Sunday, June 28, 2015

Burma 2014

In April 2014, we took a week-long trip to Burma (or Myanmar), which I never got around to posting about. This isn't because I didn't like the country: quite the opposite!
One of the numerous gold-covered pagodas
Of all the countries in Southeast Asia that I have visited, Burma is by far the least Westernized. It has a complex political history, including rule by a military junta until 2011, which resulted in numerous economic sanctions by the US and other states. Burma opened up to foreign investment and tourism recently, in 2013, but remains relatively uninfluenced by the West in some ways: for example, there are almost no international brands like McDonalds and Apple in evidence. Men wear skirts (the traditional longyi), women smear a beige plant-based cosmetic all over their faces, and tourists are still a novelty.
Typical street scene in Yangon
We visited only the two most touristed places in the country, Bagan (home to thousands of temples built around 1000 years ago) and the capital Yangon (or Rangoon), and flew to both, meaning we didn't see much of the rest of the country. Even in these places, R tended to collect a crowd wherever she went, to the point that even the usually social and extroverted R got overwhelmed. Both were fascinating and full of beautiful, gold-embellished temples (the Burmese seem to be a very religious people). The food is good, if a bit oily, and the people were lovely: so friendly, hospitable and warm.
Buddhist monk with a cell phone, man wearing a longyi and woman covered in thanaka: but R is the attraction
I would love to visit Burma again someday, to see Inle Lake and Mandalay. Maybe I will be lucky enough to do so before we leave Singapore.
Woman carrying wood, Bagan

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