Stop the world, we want to get off…

2 05 2011

It’s official. The Gang’s romance with Burma (Myanmar) has blown into a fully fledged love affair. We’d live there if we could – it’s totally divine.

Forget the argy-bargy about repressive, corrupt military regimes – let’s be realistic. The Bush and Cheney administration, and indeed most of the (teetering on bankruptcy) ‘democracies’ of the West (let alone all those butchering dictatorships in the Middle-East and Africa and the criminal oligarchies of Eastern Europe) make the Junta look like the fairy godmother when it comes to disenfranchising the populace.

Paternalism might be out of fashion elsewhere but the socio-political atrocities in Myanmar are low on the richter scale compared to the poverty and dysfunction in smug ‘enlightened’ societies everywhere else. Keep first-world greed and exploitation out of Burma for godsake,  that’s our advice. Don’t let those bastard industrialists get their shite covered boots through the door.

We’re kind of over everybody expressing disapproval and concern re the poverty there. Stop for one moment and have a cold sober look in your own back-yard; it won’t be pretty. And if you think that the gap between the haves and have-nots isn’t every bit as stark (and arguably worse) in ‘advanced’ countries, then you’re having a lend of yourselves.

It’s the Buddhist factor, it goes without saying, that makes the difference in Myanmar. The  generosity of spirit and the love and commitment to family and community is genuine. Happiness is palpable. Even in hardship dignity and civility prevails. And they’re not sucked into the ghastly ‘keeping up appearances’ propaganda that drives the global market. Hallelulia. Not that they’re not amazingly enterprising – just that they’re not inordinantly greedy. Or moronic wanna-beez.

Too simplistic? Of course it is. But Burma retains what we all crave: the culture remains intact and unsullied; crime is low; the streets are safe (yes, it’s almost akin to Johnny Howard’s dream of a return to the nostalgic 50’s…); handcrafts rule, valued and respected; food is plentiful, fresh and affordable. If government control manages to keep generic global imperialism at bay, then it’s a bloody good thing.

Anyway, enough of the soapbox. Suffice to say the place isn’t overrun by tourism…yet. The locals want it, but don’t fully realise the awful calamity that will inevitably follow. Foreign developers are circling like sharks. Can the Burmese control them? Oh god, we hope so.

If they can maintain the present flavour – overwhelmingly Burmese, backdropped by the colonial past – then all might not be lost. The key will be  managing to keep a firm grip on that upper hand. The greatest inequity comes in the form of American sanctions, which hurt everybody but the Junta they’re purportedly put in place to pressure. Ah well, the more things change the more they stay the same, eh.

Meanwhile, the Poo had an absolute cracker of a time…

It was the most wonderful trip; a fabulous week in Yangon (Rangoon), followed by a heart-stoppingly delightful time at Inle Lake (for the New Year/Water Festival), and a thoroughly indulgent wind-up back in Yangon before heading home.

Romancing Rangoon here. (Staying at the Grand Mee Ya Hta, Yangon)

Inle Princess (perfect) Resort here. (Staying at the Inle Princess Resort, Inle Lake)

Out and about on Inle Lake here.

Last days, heaven on earth here. (Staying at the Governor’s Residence, Yangon)

Tough titty, eh?

Happy New Year, y’all.

Next stop: Bagan…

14 01 2011

The Gang flew to Bagan to join The Road to Mandalay, the gorgey old 1960’s German cruiser that’s been lovingly refurbished by Orient Express, and is currently managed by…Sammy Jo. Darlings, too good!!

After a quick G&T and a scrumptious lunch…

…we were off on a round of novitiate ceremonies, pagodas…

…markets, and more kid spotting than you can poke a teak stick at.

Such was our variant entertainment for the next day or so before setting sail for Mandalay.

More snaps here.

First Stop: Rangoon…

11 01 2011

We won’t give a blow by blow – just post a heap of snaps, in vague order,  for you to surf if you fancy. Obviously the biggest drawcard in Rangoon was the Schwezigon Pagoda, which was nothing short of…yes, Nige…truly awesome. Even the streetlights were luscious…

…and some of the sights unbelievably bizarre…

We spent three nights, including Xmas, with Iain (when he wasn’t working) before joining the Road to Mandalay, and had a fabulous time touring Rangoon with the guide (Khin) and driver organised by Sammy Jo.

And it was all surprisingly relaxed, bar the heavy restrictions on any photography of an even vaguely political nature  (army or police, yadda, yadda.) People talked openly and glowingly of the Lady – and the first thing we did was drive by her house (no snaps, obviously.) 

From the outset we were swinging  from the sublime…

…to the wonderfully ridiculous…

…and the undeniably cute…

It was all fantastically exotic and intriguing and the Burmese people are amazingly sweet and gracious. And extraordinarily enterprising.

First batch of snaps here.