I’ve been in Myanmar for 5 days now, and all I can say is WOW. From the moment I arrived this place felt different. As a traveler/tourist it is easy to feel out of place when you land in a foreign country, here, I felt no such thing. Sure the first taxi driver in the airport tried to overcharge me 4x the necessary price, but the 100 drivers behind him quickly stepped in, they welcome me with a smile, handshake and a fair price for the ride to my accommodation. My driver educated me on the fact that in 2012, there were no air conditioned taxis and in fact there were hardly even ATM’s. ‘Fancy’ new taxi’s with AC charged roughly $7 for a 45 minute ride from Yangon’s airport to city center. Their currency the Kyat (pronounced chat) trades for about 1400 kyat per $1 at the time of this post (Jan 2017), making the country extremely affordable (see also: cheap). Accommodation is the only area where Myanmar ranks marginally higher than the rest of southeast Asia, bear in mind you can still find dorms for less than $10/night if you know where to look. The streets are not sparkling clean, there is plenty of plastic pollution, but the people are genuine, the street food plenty, and everyone bears a ear to ear grin when they catch your eye. They have an impressive bus system that connects the country, an extensive train network, and airports in many of the small areas that make ‘not so budget aware’ travel easy. I guess what I’m trying to say, is visit Myanmar. This place is incredible.
This is one of my first locations where I feel comfortable taking photos of the people and very often I get approached to be the subject of their photos (blame the red beard). Sure for a ‘less touristic’ place there are still plenty of travelers stacked into the famous pagoda plains in Bagan for both sunrise and sunset, but once you see the photo below, you might just want to be one of them. Whether it be the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Shwe San Daw Phaya or Pyathada Paya Pagoda in Bagan the energy is nothing short of spiritual, and the sights left me pinching myself. What a place.
On the other hand, if you do your homework you will find that the western area of Burma is plagued by genocide and oppression of the Rohingya people. Rohingya is a term for a muslim minority in Burma that are make up about 7% of the 60 million people (estimated), they were not included in the first census of Myanmar in 2014. The government regards them as illegal Bengali people and gives them no rights or legal status. It’s starting to look a lot like Hitler’s regime and the war in Iraq with the Rohingya as the target population. But that’s none or my business right? I should just be taking photos, sharing positive stories and inspiring people to travel. Alternatively, I want to inspire people to educate themselves, know whats going on in our world, and do what you can to shine a little light on the situations that devastate human kind. Phew, sorry that all needed to be said.
Now that’s out of the way, and to deter you from closing this link and turning on netflix, here is a photo of the sunrise in Bagan that I shared with loads of people that converged to share the beauty of Myanmar. Today I am heading up to the city of Mandalay to explore for a couple of days before I make my way to Kalaw to trek 3 days over to the beautiful (and apparently cold) Inle Lake. I’ve got one pair of pants and one ran jacket to keep me warm, so let’shope I can find more warmth in the company that I travel with and the people I meet. I hope this post finds all of you happy and healthy in what promises to be an exciting year. As for me I’m happier than a pup with two tails. Enjoying the travels, the life lessons, growth, peace, freedom and the happiness that all of it brings. Stay tuned, the next post will likely be an album of images from Bagan which have left me speechless.