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.
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