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Published: April 14th 2010
I seem to have few problems to publish this entry. Sorry for this, but I'm trying again.
I've been living in Asia since 1996 and never set foot in Burma. So why now? Maybe because the stand of the opposition seems to be changing slightly in view of outside visitors. I've been to Zimbabwe and the case of Burma is somewhere similar. You can visit here, and make a difference for the local population, you just need to seriously do your homeworks to make sure you put your money in the right pockets.
It was not that easy to get proper info on the country, so for once I decided that we would rely on the Lonely Planet. The latest May 2009 edition ended up being pretty spot on. The aim was clear...avoid to put money in the government hands. Not always obvious, we had only 10 days as it is school holidays for Leslie. So we did take 3 domestic flights with Yangon Airlines and Air Bagan...big part of that money is going to the wrong places. Avoiding the departure tax of an airport is close to impossible...same thing to access Shwedagon 5usd entry fee. We also decided
one morning to take the local train around the city. It is a loop of 3 hours, great to experience the daily life of normal burmese....well, it is also 1usd going straight in the wrong hands.
Next, every time you eat in a restaurant, you are hit by a 10% tax...same thing, you may support a local business, 10% is ending in the wrong hands.
But beside that , everything we did was geared to the people. And let me tell you something, Burmese have no problem to express their opinions when they know nobody else is listening. But more important, and especially in Yangon, I think I've never met nicer people anywhere else in Asia. What an experience! The people of Burma are so nice, so smiling, so deprived of basic liberties....they are living in seriously arsh conditions. Imagine the power cuts happening all the time...shall I rather say that it seems bizarre when power is on. A business cansimply not survive without a generator...generator are not the most eco-friendly tools!
We first spent 3 nights in Yangon, and one more night on our last day. Leslie may be in holidays, not me, so we did
stay in proper conditions in Rangon. Internet connection is quite funny...skype, yes...facebook...yes...email, only if you have a proxy...but that proxy only allowed me to read my emails, not to reply or send them on...interesting!
Our first day was spent trying to secure flights to Mandalay and Bagan...done...but what a slow process and time consuming. Our next day, we started with the beautiful Boyoke Aung San Market. After 10 days in Burma, I can say easily that the country is a shopper paradise...if you are into home art/decorations. Than we made our way around town...under 38-39 degres...Everywhere people stop to wish you good day and wave smiles at you. For sure, they are not that many independent travellers here...even less unaccompanied by...nodoby...
The afternoon, we spent it discovering a dream destination. Shwedagon! Wow is the only word I can use. We stay there a full 3 hours, enjoying every shade of sun...sunset...and night on the Paya. Amazing experience, you just have to look at the pictures to understand.
On our third day, we decided to take the 3 hours "loop-around" local train. Lonely Planet advise it's a 2 hours ride, well, more like a 3 hours...on a hard
banch, no aircon....but what an experience. This is a serious way to go deep inside the local population.
Our last day in Rangon after visiting Mandalay and Bagan was way more relax. First I was back on my computer...snif, holidays are not always leisurely...but being the first day of the water festival, most restaurants are closed, museum and markets are closed...most shops are closed...and you can end up seriously wet...from water of dubious origin. So a relax day, before flying back home to Bangkok. And for those who want to know, I had to go around town this afternoon...did not see any army, no police and few red shirts...we live in a very peaceful area...glad about this.
Next entry is coming soon, this time from Mandalay.
With love from three of us, back in Thailand!
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