Friday, May 17, 2013

Paul's Country Review: Myanmar

I liked it here despite its shortcomings (electricity, paved roads, freedom). The people are friendly and haven't been wholly corrupted by the all-powerful dollar (but it's coming quickly).

We had a full couple of days taking in the sights. If you like stupas/pagodas/temples this is the place for you. There is a temple of some kind dedicated to just about anything and then there is a stupa dedicated to that temple which will then be located in a pagoda (one stop praying!). What's also cool is you can do all of your shopping at the pagodas as well. Postcards, children's toys, machetes, snacks and drinks, various crafts - basically all of the things you'd expect to find at a place of worship stretched out as far as the eye can see!


The town of Bagan is where the greatest concentration of stupas/temples/pagoda can be found. Its basically a huge area where "keeping up with the Jones'" went crazy. Each king spent much of their time, wealth and the labor of his people building an even grander structure than the previous guy. Now, tourists get to climb all over them and take lots of pictures.

Little brick houses for you and me

Inle Lake is the place we liked the best. It was peaceful, relaxing and very beautiful. Hotels, restaurants, shops, temples and even farmland can be found out on the lake. Buildings are on stilts, boats are the locals automobiles and they have devised a farming system that has the crops actually floating on the surface of the lake - its really interesting to see.

It's like Kevin Costner in Waterworld

There isn't much in the way of city life in Myanmar - the two being Mandalay and Yangon. I don't think I would consider Mandalay a city, probably more of a large town, but we liked it anyway for its simplicity and great scenery in the surrounding areas. Yangon, on the other hand, is a hole. Absolutely nothing to do, incredibly hot and muggy, soooo dirty - thank God we had a nice hotel to hang out in and that we were only there for one night.



All-in-all a very interesting place and I'm glad we decided to go visit. Unfortunately for the people of Myanmar, the laundry list of human rights abuses against them by the Government of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar is disgusting. By the way the Government of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar loves to say the whole thing - you know - about the Government of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar. Sorry I got sidetracked, human rights abuses that include mass murders of protesters, arresting anyone for anything viewed as anti-government - in which case you'll spend a good part of your life in hard labor camps, and a general, stifling censorship of ideas. The vast majority of the Myanmar people hope and pray for democracy, but the government has a firm grip on things. This is why many countries have placed crippling sanctions on Myanmar (namely the USA) and people are persuaded from going to Myanmar for fear that the money you spend there just goes to the government. I believe this is the wrong way to go. These types of sanctions only hurt the everyday citizen. The more Western tourists show up, bringing things like pens and books for schools, smart phones, iPads and greater access to the internet, the more Myanmar people will demand change, the more the government loosens its grip (or loses it), and a little light can shine on one of the poorest countries in the world. 

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