A Travellerspoint blog

Mandalay to Bagan

Our last day in Mandalay was Independence Day and we had wanted to go to the museums but being a holiday they were closed. We really didn’t have much of a plan as we had done most of the main attractions here already. We grabbed a cab to the Imperial Palace which was a walled city within Mandalay. It served as a home to two Burmese Kings, one of which built the palace in 1857. The British forces seized the city in 1885 and sent the King to a house prison in India and then used the palace for their British Club. It is now controlled by the Burmese military (government). There is a 230 foot wide moat around the huge brick walls that are 2 miles each way protecting the palace.
We were dropped off at the entrance and directed by military men which way to go. When they were out of sight I quickly took this picture of a sign on the moat wall. I turned around to see a man with a large machine gun was standing beside me. I felt sick. How stupid was I. I know Doug will not be happy that I did that. But what a sign! We saw a small sign right after that stating where and what we could take pictures of. This wasn’t on the list.
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MANDALAY 517


Lana said he didn’t notice and we kept walking. There was a two mile walk to the palace and residences (barracks) were lining both sides of the street. There was such a military presence and feeling of oppression somehow. I think I was just really rattled.
Men with motor bikes and tri shaws ( bicycles with seats on the side) asked us if we wanted a ride to the palace, it was too far to walk. “no thank you, we like to walk”. It was only 10AM and quite cool so a pleasure to do some walking.
It was almost deserted. A lot of people don’t come here because it is military, we originally were not going to come either but did in the end. The buildings were huge and sparse.
There were some young monks there, around 20 years old, with a group of women. They came and asked us if they could have their picture with us. This happened three times at this site and a couple of times yesterday. The shoe on the other foot, we are usually taking pictures of the monks. You wonder what they tell their friends when they show the pictures. Best not to know.
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MANDALAY 524



Trying to hail a cab here is not that easy. Two men with tri shaws asked if we wanted a ride somewhere and so we said yes as it would be a great adventure. I was on one and Lana and Jane on the other. They must have had incredibly strong legs and thank god Mandalay is mostly flat. They took us down some of the back streets which was great, a lot quieter and we saw some different areas of the city. They took us to an old wooden Monastery that had beautiful intricate wooden carvings all through it. It was very ornate and beautiful.
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MANDALAY 551

This little girl was selling flower leis as an offering at one of the Payas and I bought one and wanted to have her picture as she had these great decorations on her face with the sunblock paste. Apparently a lot of people use it more of a decoration (makeup) than sun protection.
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MANDALAY 545


Our two drivers took us to a few more sites and then we asked about a gold leaf factory to see how they make the gold leaf that goes on the Buddha’s and the shrines. They said it was close, but we ended up going all the way across town in heavy traffic at times. Going through the intersections here , especially in a trishaw, was an adventure. There are very few traffic lights and even if you do see them they don’t seem to matter much anyhow. It’s a dance. You just go and everyone just seems to weave in and out until you get to the other side.

By the time we got to the gold leaf factory we were done with the trishaw. My lungs were full of exhaust and our bodies felt covered in dust and dirt. We paid them and went into watch these young men swing heavy sledgehammers to flatten small pieces of gold onto bamboo paper. The first round is ½ hour of hammering. Then 3 hours more to get it to the thin film that is known as gold leaf. Back breaking work. Mandalay does all the gold leaf for all the temples in Myanmar and there are over 70 factories like this here in the city.

We were starving. I have had a really tough time here finding something to eat. Being a vegetarian is always a challenge for me, but Myanmar is by far the worst place for me so far. Everything is with meat or seafood and if you are able to find a vegetable dish it is made with fish sauce. All the food is deep fried. You are hard pressed to find any dish that is not fried . Myanmar is not known for it’s food. I have been eating a lot of almonds fruit and protein bars since arriving.
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MANDALAY 550


I found a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Lonley Planet and we headed there. We all agreed it was fantastic food and the woman who ran it spoke perfect English and had a great sense of humor. Finally, I was so Happy!! We got some samosas to go for our boat trip tomorrow.
Hailing a cab was impossible. We walked a few blocks and were approached by some young men on motorcycles to see if we wanted a ride. We hesitated but then realized we didn’t have many options. These are another form of taxis here. We each hop on the back of a motorbike, no helmets, and take off to our hotel. They were great drivers and drove a reasonable speed. Actually I find that all the drivers are good and don’t use excessive speed which is quite different from other Asian countries I have been in. It was wonderful, we loved it. You could see so much more and way better than the tri shaw. Until we got to the main street for a few blocks and then we were very uncomfortable without helmets. But we arrived safe and sound.

