Travel experts are touting a visit to Burma before it internationalizes, and loses the old Asian look. Nepal, Laos, parts of Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia are still “old Asia” in look, and feel. Or as the religious right would say, go before irreligiosity strips Burma of its “mystical Buddhist” purity.
One writer, Andrew Solomon, in T&L states many reasons for waiting: 1)wait until it becomes a democracy, 2)wait until the Muslim problem settles down, 3)wait until the armed conflict with minority ethnic groups is resolved, 3)wait until political prisoners have received their reparations, 4)wait until censorship is truly in the past, and most importantly, 5) wait until it becomes what it is now becoming.
But then he states why we should go now: 1)before it internationalizes and loses the look of old Asia that has been preserved by harshly imposed self-isolation, 2)before irreligiosity strips Burma of its mystical Buddhist purity, 3)before people in remote villages get accustomed to tourists and lose their curiosity about us, 4)before locals switch to global ways of dressing and thinking, 5)before they fix the English on menus and signs, 6)before Burma gets wealthy and ugly, and most importantly 7)go before everyone else goes.
And while we are talking about Burma, I refuse to call it Myanmar. And the capital is Rangoon, not Yangon. Tell me which ones evoke the memories of old Asia that I want to experience! However, if I am successful in obtaining a visa, I will call it whatever they want me to call it. But the main goal is to get there before everyone else does. It turns out that both Burma and Rangoon are the Anglicized forms used by the Brits when they occupied Myanmar. But since I grew up hearing about Burma, I recognize Myanmar as part of the military dictatorship, and not the pre-colonial Burma that we all want to see.
I may or may not be able to send emails once inside the country. I did not have any problems sending emails from Cambodia and Laos. I do not recall my email limits or lack thereof in Vietnam. Certainly, I was able to send countless emails from Russia last May. They say even if I can find Wi-Fi, it is going to be very slow. So, bear with me!
This is always a problem when visiting a country that might censor my emails. But imagine if you live here? What do you know of the world, and if all of the coming globalization is going to impact in a positive manner? I just cannot imagine the living conditions as they relate to human rights and free speech here.
I want Burma to succeed, mostly in helping people here have a better life, and more personal freedoms. But not at the cost of what has happened in places like Africa, other SE Asian countries, and Central and South America.
This brings up another interesting point. Much like the words fisherman and liar are linked together, so might the traveler and his tales. There are times when it is tempting to embellish a story or two. I certainly could have done this on my Trans Siberian Railway trip last May. I doubt any of you would ever make that trip to verify the facts or fiction of the trip.
But let it be said that the only stories that have been gross exaggerations involve others, not me. This would include people like the famous South African barrister, Barry the V., or my writing partner in crime, S.H. Burma will fit into this category as well, as so few have gone, and perhaps, so few will go in the future. It is not a trip for everyone. I have wanted to go for at least a decade.
We have a wonderful guide and driver here. She knows exactly what the two crazy Americans want to see and do. The local economy and lifestyle was an amazing experience. We saw it all from a trishaw, from the depths of local life, to the grandeur of old British architecture. After a typical Burmese lunch, it is now siesta time. Cold beer does wonders for the psyche.
I would most compare Burma to Cambodia, thus far. Great poverty, but a strong desire to move into the 21st century, with a tourist infrastructure. Not much military presence that we have seen thus far. But I am certain they are lurking everywhere. But people here seem so busy and happy.