Trip to Myanmar (Burma) 2005
A bus in Yangon
Inle Lake in the Mountains of: Kachin State
Bagan: View of the ancient temples
Trip to Myanmar (Burma) March 2005
A "must see" country where time has stood still but changing very fast. Myanmar is a Military Dictatorship, but the usual complaints about the country were not apparent to me. The people seemed well fed and contented, though not many consumer goods are available. They have the art of socializing and afternoons and evenings are spent sitting outside and drinking tea, beer and conversation. People do complain, but in which country dont they complain? Karaoke seems to have taken root, and may change social life. Most men still where lungi (sarong) and all Burmans, men and women alike chew betel. Betel chewing among the Kachins appears to be less. There are plethora of temples and many are still being built. However did not see that many schools. My thoughts would be go easy on the temple building and build more schools.
Visted, Yangon, Inle Lake area and Bagan with its acres of Buddhist temples.
Getting about and Communicating
Its very safe to get about (at least the places I visted), one of the safest countries I have seen. There are many places in the US and Sri Lanka late at night, where I dont feel comfortable and have to be wary. Did not get that feeling in Myanmar. In tourist areas there is a tendency to overcharge (the goverment also has a policy of charging higher for tourists), but if you know the prices and insist its fine. There almost no signs in English and even numerals are in Burmese. However as tourists are not allowed to rent cars or drive around it is not a hassle. It does become a problem if you have asked a taxi driver to take you to some location and he has has not understood where you wanted to go. The taxi driver will drop you somewhere and you will have no idea if that was the location you wanted to get to in the first place.
Very few people speak English, except the people at tourist guesthouses. When I say dont speak, I mean that they dont know even basic words like stop, go, house etc. In Sri Lanka, when we say someone does not speak English, means they cant construct a sentence. Also many interchange the "s" sound with "thr". At one small eating had some heated words about a meal which the waiter said was "three hundred", when he really meant "six hundred". Writing the numbers down however cleared up the confusion, and the pronounciation issue dawned on me. If you say "Sri Lanka" no one knows what you are talking about, however most people have heard of "Three Lanka" and think its part of India and Buddhagaya. However, I was still able to communicate with signs and expressions.
Spent about three days in Yangon at the Golden Smile Inn on Merchant Street. A small place, with "air con" rooms in downtown Yangon. The guesthouse owners were great. It was alway busy with many tourist arriving and leaving. There were a couple of Japanese and Russian (living in the US) who seemed to have stayed there for months. Went out drinking with them one day and on another day got a bottle of Burmese whisky (approx 1 USD). That particular day the guest house owners father was visiting and he joined in and gave a demonstration on playing burmese music on guitar. The guitar seems to be quite a popular instrument in Myanmar. Many are able to play the guitar and is brought out in the evenings when socializing.
A new wooden house on stilts in the old burmese style. On the right a modern cement house in the style popular across south and south east asia.
Horse drawn buggys and bullock carts are still a very common mode of transport in Myanmar
Street vendors, Colonial buildings, and women monks in Yangon (Rangoon).
Indian Dosai seller on the street. The gravy (sambar)had a thai taste to it. 0.15 USD for two dosai
(L) A beautiful old wooden temple a kilometer before arriving at Inle Lake. (r) A initiation procession for young monks.
(L) European tourists on a boat to Inle Lake. (R) A Temple on the banks of Inle Lake.
3rd and Bottom row
Village life around Inle Lake
Bagan is essentially magnificent old temples made of brick in a arid semi desert area bordered on the west by the Ayerwaddy River. Its like Polonaruwa in Sri Lanka which was also built around the 11th-12th century. The area of Bagan is probably 50 times the area occupied by the Polonarauwa ruins.
The picture in the bottom right is the only person I saw meditating and reading a prayer book in the less popular ancient temples. However just like in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka there are umpteen persistent vendors of tourist stuff. Prices are quoted in dollars