Since our visit to Myanmar (Burma) in 2008, a lot has changed. Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest. The junta government seems to be loosening controls and opening up. Heck, it seems like every week there’s a group of foreign dignitaries visiting Myanmar, something impossible during the time of our visit.
But even with all the dignitary visits and changing moods, we imagine that Shwedagon Pagoda is still the same. Continue Reading »
While reading Nicholas Kristof’s opinion piece on Burma (Myanmar) last month I was consumed by a rush of memories – conversations and images from of our month-long visit there last year. My comment on his article shares my views regarding the effectiveness of international sanctions in changing the behaviors of the military government (junta). I also address whether or not travel to Burma helps or hurts ordinary people.
I felt there was more to say about the junta and life for ordinary Burmese. But I looked back at a perspective piece we wrote last year – Myanmar, Where Hope Dies Last? – and realized that we already covered the reality and challenges that Burmese people face on a daily basis. We also explained at length why we are glad to have traveled there.
However, we continue to field questions from readers who are interested in traveling to Burma but remain unsure. We’ve already discussed what to do, see and eat there.
So here are a few thoughts regarding your decision to visit, what you might encounter while applying for a visa, safety concerns, and how to travel responsibly when you are in-country. Continue Reading »
The Golden Kite of Burma (Myanmar): the trail connecting Rangoon (Yangon), Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake.. These four locations form a common itinerary for visits to the country. Their golden stupas, fields of ancient Buddhist pagodas, floating villages, and royal palaces tell a story of place caught between its modern-day struggles and an underlying narrative of a bygone era. Continue Reading »
I remember my first taste of what was supposed to be Burmese food at a restaurant in San Francisco. There was none of the coconut milk and fragrance of Thai curries and the spice palette didn’t inspire like it did in Indian cuisine.
Underwhelming, I thought.
However, during our visit to Burma (Myanmar), we quickly appreciated Burmese cuisine for the beauty of what it is: an Asian cuisine fused from Southeast Asian, Chinese and Indian influences.
Armed with that perspective, we found Burmese food a pleasure. Street food was varied, accessible and inexpensive. Restaurants were similarly enjoyable. And we were even invited for a few home-cooked meals. Continue Reading »
While the Burmese junta (military government) has well earned its appalling reputation among human rights organizations and the international press, the people of Burma have an acclaim of their own among travelers as some of the kindest around.
Therefore, when we departed for Burma (Myanmar), we did so with high expectations. Its people, cities, landscapes, Buddhist temples – and even its food – well exceeded them.
Our photos perhaps express that best.
Warning: If images of smiling people upset you, please do not continue. Continue Reading »
Rangoon, Burma. The name conjures the tropical blues of a steamy colonial outpost. We wondered: would the current reality still match?
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After reflecting on the challenges faced by Myanmar (Burma) yesterday, we wanted to leave you with a more pleasant image of the country for the weekend.
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News stories take on increased significance when we’ve actually visited the place being covered. For example, we’ve recently been reading more about the effects of a harsh winter on the lives of ordinary people in both Tajikistan and China. As we read these stories, images of the people we’ve met become superimposed on a piece of news that we might otherwise regard with detachment.
We now follow Myanmar (Burma) more closely, as well. Just a few days ago, the junta (military government) there made news by announcing another “road map to democracy” and elections in 2010. Continue Reading »
We just finished a three-day trek that landed us at Inle Lake, Myanmar. While the people, markets, temples, villages and floating gardens here have all been wonderful, internet connectivity and availability of electricity leave much to be desired. With rolling brown-outs, random power outages, and heavily censored dial-up internet, staying in touch with the outside world has been next to impossible. Being able to view one’s inbox is cause for fist-pumping victory; sending an email is cause for nationwide celebration. That we have been able to post this article is something of a minor miracle. Continue Reading »
Don’t worry, we’re not feeling lonely. The title refers to the current reality here in Myanmar where once bustling tourist sights and streets have been transformed into ghost towns. Strings of flashing lights still hang from restaurants advertising the best Burmese, Indian, Nepalese – and even Tibetan – food in town, but the sobering and obvious fact is that most of these restaurants have only a few customers per day…and that’s on a good day. There are simply very few tourists here. Continue Reading »