In the evening we headed to the night market to get some things for our boat trip to Bagan. It was a local market, not catering to tourists at all and really not much of anything of interest for us. I love the t shirts with English sayings that really don’t make any sense. We did end up finding a Tupperware like container for our papaya which the hotel kitchen cut up for us. I also found some reading glasses which you can never have to many of at this age.

On to Bagan!
The boat was a large wooden vessel with lawn chairs on two levels, half of which were covered with a roof and the other half in the sun. We arrived fairly early and were able to eek out our spot where we wanted to be for the next 10 hours. Upon arrival in our taxi three small, 50 something women came up and asked if they could carry our bags to the boat. Seeing as how the boat was down around 40 stairs and then a mud bank we said sure. This is probably their only means of income too so we are happy to pay them. They put our 50 lb bags on their heads with ease and meet us on the boat.

There were only tourists on this boat and it had an area inside downstairs with airline type seats that were in dire need of repair, and a little resteraunt. But we had assembled a great selection of things for our lunch. Aw crap! We left the bag in the taxi.

The boat finally left at 8AM, we arrived far too early, and it was quickly apparent that where we were sitting was going to have a diesel smell the entire way. It appeared that most of the seats were in the diesel smell area. The front of the boat had the freshest air so we moved there, put our feet up played cards and read our books and listened to our music for most of the day. It was great to have such a relaxing day with no dust or dirt and not much noise. The scenery was very serene, small villages at the edge of the river, many boats carrying goods, some with massive trucks and excavators. We saw a few dredging machines as the water is very shallow in places and continuously shifts. A few times one of the crew would go to the front of the boat with a long bamboo pole with markings and put it in the water and call out numbers in Burmese to the captain to tell him how deep the water was. We must have had a flat bottom boat because the water was only about a meter deep in some places. The river snaked all the way to Bagan . We stopped at one place a few meters from shore and these women waded into the water with bunches of bananas on their heads wanting to sell them. Jane ran down to the first floor and the women very skillfully threw the bananas to Jane and she in turn threw some money to her. Yeah we can eat!!
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MANDALAY 572


boat to bagan

boat to bagan

The boat has passengers from all over the world and many of them are so well travelled. It was interesting to talk to a lot of them and get ideas of excursions and places to visit. Two hours out of Bagan we notice that the boat is heading for shore. Right to shore. We are sitting at the front of the boat reading and the boat is not slowing down. We think it is going to be a BC Ferry crash docking! It bangs into the dirt bank and it was softer than most ferry landings. We had a crew change here of the captain and one other member. Interesting way to dock.
We arrived in Bagan on time at 6PM. We already see so many ancient temples that are close to the shore. One of them is so close to the edge it looks as though it will end up in the river before long. The sides of the banks are eroding into the river.

Once again our bags on carried on the heads of young men this time up the hill to the waiting taxis. We negotiate a fare and start our drive to the hotel. Our young taxi driver is very brave and talks politics with us. He tells us how he hates the government, and that they do trade with China of al l natural resources but instead of helping their poor country men they line their own pockets. He was also saying that the teachers are very lazy and the education system is terrible and that they don’t have any hospitals. He feels that the new government, elected last spring, is just the same thing with a different face. The cost of taking taxis here is very expensive and it is partly because the cost of fuel is pretty much the same as we pay in Canada and their wages here are minimal. He was saying that they make their own gas though and even sell it to the Chinese. Not sure how they make their own gas but they do.

We are reading in the paper of all the changes that are happening here and it is amazing how fast things are happening. We were surprised that our hotel turned on the BBC World news which is new, and apparently you can change money at a few different banks now. The internet is not censored it seems as I can get on Yahoo, Google, Facebook and everything. Times are a changing in Myanmar.

Pictures are too hard to upload here so will add more when I get a better computer.

Posted by debbep 17:59 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Magnificent Mandalay

It was before 5AM when we arrived at the Yangon airport and a young man directed to sit in the waiting room. He came back to fetch us when our airline check in was open but there didn’t seem to any resemblance to a line up. There were people all over the place with bags and boxes and agents putting random bags on the scales. Our helpful friend got us checked in, our luggage weighed and tagged and then walked us over to security and immigration. The security was very lax, we didn’t even have to get rid of our water. We had a green and yellow sticker put on our shirts and sat and waited. There were people with many different colored stickers on their shirts all waiting too. When it was close to 6AM we saw other people with a green and yellow sticker go to the boarding gate, so we followed them. There was never an announcement or sign that we saw; you just had to pay attention to the stickers.

