Since my last post on Myanmar focused a lot more on the logistics and practical info, I wanted to follow up with one that talks more about the highlights of my trip: what touched me, the people, what I felt and saw, just in case you were not yet convinced about why you should visit Myanmar.
Burma is a land ignored by many, but from which we could all learn so much. I wish you could have been in my eyes to see it all, but I’ll do my best to take you there.
I think that one of the things that first hit me is that you can truly notice that Myanmar was a closed country for many many years, because it is still very behind and ‘undeveloped’ in so many ways. In Yangon, the streets are chaos: motorbikes, tuk tuks, bikes, fruit vendors along the streets, smelly food markets.. I don’t think I saw any supermarkets, locals truly seemed to just buy their groceries on the streets: fish, dried and ‘fresh’ meat (help), veggies, fruit..
Myanmar actually reminded me a lot of several places I’ve been to: the poverty and smells of India, the street vendors and villages along the river brought me back to Vietnam, and the temples in the jungle reminded me of Cambodia. It was funny to kind of live Myanmar as an eclectic mix of those 3 places, yet with it’s own character.
I think what touched me the most was the people’s kindness and sincere happiness. It just proved to me that money does not buy happiness or serenity and that those who have less give more. The locals always had this huge smile on their face, they were friendly to us foreigners and made great efforts to try to communicate with us in their two strung words of English. (Yes, language is quite a barrier sometimes!)
We had a Buddhist monk who didn’t speak a word of English invite us into his monastery in the middle of nowhere for lunch; his laughter was contagious and we communicated purely with gestures. We had people who had put in a great deal of effort to help us refuse to accept money because they said that would not be honourable, they were just helping out some girls in need. We even saw people living with nothing waving frantically as we drove by and coming to hug us rather than look at us in a spiteful manner as they would in the West for being so lucky.
I guess this is also due to the fact that Myanmar only recently opened up its borders to tourism, so locals don’t just see us as walking money banks as they do in so many other Asian countries. You don’t get that feeling of constantly being ripped off or taken for a ride, nor that they see you as a God just because you’re white (as they often do in India); instead they see us as equals, human to human.
I swear, the humanity, positivity and kindness there are so touching, I wish there were more people like this in the world, it would be a much better place. I also truly hope that all this doesn’t change with the mass influx of tourists.. but I have a feeling it will which deeply saddens me.
But for now, it’s there and beautiful as ever! Here is some more motivation: