Myanmar Days

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Asia » Burma
September 10th 2006
Published: September 12th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

Manadalay  - U Bein's BridgeManadalay  - U Bein's BridgeManadalay - U Bein's Bridge

life arround the bridge
special long 2 week edition

Before going to Burma all Yaron knew about it is that the road built between it and Thailand -

called the Burmese Road - reminded ex-WWII solders in Israel's War of Independence of the

road to sieged Jerusalem

Before going to Burma all Hagit knew about it is from a game she played with her mother when

she was a little girl. She would squat her eyes very thin and then all the people looked thin

and dark - just like Burmese.

12 things we learned about Burma in 10 days there

1. For the past 10 years Burma is called Myanmar.

2. It is HOT in Myanmar. we could not be on the street between 10:00 and 16:00 in Yangon. so we saw DVDs in the hotel. the locals also try to stay indoors until evening but at 19:00 the streets in Yangon suddenly fills with millions of people sitting on small stools and drinking tea, eating in restaurants or visiting night-markets. at 21:30 the city is deserted since everything closes at 21:00.

3. surprisingly, in

nun. in Buddhism nuns are not that common but we saw allot in Myanmar. they wear pink with a yellow cloth for a hat.
Yangon we found the cheapest fake DVDs in the whole trip. a good quality DVD with 8 (!) new or old movies cost 1.5USD (less then 1NIS per movie) . we will not write that we actually bought them -so to not incriminate ourselves - but if we would have bought movies we would have bought 100 😊

4. Myanmar is a very traditional country. the religious devotions is very high and it have sooooo many Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and nunneries that even rival the number in Tibet. Men in Myanmar do not wear pants. all men wear a long cloth (longie) that looks like a long skirt All Women, Girls and most boys put on a mud like make-up on their face in the morning to protect it from sun and dust

5. Myanmar is a very poor country. the standard of living is like the poor people in India (the ones with a home - not the homeless) but with no middle or upper class. everything is very basic. simple food. old cars. faded cloths. the economy is in ruins part because it is has always been so and part because a sanctions put on the country to punish the military Junta in control of the country.

6. what time is it? when we landed in Myanmar from Thailand we saw a clock in the airport in the corner of or eye that showed the wrong minutes. we vaguely remembered the Myanmar was 1/2 hr before Thailand so we changed the minutes setting of our cellular phone (our only clock that also doubles as an alarm clock). in the evening we passed Mandalay's clock tower and saw it was 1hr early. we were surprised that the main clock was off but things like that happen in the 3rd world. a day after we saw a clock in a restaurant that was 1hr early and thought they probably forgot to set it to summer-clock. only the third time we saw a clock - 2 days after landing - that was also early we realized that the problem was with us! we set the clock minutes but forgot to take the hours 1hr back as well 😊 suddenly things became clear. that was the reason that breakfast (served 7-10) was not ready when we came at 7:30. and that was also
Manadalay  - U Bein's BridgeManadalay  - U Bein's BridgeManadalay - U Bein's Bridge

world's longest teak bridge - 1.2km long
the reasone our taxi driver was very surprised to see us when we came at 8:00. and that was also why the tour he took us ended 2hr before sunset and not 1hr like we though it would 😊

7. The government blocks the use of web-based e-mail so that the people will not communicate with the outside world. every Internet cafe we visited had it's own kind of trick to bypass the blockage. in rural areas Internet is non-existent but in the 2 biggest cities (Mandalay and Yangon) internet is cheap (and slow) with a growing demand. a local 2 week evening Internet course costs only 8USD!

8. there are no international banks in Myanmar and changing money can only be done in the black market. changing a 100 dollar bill gives you a 4% better rate then 2x50USD. the rate in Yangon is 4% better then in Mandalay so a hundred dollar bill in Yangon is worth 8% more then two fifty dollar bills in Mandalay - ridicules

9. driving in Myanmar is done on the right side but all cars come from neighboring countries that drive on the left side. so the

old woman smoking a local cigar
drivers in Myanmar sit on the right side of the car. to pass a car, the driver has to go into the on-coming lane before he can see if there is a car about to slam into him from the front!

10 the same shirt can be worn for 3 weeks straight . Yaron bought a red "beer Lao" shirt in Laos and wore it for 3 weeks except for 2 days that it was in the wash.

11. Transportation in Myanmar is hell. the buses are NEVER full. There is always room for more people no matter how meny people are already on the bus. over 150 can enter a small mini-bus!. the roads are terrible there are very few buses and and people don't have money for gas or cars so the buses also double as freight-trucks. generally, people rearly leave the place they live in thier whole life and eat only what is grown locally. So Bagan had infinite number of tomatoes and Mandalay have almost none. and lake Inle has grapes and Yangon not. it is surprising that there were pineapples everywhere even though we saw no pineapple farm anywhere.
Manadalay - InwaManadalay - InwaManadalay - Inwa

almost all the women, girls and also many young boys put on a mud-lotion on the face to protect it from the sun

12. the Burmese are indeed dark and thin - just like in Hagit's childhood game Burma was the last "hard-traveling" we will do in this trip. for weeks we have been joking that it will be our SOF MASLUL and our MASA MESAKEM will be DERECH BURMA. now Yaron knows why Burma reminds people of the road to Jerusalem 😊

Burma is a very unique place to visit. even though we never left the tourist "beaten-trek" we

felt like we are "roughing it" and seeing the real Myanmar. it was a very good place to finish

our "hard-travels " since it has many of the good things we enjoyed in other countries. the

remoteness of west-china, the simple life of Nepal, the religious devotion of Tibet, the ruins of

Cambodia, the way of life of South-East-Asia and the food of South-Asia.

Unfortunately, after being in South-east-Asia for 2 months our excitement threshold is high. in

other words if we see another Buddhist stupa we will scream! so we cut short our trip in

Burma from 16 days to 10 days so we can have more time for our final
Manadalay - InwaManadalay - InwaManadalay - Inwa

almost all the women, girls and also many young boys put on a mud-lotion on the face to protect it from the sun
stage of our trip....

Yaron's thoughts on Sanctions

The long travels allows one to think. the travels in Myanmar are some of the longest we had

so naturally my mind wondered allot. here are my 2 cents on world affairs for anyone who is


Myanmar people are VERY poor partly due to economic sanctions put on the country by the

west in order to topple the very oppressive military-regime in control here. the sanctions are

over 10 years old now and don't seem to bring down the government but the people are

poorer then ever. so why don't the sanctions work?

The West puts sanctions on governments like the one in Myanmar in the assumption these

will change the government or at least the government policies. but the sanctions assume 2

things. 1. that the government will not be able to function with them 2. this dis-functionment

will push the people to change the government.

Both of these assumptions sometimes fail. the ruling elite here (and in Cuba, North-Korea and

such) will always have enough

playing a local game like vollyball using only the legs and head.
resources for it's self - they just take whatever they need and

leave nothing for the rest. once the elite have enough for themselves they don't have to give

the people anything. they can maintain there power by giving a little power to government

officials who through corruption keep all this system very stable.

The second place the Western logic sometimes fails is in the assumption that in a society like

Myanmar a regime change can happen from within. it can't since there is no democracy.

ironically, economic sanctions weaken democracy. Modern democracy was born in the 18th

century due to the fact that there was a large enough middle-class that wanted to share

power. only democracy allows such a wide power sharing. but the first hit by economic

sanctions is the middle class. they become poor also thus making democracy even more

difficult to achieve.

The example are numerous. in Cuba people have literally nothing and that is ho Castro can

remain in power for 60 years now. in North-Korea people have even less and it has no impact

on the government. Sanctions

Yaron tries to recreate his Cuban expirience
on Iraq actually strengthened Saddam Hussein since it crippled

the economy and the middle-class.

Sanctions can work if the assumptions hold. they worked in South-Africa since it was a

democracy (for the whites) and the middle-class was strong. Israel won the recent war in

Lebanon not due to military strength but due to the fact that the democratically-elected

Lebanese government (serving the growing middle class) saw how the Hezbollah's war is

destroying its future. sanctions on Iran probably will work for the same reasons since it is a

democracy and Iran is a regional economic power breeding the middle-class.

so what should the West do with places like Myanmar?