We were met by our pre arranged transfer upon arrival in Mandalay. There was quite the excitement at the airport with people milling about and taking photos. We thought it may have been for us (ha ha), but there was a very famous rock band on the plane with us. A bunch of guys from Yangon with really long hair and the band was called Iron Cross . Our driver was quite star struck. I went over to one of the band members and asked where they were playing tonight, but it was quite a few hours out of Mandalay.

Our drive in was wonderful, the landscape very lush and green with so many vegetable and fruit stands on the sides of the road. We stopped at one to get some papaya the size of footballs, avocados and lime. The produce is all fresh and organic. Mandalay reminds me a bit of India with the 18 seater busses going by with 50 people crammed in, some on the roof, others hanging from the sides and lots of baskets and bags of goods on there as well. There were a lot of motorcycles here as well, which we didn’t see in Yangon. Oxen or horses pulling little wagons with families inside and all their produce.

We arrived in Mandalay city and once again it is a very big noisy dusty place. Our hotel is new apparently only 2 years old. We don’t believe it, It is already looking very warn and not well maintained. The area is not great, although I don’t know if any area of Mandalay is that great. We are just not that thrilled with the big cities. We went to our room to rest for a while and then decided to catch a cab down to the jetty and hire a boat to Mingun.

The area on the edge of the Irrawady river is home to the very poor, fishermen most likely. Homes made of bamboo on stilts with very meager belongings inside. Children as young as 2 running up to us asking for pens, money, what ever. The smell was less than pleasant. It reminded me of being at TonLeSap lake in Cambodia. There are many boats tied together, large wooden boats that have seen better days. Some were to take out tourists and others were for people to live on and still more for fishing. A young man comes up from the boats and we negotiate a price. You can do a tour in the morning but it is now 1PM and we would rather hire our own boat anyhow. We should have insisted on seeing the boat first in hindsight. There wasn’t any kind of a pier. They lay a very narrow plank from the edge of the bank to the closest boat.

Are you kidding me?

Then two young men stand at either end with a bamboo pole in their hands. This is the makeshift handrail, and it worked. We climbed across three large wooden boats and ended up on the worst of the lot. Directed up some rickety steps we sat on wooden lawn chairs under a tarp roof for our journey down the river.

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It was wonderful. There were many little huts and farms at the edge of the river, people fishing, washing, and working near the edge. There are many golden temples dotting the hills all over Mandalay. The journey took an hour to the small village of Mingun. In front of us is this huge brown hill that is the base of a temple that was going to be built, but the king died in the early 1800s before it was finished. It would have been the largest in the world.
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As the boat is pulling close to shore we see a wooden cart pulled by two oxen racing towards the boat. I joked and said ‘here’s our ride’ and the older man in the cart pulls up and says ‘Taxi?” As tempting as it was we decided to walk. We were accosted by many women trying to sell us things, paintings, fans, jewelry and hats. We did buy these very dorky bamboo hats but it really helped keep the sun from frying our brains. It was very hot. The women would ask us for lipstick and perfume and makeup. It was very hard to take after a while. You want to help them but it encourages begging. They would follow us for a few blocks trying to either sell or get items from us, but we just kept smiling and saying ‘no thank you’. There are also young men that come up and want to practice their English and say they are going to school to be a tour guide. Can they please practice on you, you don’t need to pay but you know that they still expect something. The village was a typical rural Myanmar village and we visited some Buddhist temples and monasteries. The largest uncracked bell in the world is at this site which weighs 90 tons. It was a great afternoon and we had another early night. What a bunch of party animals we are.

Ko was our driver again today and we had a very full day in store for us. We headed out of Mandalay at 8:30AM and our first stop was a little shop where they made some incredible embroidery and marionette puppets, antiques and interesting objects for sale. The artists were there creating these works or art in front of us. We always think that these items are made by machine but artists like these spend hours on them and probably get paid very little. Two young men dressed Lana up as some kind of Myanmar princess.
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MANDALAY 268

Next stop was a silk weaving shop where we saw men and women making beautiful silk scarves and fabrics. Of course the silk store is attached so that we can buy some of these amazing fabrics but we found the prices quite high and the tour bus had just arrived with a bunch of German and Swiss tourists. We spent the day trying to stay ahead of all the tour buses, we were all on the same circuit.

