I mentioned my intention to go to Myanmar. Myanmar (Burma to many of you) is high on my list because it sounded like a land so remote so inaccessible that I wanted to at least make my best effort to get there before I move out of Asia. And I almost didn’t make it. I wasn’t granted my visa until the evening before my departure.. by that point, I had almost given up on the idea.
Goodness. Where do I start? I’ve been to many poor countries with questionable governing systems. I am completely taken back how much I fell in love with Myanmar. I went in with a healthy dose of skepticism, caution, and suspicion. I left wishing I had more time and a reason to go back regularly.
Oddly, its isolation has led to the preservation of old culture and lifestyle. It’s a tough trade off, really. Modernisation brings material goods and higher standard of living. So in essence, yes, the lifestyles I witnessed were products of economic isolation and a standard of living many Westerners consider poor.
Myanmar has thousands of religious sites and Buddhism much more deeply ingrained into the lifestyle and mentality than Thailand. The priorities are reflected everywhere I walk. Monks seem to overwhelm the streets as just about every boy serves in the monastery as a novice and returns to get ordained when a young man.
The country is filled with many tribal ethnic groups living in the mountains. While a source of political unrest, it was to me a source of the beautiful diversity in the cultures. Chiang Mai, Thailand, sells the tribal culture to tourist curiosity, but for the most part more and more people are moving into the cities living in a more modernised Thailand. Myanmar, on the other hand, borders Thailand in a lot of those tribal regions and the clans and villages continue to live traditionally, as reflected in their clothing, daily routine, and language.
More than anything, the biggest appeal is the freshness and openness of the citizens. I interacted with so many locals who want to invite me for a cup of tea and simply chat. Children came up to me asking to look at my photos and offering to pose, no payment needed. Many tour guides didn’t just memorize their script but are eager to understand their foreign clients. The collective eagerness is actually quite contagious.
It is taking my willpower to not just post up all my photos. (I still gotta blog after all!) Facebook friends may remember seeing almost an 100-photo slide show go up. As easy as it would be to do that here or link to the album, I will feed my experiences over in smaller doses.