A Month in Myanmar (Burma)!
I know it has been a while since I have done an update but I have a good excuse. I have been, riding trains, planes, taxis, tuk-tuks, pedi cabs, buses, the back of pickup trucks, bicycles, boating, horse carting and trekking across Myanmar! Even though it is just across the western border of Thailand, where I am living now, it is so dissimilar from Siam it gives the impression of existing in a parallel universe. Its geographical diversity is astounding with white sand beaches and fertile river deltas in the south rising up the majestic Himalayan Mountains in the north. It is at once compelling and heartbreaking. Inspirational and tragic. It is usually beautiful; and sometimes foul but always fascinating.
Bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand it has a population of over 60 million making it the world’s 24th most populated country and the second largest country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar (formerly called Burma) has always existed at the crossroads of civilizations and its influence extends deeply into world religion, trade and literature. Its history covers the first known human settlements from over 13,000 years ago to today. There is even archeological evidence that suggests that upright walking ape precursors of man may have arose in ancient Burmese swamplands before migrating to Africa and evolving into modern humans. History has rarely been kind to the Burmese people but in my experience they are warm and inviting people who seem unfailingly optimistic even in light of their past. With the military dictatorship officially ending in 2011, the release of political prisoners and elections beginning I am hopeful that there is reason for that optimism.
I began my trip by flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to get a visa, and then flew from there to Yangon (formerly Rangoon, formerly Dagon). From there I went by bus to Pyay (also known as Prome) then by train to Bagan (formerly called Pagan) to explore the ancient temples on foot and by horse and cart. From Bagan I took a private boat along the Irrawaddy River to Mandalay. From there I went by shared taxi to Kalaw then walked 50 miles down to Inle Lake where I took another boat to Nyaung Shwe. From Nyaung Shwe I flew to Ngapali Beach where I spent a few days relaxing on the Bay of Bengal. From Ngapali to Sittwe (formerly Akyab) by airplane then by public ferry up the Kaladan River to Mrauk U. Myauk U by boat back to Sittwe, airplane back to Yangon then flew back to Chiang Mai via Bangkok with zero time left on my 28 day visa.
Whew! It wears me out just typing it. I the course of it all I took nearly 2,000 pictures that I am only now beginning to go through. There were so many beautiful moments and memorable experiences that one or even several posts can’t cover everything but I will try. The next adventure, to a place I have only dreamed of going, begins in a few weeks!