I just finished a 3-week trip in Myanmar (Burma). A most excellent country to visit.
Before I go on, I need to make you aware of the political situation in Myanmar (if you are not already). In short, the people are oppressed by the government/military. Even though they were voted out of power, they did not let go of it. Instead, they rule with the threat of violence. They have the guns and the money. If you speak out against the governement, you get arrested. The leader of the opposition party is under house arrest. They block websites that allow access to outside information like cnn.com. You get the picture.
So, if you visit the country, you inevitably support the government as some of your tourist dollars will gp towards this dictatorship. For this reason, there is a large debate in the tourist community about whether or not you should visit. I chose to go, because I think that if you are smart about your spending, you can make sure a large portion of it goes to the people (as opposed to the government). If you are considering visiting Burma, you should read this article.
Anyway, politics are not my forte (although I am getting more knowledgeable with every country I visit). Without further ado, let me tell you about some of the highlights of my last few days here. I’m going to go with a list style here, even though I dislike it, as I am short on time:
– I completed a 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle. Except for the devastating heat, the trek was great. My guide was an expert on all the local plants, particularly which ones were edible. He kept picking these berries for us that supposedly had 10x the vitamin C of an orange. There were also pretty tasty. On the 2nd day of the trek, I had the equivalent of 80 oranges.
Guillaume and our guide on the trek to Inle Lake
Guillaume shows the local kids a picture of themselves. Check out their faces!
– On this trek I met a French guy who lives in Yangon, working as a French teacher. When I got back to Yangon, it just so happened to be the 1st Friday of the month (my timing was excellent), which means there was an expat party at the British Club. How civilized. It was fun to socialize with all these well-dressed, employed people with respectable jobs. My unemployed self was sporting one of the three shirts I have been wearing everyday for the last 6 months. At least I shaved. Then they took me out partying until 4:30am, at which time I had to go catch a bus out of town. I love all-nighters. They make me feel young. Many thanks for the good night, Yangon expats.
– The beach I visited in Myanmar was full of locals. They swim fully clothed. A bit odd, but that is just my Western culture coming out.
Sunset on Chuangtha Beach
– I spent a few days at famous Inle Lake, where the people have mastered the art of one-leg, one-arm paddling. Apparently they are the only people on the planet to do so. This lets them see over the tall grasses and gives them one hand free to work the fishing nets. It is really difficult! Not just the paddling itself, but you need to stay balanced on the boat with the other foot. I tried to do it, but I came within inches of tipping the boat over. All the while, my guide, sensing disaster, was yelling, “No, no!”;. I wish I had a video of my efforts, that would be something. At least no one got hurt :) Here is a video of my guide showing me how it is done.
– I believe the most popular sport in Burma is this volleyball-like game where they only use their feet. Guys are playing this everywhere. I spent a bunch of time watching. It’s amazing how they can “spike” they ball with their feet! They swing a foot up by their ear. Amazing! I got a pulled hamstring just watching it. Check out it:
– Last but not least: For those of you who enjoyed my first entryon my “How To” series on travelling the world, I have prepared a second video. As before, the goal is to educate and amuse you on the Unique Art of World Travel. In this second installment, my trekking partner Guillaume and I demonstrate how to bathe at Buddhist monasteryin Myanmar as part of our 3-day trek. “Bathing by bucket” is also quite common in certain parts of India and Nepal, so this is quite a useful skill! Enjoy
So, I am now back in Thailand. I am “stuck” here while I get a new passort. My current one is full of visa stamps. There is not an empty page in it. Oh, I should mention that I got this passport in 2006, so it is not full from this trip alone… but mostly this trip. Anyway, this is a big pain in the butt which will cost me a bunch of time and money. But, it occured to me:
What a wonderfull problem to have.
You see? I need a new passport because I have been to too many countries. I could not think of a more fitting/enjoyable setback for a traveller to have. In fact, I am lucky to have this problem. Further, besides my ever diminishing bank account, this is the biggest problem in my life right now. So, there is nothing I can do but tour around the beautiful islands and beaches of Thailand.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice…