Yangon Airways: “We’ll get you where you are going,” eventually. Our short flight to Yangon has been extended by returning north to Mandalay, then “Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to Heho we go” to the southeast, before flying southwest to Yangon, Rangoon for those who remember this country as Burma. Like many cities, its colonial name was replaced with its traditional name. (more…)
Leaving bumper to bumper traffic, we drive northeast toward Bago. First stop is Taukkyan War Cemetery near Htauk Kyan. This is a British Commonwealth cemetery for Allied soldiers who died in battle fighting the Japanese in Burma during the Second World War. The pillars of Rangoon Memorial are etched with names of 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died but have no known grave. The cemetery contains graves for 6,374 soldiers who died in World War II, and 52 soldiers who died in Burma during the First World War. There are 867 graves for the “unknown soldier.” (more…)
A bumpy but scenic bus ride on Burmese roads takes me through landscape characterized by prickly bushes and stunted trees, simple villages and poor roads. Ox-carts carry wood, water tanks and families. Most farms still use oxen to plow fields. First stop is a Palm Tree farm where a man scurries up a very tall palm tree to get drippings for his pots below. Palm produces alcohol, palm oil, palm sugar, baskets and ornaments from fronds. A 25-year-old ox grinds peanut paste which tourists feed back to him in a nice symbiotic relationship.
The archaeologically rich city of Bagan sits on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River. What greets me upon debarkation from our boat is a loudspeaker blasting Rod Stewart singing “Young Turks” and thousands of ruins. Here is a region to compete with Angkor Wat; there are 4446 sandstone and terra cotta pagodas and temples dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. I can only hope we do not attempt to see them all. (more…)
It’s Burma or bust! Since 1962, when a coup d’état brought one of the world’s most repressive regimes into power, Myanmar has been isolated from outside influences. It became one of the 10 poorest countries in the world and embroiled in dissension, accusations of genocide and child slavery, bloody suppression, dictators, drug warlords, and rebel ethnic friction. A British colony until 1948, in 1989 Burma returned to its traditional name of Myanmar (“fast and tough”) because the ruling council thought Burma was “too Burmese.” To keep iron-fisted control of the country, the ruling junta closed its borders to all but the opium trade and illegal logging. Myanmar became one of the least westernized countries in the world. (more…)