Next stop was the monastery to see the monks eat lunch. There were more than 1000 monks lining up to have their lunch and then eat in silence. The young novices, some around 5 years old, wear white robes while the older ones wear burgundy, unlike in Laos where they wore orange and saffron. Unfortunately it was an absolute zoo with so many tourists. We took a few pictures and then wanted to high tail it to the next stop before the rest of them got there.
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Sagaing Hill was home to a large Paya (Pagoda) and offered a fantastic view of the surrounding area. The Pagoda in Yangon has spoiled us for any other I think and although they are beautiful with the gold glistening in the sun they just don’t measure up.
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MANDALAY 360


Ava was the next destination on our circuit. This is a small village on an island so our driver dropped us at a dock and we took the ten minute ride across the river. There were very few tourists there at this time as they were probably making a lunch stop. Horses pulling carts lined both sides of the dirt road waiting to show us this quiet and peaceful island. I got to sit up front with the driver; Lana was a bit nervous because the driver had not gotten in yet so I told her that I was driving. The journey was fascinating and so beautiful and relaxed. There was one place where we came upon a scene in front of us with women working in a rice paddy with the ruins behind them. Breathtaking. Our ride was quite bumpy and jostled us around a lot however. We got off quite a bit to take photos and wander around the many ruins and payas on the island. It really reminded me of some of the ruins at Angkor Wat except that there was hardly anyone there, it was fantastic. We could have spent the entire afternoon here but not on the horse cart. We found bicycles for rent which would have been a wonderful way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
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Our last stop for today was U Bien Bridge in Amarapura. This bridge is a teak wooden foot bridge that spans 1300 yards over the Taungthaman Lake. Over 200 years old this is the worlds longest teak bridge. 2500 locals walk across this bridge morning and night to and from the village on the other side. The bridge is curved to withstand the wind and is the most photographed spot in Myanmar. We walked across part way and then came down some stairs to be met by our boat driver for the evening. He rowed around the lake and we saw many fisherman up to their waist in the water, as it is not a deep lake, fishing for small red fish like a Grouper.
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We get into position along with some other boats to witness the bridge at sunset. Such a peaceful sight with lots of monks and locals travelling across the bridge with their bicycles and purchases on their heads.

A perfect end to the day.

Posted by debbep 07:37 Archived in Myanmar Comments (3)

Yangon Myanmar

We arrived safe and sound

sunny 34 °C
View The road to Burma on debbep's travel map.

I am sitting in a posh hotel, beside our place, listening to 'Jingle Bells' and writing this blog. It seems out of place somehow.

After what seemed an eternity we arrived in Bangkok at midnight and made our way to the airport hotel. We were so grateful that we slept through the night and woke feeling relatively normal. We had quite a bit of time to kill before our 4:30PM flight to Rangoon so arranged a car and driver with our hotel to take us for a whirlwind tour of Bangkok. We forgot about what a bottleneck the traffic can be in the city but none the less it beat sitting at the airport for 4 hours. We hired a long tail boat and did a one hour tour of the river which was fun. There was great evidence of the flooding that happened a few months ago, many homes destroyed. We also saw the electrical power poles that were erected in the water, with loose wires hanging down. May people died by electrocution from the flooding because of this. There were two men in a small boat with a pair of pliers fixing some of the downed power lines.
Our flight was delayed a few hours but we finally arrived in Yangon at 7PM and checked into our hotel for the next three nights. Our travel agent, Zaw, that I have been emailing back and forth for the past few months arrived and we paid him the balance of our amount owing and he presented us with all of our vouchers. I read in Lonely Planet that they could not get ‘Time’ magazine in Myanmar so I put a number of back issues in my suitcase. I gave a few to Zaw and he informed me that they now sell them here as well but they are very expensive. He appreciated them none the less. We then walked to a restaurant for a bite to eat and bought Zaw and his friend a couple of beers and then we had a early night.

Our first day in Myanmar was very eventful. We had breakfast in our hotel and then walked to change our money to kyat. In the past month things have changed in Myanmar so much it is amazing. You can now change money at one of the Government Banks which you could never do before. We had our many crisp perfect $100 bills in our money belt and make our way to the bank that Zaw had told us about last night. After walking a few blocks we decided to go to the police station to get directions. They were very polite and helpful, drawing us a little map and we set on our way. A young boy of around 8 came up and wanted us to buy some postcards. We told him we didn’t have any cash as were going to the bank and could he direct us. Mistake number one. He said….money exchange over here. We said ‘no, we want the bank’. Yes, it is this way.

