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Memoirs of Myanmar

Click the image to see a gallery of all the images.

When I think of Myanmar I will not think of it as Burma anymore but will remember the true name which was restored after wining independence from the British more than 50 years ago.

First, I will remember the two Australian couples who adopted me on the very first day on the Boat,  "The Road to Mandalay".  Thank you Fred , Suzie, Michael and Ira.  You took me into your group and made me feel that we had been friends forever.  You made my trip special along with our other "Black Bus" team, Karen and William from Belgium. Our sunset cocktail cruise was a fitting end to a great trip with new friends.

Then there is Nyi Nyi, our wonderful guide with the biggest smile and biggest heart whose goal was to please us in every way.  I am sure that he is on the road to Nirvana.

Then  I will think of...

Lovely thanka painted smiling faces, children waving, and the greeting "Mingalaba", roughly translated as blessings upon you.

Both men and women in  the traditional long skirt called the  longyi.  There is a difference in the way it is tied at the waist for each sex.  There is basically only style of shoe the thong.  Be sure you have a pair for temple visits.

Many of the men's teeth are stained red from chewing the beetle nut.  It not a pretty sight for those of us who think white teeth are beautiful.

Women carrying the load on their heads.  She is coming to worship in the temple.  No shoes in the temple.  

Male monks in all sizes and ages from four or five years to very old in saffron and ochre robes praying with a cell phone near by ...or walking the streets in the mornings to collect the alms which constitute their daily diet.  There are over 200,000 monks and nuns who are completely supported by the people.  All boys have to enter the monastery for at least 7 days and many stay long  enough  to get an education while many, many spending their whole life as a monk. You cannot look in any direction with seeing a monk or nun.

The nuns dressed in pink with shaved heads.  Again, from tiny ones to the 90 year old who gave us a blessing at the nunnery we visited.

Everywhere you look the tops of gold stupas  are shinning from the hills.  Everyone who can afford it wants to build a shrine to Buddha.  Durning the golden age of Myanmar there were many wealthy people thus many, many stupas and temples.  If one is close enough often the monk's chants are heard early in the morning.

I reckon if you could take all the gold leaf from the stupas and temples and mint it Myanmar would once again be very wealthy..  The Burmese people are very religious and subservient to Buddha so  they will continue to restore the temples to their past golden glory.  People are everywhere in family groups in the temples worshiping.  Visiting the large pagodas is a family outing with a "picnic" lunch.

The balloon ride over Bagan is  at the top of the list on my travels.  It is impossible to describe the scene of so many temples and stupas shining with the sunrise.  It was a special treat followed that night by 2,013 lights that floated down the River and surrounded the boat, not once but twice on the trip. These are the floating light holders. There will be 2,014 lights next year.

Beautiful Inle Lake and fisherman who can stand balanced on the back of a small  dug out with one leg wrapped around a paddle rowing while casting a fishing net.  Except for the TV antennas on the dilapidated houses built on stilts on the water, life goes on as it did a hundred years ago with the vegetables grown in floating gardens.  I tasted the best cucumber I have ever eaten at Inle Lake.  

The weather has been wonderful. Only in Yangon yesterday did I feel the heat.  This is the time of year to go.  A light jacket is needed for the Lake and mountains. This is the crop growing season and farmers come to the fertile banks of the River to plant.  I am not sure if they rent the land or if the River banks are free for the farmers.  The vegetables and fruits are luscious and beautiful and there are markets and roadside stands everywhere.  The Burmese may be poor as a country but they are well fed.  The produce and food stands are affordable for all even though a large number of people live on $50 US a month.

Bumpy, Bumpy roads just about the worst I have been on anywhere. After seeing the rest of the country returning to Yangon  was a return to a somewhat modern world.  Lot and lots of red dust from the un paved roads...and dogs everywhere, lying in the middle of the roads or scrounging for food.  No spaying here!   And the trash every where.  No recycling ?

The laundry mat is the brown River water.  Although I am told it is pretty clean it does not   look it.  The water is used for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, irrigation......and the stilt houses in Inle and the boats trolling the river do not have bathrooms.  Speaking of toilets, only in the city restaurants and hotels will you find a standing toilet.   The rest are squat with a pan of water to flush.

I am sure I have left out some interesting things that I saw "on the Road to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play"... But it was a wonderful trip into a country that has a long way to go to catch up with the modern world.  The people are warm and wonderful and I wish them much success in finding their way into this century.

Mingalaba, Myanmar.

Airports and Hotels

I loved the Savoy. After seeing the Strand and the Governo's Residence, I liked the Savoy best.  

I took a day room yesterday at Traders.   It is a large modem hotel that you would find in every city.  My room on the Executive Floor was very nice and a cookie cut from any other good chain.  Apparently it is a part of the Shangri Group.

The River boat, The Road to Mandlay.  It is a beautiful boat and I highly recommend it and the staff there.  We were well looked after. The food is fine but not gourmet.  All drinks included except wine and spirits.  The wine prices compare to a cruise ship.  I had a decent bottle for $44.00.

Getting to and from the boat is often a challenge for someone with knee or mobility problems.  There are many steps where ever one goes so having my trusty cane was a good thing.

Dollars in very good condition are accepted everywhere and the hotels are now accepting Visa and MasterCard.  There are even some ATMs.

Except for the international airport in Yangon, the airports are very basic.

I was in the Seoul airport, Inchon, today and.....wow, what a lovely airport.  I think every high end designers in the world has a shop there. Korean Air from Yangon was a very basic flight in Business.  I am told that their overseas flights are great.

I  was very disappointed in the Orient Express Train...so unless this is a big dream and you love trains, I suggest you spend your money on something else.  

This is the final chapter.  I am on my way home.  It has been a great trip and I am happy to share my experiences if you plan to go to Myanmar.

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