The answer, in my opinion, might be counter-intuitive. the West should enhance economic ties

and give economic aid. once the economy will be strong then the government cannot be

oppressive without alienating the new-middle class. China and Vietnam are good examples.

for 20 years the world has good economic relations with both even thought the communist-

regimes are still considered oppressive by the West. after seeing how strong the middle-class

is in

these girls are making tapestry hand-made from silk thread. each one takes days to make and sells for ~10USD
China I am sure democracy has to be just around the corner.

If there would have been no sanctions on North-Korea they would not have needed to test

missiles to get the worlds attention. if the people in Gaza had the same standard of living like

ones in Beirut then they wouldn't have elected Hamas (Gaza has no middle-class). and if the

people of Iraq had a better economic future then it will strengthen the new government more

then a few more thousand US solders.

And Myanmar people could be better served if there would be more aid and less sanctions.

the military-junta will have to go eventual. but it seems the people here are suffering from

both sides.

i know my thoughts are a bit simplified. so don't replay angrily at them. just an example of

how i pass the time on long rides

Additional photos below
Photos: 101, Displayed: 29



traditional puppets
Manadalay - Sanging HillManadalay - Sanging Hill
Manadalay - Sanging Hill

the hill contains 500 (!) active temples, stupas and monestaries
Manadalay - Sanging HillManadalay - Sanging Hill
Manadalay - Sanging Hill

the temple on the top of the hill
Manadalay - Sanging HillManadalay - Sanging Hill
Manadalay - Sanging Hill

tthe view from the top showing some of the 500 temples
Manadalay - Sanging HillManadalay - Sanging Hill
Manadalay - Sanging Hill

Burmese writing is one of the nicest we encountered here. see the explanation of basic Buddhism
Manadalay - Sanging HillManadalay - Sanging Hill
Manadalay - Sanging Hill

here bunny bunny bunny
Manadalay Manadalay

old Jappanese cannon from WWII
Manadalay - InwaManadalay - Inwa
Manadalay - Inwa

Bagaya Kyaung - a teak made monastrey
Manadalay - InwaManadalay - Inwa
Manadalay - Inwa

Bagaya Kyaung - a teak made monastrey

13th September 2006

Wow - this country and your pictures are absolutely amazing.
16th September 2006

I just wanted to thank you, as a Burmese person. Well done on finding the Synagogue in Yangon! :) Love the pictures; love your comments!
17th September 2006

Loved Burma
Your photos brought back great memories of being in Burma a few years ago. The Burmese people need visitors to tell the outside world about their plight. Which you have with your comments and photos! We hiked into hilltribe villages in the north and took in protein powder and vitamins, medicin for the poor displaced rice farmers. And we brought in lots of clothes to be distributed to the orphanages, all under the radar of the govt. And we found the Synagogue too, not easy! Again, great photos!
25th September 2006

On a different note...
I'm reading Thom Friedman's "The World is Flat", and he has a theory very similar to yours. He calls it "the Dell Method for Global Conflict Solving", in which no two countries who participate in a global supply chain of a large multinational corporation can wage war on each other. This is a development of the "Mc'Donalds system", that claims no two countries with a strong middle class (that can afford Mc'Donalds) will fight each other. Problem is, this only works on state-backed all-out war. It doesn't affect civil unrests (like the Thailand revolution) or small border skirmishes (like Cashmere, between India and Pakistan), or global terrorism (like Al-Qaeda). The first is a true battle of the have-not's against those who deprive them (which can be a good thing). The second doesn't have a large enough effect on political stability to prevent international investment (which can be a bad thing). The last simply has no deterrent- Al-Qaeda doesn't want to be a part of any global supply chain. They don't want them to exist (except its own). So in many cases (like Myanmar), you and Friedman have the same solution- enhance economic ties, build up a strong middle-class (and encourage transparency and contract-enforcement, which are essential to economic stability), and the rest will happen in and of itself. Question is, what do you do with the de-stablizing global factors. (sorry for the long rant)
29th November 2006

Amazing pix!
binders, these photos are amazing. it might lead us to burma as well, though not on our pre-planned route...
18th November 2007

Great pictures!
Such great pictures, reminding me so much of my time in Burma, almpst ten years ago. And the text is great, too! How did you catch such great pictures of people? I don't usualy like to get too close, and am mostly too shy to ask them for a picture.

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