We ended up with all this young men around 20 trying to exchange our money. Now up until a couple of months ago the black market was the only way to exchange your cash. You can not get the Kyat outside of the country and bank cards don’t work for foreigners and only high end hotels will take credit cards for a huge premium. The boys tell us that it is Saturday and the bank is closed, but they will give us 820 Kyat per US dollar. We are intrigued as the bank rate is only 790. Mistake number two. We agree to each exchange $100 USD for 82000 Kyat. We went behind a metal sign and they took each of us and we felt swarmed. They talked and moved so fast we really didn’t have time to think. They showed a stack of money that was bundled into 8- 1,000 bills. He counted it and it was like a card trick because he would turn the stack over and then count again. I took it and counted but he was in my face and saying it was 82000 Kyat, all is fine. The same thing was happening to Lana and Jane. So we each hand over one crisp new $100 bill. We caught a cab to the train station and counted our money again when we were there. We couldn’t believe it. They ripped us off for around $36 each. Only one bundle had 10 bills, the rest were 5. They were such great con artists. Lesson learned. It was becoming a very expensive day!
We bought a $1 ticket on the ‘circle train’ which does a three hour loop around Yangon. The train was very basic. Very basic. No glass on the windows, wooden seats and very old. There was only one other tourist family on the train and we were quite the entertainment for everyone. It was a slow trip out of the city and interesting to see the landscape go from large city to more rural and farming areas. Half way through the trip we stopped at a small town where there was a large local market where people from the city go to do their daily shopping. All of a sudden our quiet little train was overrun with locals getting on with huge bags and baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables. There was no room to move. People were passing Jane huge bags of vegetables to pull into the train through her window. The train was completely full with every square inch of floor taken up by either people or produce. If someone needed to get off or get to another part of the car they needed to climb over the huge bags of lettuce, eggplant, bananas, and lots of greenery that I did not recognize. At each stop vendors would get on with large plates on their heads with food for sale. It was an amazing thing to be able to be a part of. We interacted with so many of them even though almost no one spoke English.
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A lot of the older people chew ‘beetle nut’ which is a nut that gives you a bit of a high and turns your mouth red. They are constantly spitting out the red juice and it eventually rots out their teeth. Not a very attractive habit. Most people wear ‘longhis’ which are like sarongs but tied a lot more elaborately. The men also wear them with either a shirt or long sleeve dress shirt on the top. I think it must be a lot cooler than pants. A lot of both men and women also put a white paste on their cheeks to keep from getting sunburned. Some will have a design painted on with this magic paste. There were young men getting on and off the train with trays of the paste and paintbrushes to sell to anyone who was interested.

Everyone here is so helpful and friendly (except our con artists from this morning). After the train ride we were extremely hot and thirsty so made our way to this modern 20 story building that had a restaurant on the top floor with an amazing view of the city. The Shwedagon Paya or Pagoda was in the distance. This is the most revered place in the world for the Buddhists. It is breathtaking. We make our way over to the pagoda and hire a guide for an hour who tells us a lot about the spectacular place we are at. It is all made of gold and glowing in the sun. We spent the next few hours there in amazement. It is one of the most beautiful places we have been.

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We were sitting looking at the pagoda in the evening light and a man came and stated to talk to us. We discussed how the country is changing and learned a fair amount about Myanmar from him. His English was excellent. He very kindly drove us to a supermarket so we could pick up some items for dinner in our room.

New Years Eve. We were planning to go out to celebrate tonight but too tired to do so. Home by 7:30PM for a quiet evening but were woken at midnight to hear and watch the many firework displays going on around Yangon.

