Posts Tagged With: Burma

Travel karma

We were taking the long overnight train from Bagan to Yangon, Myanmar. We booked the tickets weeks before for one of the old beat-up British sleeper cars with four sleeper berths. The conductor opened the door, and an English couple were already inside, and he said, “actually we booked all four spots in this car”. The conductor looked at all our tickets, the carriage had been double-booked. The Englishman said again, “We booked all four spots, so sorry”. Clearly there were only 2 of them; We both gave him a look; that’s not going to happen. I thought to myself what a #!?! Was he just going to leave fellow travelers on the platform when they had two spots open? Luckily, before it all kicked off, the conductor looked at his clip-board, and motioned us to the next car that had beds available.

Sleeper car

Sleeper car

We settled in and a nice kid from Singapore joined us and we chatted about our travels around Myanmar. Later, we were all ready to try and get some sleep, when the train made a stop. I stuck my head out the window and noticed two young local men get into the carriage of our friends next door, the door shut and the train immediately departed. Looks like the young English couple was going to have some company for the evening after all. There was no way to leave the car once the train was moving and there wasn’t another stop until mid-morning.

When the train finally arrived in Yangon, as we passed their carriage, I slowed and took a peek in. The carriage looked well-worn and the women was still packing, looking disheveled and exhausted. She saw me out the window and I gave her a big smile; travel karma got you!

Sunset on the train. Good karma

Sunset on the train. Good karma

Categories: SE Asia - March 2016 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Myanmar

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“This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about”

– Rudyard Kipling

It didn’t take long for us to realize that Myanmar is from a different time and dimension. After decades cut off from the rest of the world by oppressive military juntas, it has finally opened up. We visited Cuba in 2008 and hoped that Myanmar would be the Cuba of Asia. It was as advertised and we were not disappointed.

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We landed at the desolate airport an hour outside Mandalay and caught a cab to town. A bumpy asphalt road, then a dirt road, past ox carts, grass huts and large open air markets; this is the main road to the city.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

The countryside is littered with Buddhist temples; Pagodas. Some new, some thousands of years old. Some shiny, some in ruins. Some massive, high on mountain-tops, some tiny in village squares. They all had a statue of Buddha in some form and condition, some had armies of Buddha statues. We must have visited over a hundred and they were all unique in their own way.

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Buddhist Monks are revered by the people and are the spiritual foundation of society. Barefoot in dark crimson robes, they are everywhere. In the Pagodas, on scooters on their smart phones. They start their studies at a young age and we would often see groups of five and six year-old-monks running around.

Mini monks

Mini-monks

The women and children wear a white paste on their face made from thanaka tree bark, It’s used to protect them from the sun and form of make-up. The men and boys walk with their arms on each other’s shoulders. A shy yet friendly people.

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Burmese are not used to seeing Westerners. Women and children stop and stare as we passed and snap pictures of Helen’s blonde hair when she isn’t looking. They sheepishly approach and gesture to have a picture taken with us. We nod and the floodgates open; they line up! The children have no idea what to make of us, they nervously look at us as photos are taken. After, they look at the pictures screeching and laughing.

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Kipling was right; Myanmar is a place like no other I have seen. A magical place yet unspoiled by the outside world and bus-loads of tourists. The infra-structure is terrible, the poverty is evident, the people lovely. Hopefully as the new government takes it’s place, the peaceful transition to democracy continues for the people of Myanmar.

Balloons over Began at sunrise

Balloons over Bagan at sunrise

Categories: SE Asia - March 2016 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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