waiting for the tides to change and sweep up everyone and everything in it’s path. A sleeping dragon that can be woken at any moment. From Yangon up too Mandalay, a city almost synonymous with the word exotic when talking about travel destinations. A city full of culture and history with a name that stirs the imagination. Mingun, Sagaing, Inwa (Ava), and Amarapura. Ancient cities from empires past that surround Mandalay. Each one with a different reason to visit, whether it be the longest Teak bridge in the world, hills filled with shrines, pagodas, spires and shrines of any shape and form imaginable. Each one capital of a different time, empire and people. Ninety miles down the river, or eighteen hours by a very interesting ferry, the ancient fields of Bagan. A site to rival the greatest wonders of the world.

Mingalaba, hello in Burmese. Welcome to Myanmar!!!

…to be continued.
Next Edition: Travels through Myanmar II – Before You Go

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11 comments on “Travels through Myanmar I – Mingalaba!!!

    • It is a great country TBT. So different from other SE Asian countries around it and so different from all the others on the other side. Almost like a dividing line and mix of Asia and SE Asia.
      Thanks for the comment. Next one will be up tomorrow.
      John

  1. I’m so intrigued! :o) Look forward to the follow ups. Still wonder what brings you to travel so much? Personal pursuit? Business? General Wanderlust? 🙂

    • Nikki – Did you ask that before? I thought you did and I answered …I may be mistaken though :). Basically, just wanderlust and the desire to get out of the western world and see what else is out there. During the wanderlust process I figured out that I could actually make a little money off my photos which just expanded it even further. Not much, but a little. Honestly, I really love seeing different cultures and areas of the world. Love it. It just fascinates me.
      Ever since I traveled to Morocco, I saw a totally different view than what I thought the world was like, as portrayed by TV here in the states. Since than I have actually gone deeper and deeper into the “I don’t believe it” mindset pertaining to the news. It led me to places like Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso…I fell in love with the world in the meantime. I don’t think I will ever take things for granted again, or base my opinion on any type of television program. It really has changed my view of people in the world and I like that view very much …so I keep going, as much as I can.

      Thanks for asking and comment,
      John

      • It is fascinating, isn’t it? How actually SEEING other parts of the world brings a truth and clarity to the way it really is…I can’t watch TV or the news much anymore because I can’t believe the way the stories are told. Its all heresay; unless the reporter is standing on the soil they’re reporting about.

        I’ve been to a few places, but endeavor to travel more. What an amazing and beautiful world that we live in/on!

        Thank you so much for sharing your view of the world!

        • Thanks Nikki …and yes it is! As for TV, it’s all about money, in my opinion, and the better the story, the more money it can make that station or program in the end. It’s amazing that some of our (our being the USA) greatest enemies are some of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve met. Syrians, Yemenese, Afghans…
          Ashame really, and a lot of these news programs should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Almost like racism (for lack of a better word) is alive and well, as long as your not talking about another westerner, but the rest of the world is free game.

          Thanks again, John

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