Today we took a cab down to the river area and went into the ‘Strand Hotel’. In its day it must have been a very grand hotel indeed. Built by the British in 1901 when they occupied Burma it is reminiscent of the Empress or such type of hotel. We wandered through some amazing gift shops to get an idea of what there is to buy in Myanmar. We found our way down to the river front but couldn’t find a place to walk along the river so headed back towards town. There are very few tourists here so we turn a lot of heads. They are all so friendly and we said ‘Happy new year’ to everyone which was returned with a smile. Yangon must have been a very beautiful city at one point but it is very run down now. The buildings and roads have not been kept up. Our hotel which would be considered 3 star here, is large and clean but in need of updating for sure. I pulled the tap to turn on the shower and it came off in my hand. The springs on each of our beds are sticking out and not that comfy. We are on the sixth floor and Jane has us walking up and down instead of taking the elevator. The sidewalks are what is the most amazing and you take your life in your hands when you walk on them. Huge parts are missing and you can very easily turn an ankle or break a leg. We do see evidence of the sidewalks being repaired and buildings being updated. This year Myanmar expects to see one million tourists which is far greater than any other year. The new government in power is giving the people a little bit of hope and tourists are feeling like they can come visit now. We also notice items from home which is surprising as we thought that the trade here was sanctioned.
In the afternoon we went to ‘Scott Market’ (also known as Bogyoke Aung San Market,) to escape the heat. It is around 32 degrees but I don’t find it as oppressive as other countries. There is a bit of a breeze sometimes which helps but it is a busy noisy and dirty city with lots of smog so the heat is felt more. The market takes up a few city blocks and you can buy almost anything you want there, except clothes are too small, even for Jane. Jane bought a few gifts and we met a man who exchanged some more US money for us. We told him of our money changing adventure yesterday and he said “I am old man, you are old ladies, I will not cheat you”. And he didn’t.
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The taxis and most of the vehicles here are Toyota Corollas or similar, vintage 1982 or there abouts. They have to pay $10,000 USD for these rust buckets. The doors barley work, our driver last night was sitting in a lawn chair instead of his drivers seat and there are no seat belts. The busses , which are packed to the rafters, are around 1930 vintage.

Tomorrow we are on a 6AM flight to Mandalay.
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Posted by debbep 01:21 Archived in Myanmar Comments (3)

Women of a certain age......


View The road to Burma on debbep's travel map.

Let's get some travelling done before our 'best before date'.

Let's get some travelling done before our 'best before date'.

Why Burma? Well I have been wanting to go for a few years now because not that many people go there and I heard that the temples and the Burmese people are amazing. Jane got the ball rolling this summer by saying she needed an adventure in December so I did my best to convince her and Lana that Burma was where they wanted to go! In less than a week after entertaining the idea we had booked and paid for our flights to Yangon via Bangkok. Let the planning begin

I normally like to do everything my self, a control freak some may say, but Burma is a country that is not as easy as others to book on the web and I heard that waiting until you get there is not the best idea. I used a recommended travel agent in Yangon (AKA Rangoon) and after countless emails back and forth our flights and hotels were booked.

A little info on Burma:
Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, changed its name in 1989, a time marked by massive civil upheaval. The military dictatorship which had ensured its own control over the past twenty five years found its power challenged by the popular National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD won the election that year; but the military government refused to let go of its power and now, Myanmar still remains under their control.

All of which makes travel to Myanmar a questionable proposition. While travel isn't particularly dangerous, some people recommend boycotting tourism as a way of opposing the government. But if special care is taken to stay in locally owned hotels and use government services as little as possible, travel can support the pro-democracy movement. This is because many people that don't want to work for the government own and operate the small independent guesthouses and restaurants. Plus, the country's fascinating traditional culture, emphatic landscape and charming capital make it a destination most of us will not want to miss out on. We are trying to use as many non government hotels and airlines as possible.

The population is around 50 million with most being of the Buddhist faith with a small amount following Chistianity and Islam.

One reason it is more difficult to travel in Burma is because there are no ATMS and you cant change money at the banks. You need to bring in as much perfect, not folded US dollars that you exchange for kyat (pronounced chat) with local money changers. Our travel agent will want all US 100 bills to pay for our hotels and flights upon arrival. The kyat is useless out of the country so you only want to exhange what you think you will use. It is a relatively inexpensive country to visit however. The internet is also very difficult and highly censored. Most places will not have Yahoo or Google mail allowed. The Government controls all news casts and information getting into the country. You need to list your occupation on the visa request form as they won't let anyone in journalism into the country. Why?

Burma is one of the worse human rights violators in the world. If you disagree with the government you are put into jail and there are many other charges against the ruling military/government. This is why there are economic sanctions against Burma. Their exports include Natural Gas, Teak Wood, jade and gems. There are loopholes however as the French are buying the natural resources from Burma but the US, Canada and most of Europe will not do any trade with them until they clean up their act.

This just in........There has been a very recent change, as of this month. Hillary Clinton will visit Burma in December which is the first visit from a US secretary of state in over 50 years. And the UN has supported the decision for Burma to be the chair of the ASEAN meetings in 2014 as well. Burma has started to release a few of the political prisoners, so there are things happening on the horizon and very exciting for us to be here during this time of great change and new hope.

You can see our travel route by clicking on THE ROAD TO BURMA in red at the top of this entry.

map-burma

map-burma

Posted by debbep 09:57 Archived in Myanmar Tagged the trip planning Comments (2)

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