28.12.2011 - 28.12.2011
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.