Thursday, 25 February 2016

Dear Myanmar 'Mingalaba'

‘This is Burma and it will be quite unlike any land you know about” 
Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East 1889

The last time I was in Burma was in 2007 on our Honeymoon. 
We won a trip to the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos in the school raffle.  
We weren’t married, but with twenty-two years together, 
we felt we deserved a honeymoon. 

Indein Village ruins at Inle Lake
A wedding in China was on the cards. 
And as we already had three children, it seemed totally appropriate 
in our back-to-front lives, to have the Honeymoon before the wedding. 

Fisherwomen at Ngapali Beach
Where to have a honeymoon was always going to be a tricky decision. 
We've had a fortunate life, full of international moves, exotic travels and adventures. 
Choosing somewhere new, exciting, gorgeous, and not too far away 
from our then Hong Kong home was proving tricky... 

A FREE honeymoon to where-ever, was the perfect solution for us. 

Destination decided. 

A live-in Helper, and Mr Au our trusty taxi driver 
made the logistics of leaving the kids during term time easier.

Bagan Temple
We crossed the Thai border into the grubby chaos of the Burmese town of Tachilek. 
You had to exit Thailand and then pass through the Myanmar Border Control.
I remember the glare of the Myanmar Government officials as our passports full of Chinese visa’s were scrutinised
Yes, I'm planning a wedding at the Great Wall!

Burmese wedding fans in Mandalay
We were warned not to venture too far off the beaten track. 
This is Opium country, renown for human trafficking.
Even today there are parts of Myanmar simply not freely open or safe for tourists. 
We did make it as far as visiting the long-necked Karen hill tribes
but we didn't stay long.

These were the months of the so-called Saffron Revolution 
where monks were marching in Yangon and Mandalay to show anti-government dissent. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, Leader of the National League for Democracy was under house arrest. She had previously called for an International tourist boycott, arguing tourists were putting money directly into the hands of the regime. 

We crossed, ticked another place off our 'countries we have visited' list, and quite frankly beetled back to Thailand, it was a relief to get back to our gorgeous Chang Rai hotel.

Gosh, how time flies, we are now living on another continent and Myanmar is emerging as a booming tourist hot spot. The land of jade and dust has quietly emerged as our destination of choice for a family holiday, rather than somewhere we go to because we won the trip in a raffle!

A lot has changed in Myanmar in the past nine years. Now is not a bad time to go. If you want adventure without being a total pioneer, then get in quick. The country is slowly emerging from decades of harsh military rule, and you will find the Burmese offering you a warm 'mingalaba - blessings upon you' welcome. They are a friendly nation, despite their history.

It is not a cheap destination but choose your travel wisely and you will be supporting local Burmese companies, not the Government cronies.

Myanmar is  fast learning how to deal with tourists needs. Our travel, with the help of a local Yangon Travel agency, went without a hitch, the hotels were lovely, even the things we expected to be tricky, like finding ATM's to withdraw money, was easier than we expected.  

Yet there is still (just about) an undiscovered charm... 

Mingalaba Myanmar! We hope to return again soon. 

Linking with Our World Tuesday

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