I was so disgusted with Simon Richmonds alleged updated 2014 that I decided this quick fit bodge 24 hr network free guide to Burma in response, He didn’t even have the decency to respond to my request that he possibly include an A4 sheet update, within the LP guide on sale but obviously he’s been paid and Lonely planet are more interested in money, than keeping it’s faithful readers updated or enlightened to the latest changes in Myanmar / Burma.
Their ongoing destruction of thorntree forum, once the finest forum on line for travellers in St East Asia, now blocking and removing posters and redirecting to their own money information, shows their agenda the following basics will help you make informed choices . I will update once I have established cheap and cheerful basics. Hope it helps, please email me anything you feel might make it more useful
Myanmar the Golden Land a 2009 synopsis
Correct me where I am wrong please! My Introduction to Myanmar where for years UN and Burma campaign berated us for going, yet their representatives were quite happy to go visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but not us, I always said travel with Passion not politics.
If you want human rights issues then there were just as many in the rest of Asia to warrant not going . I was in Inle when the army went in to destroy the Karen. Also in allotted tourist areas we were witness to the deprivation and suffering of locals, who appreciated the contribution however small to their local economy, whilst the generals stashed away the countries riches in agriculture and oil and gas plus minerals.
I wrote this in 2009 prior to the elections It will help give a basic insight to the recent history prior to the elections that led to the “New democracy “ in 2010. The human rights issues now in Myanmar/Burma are now far worse yet now the West wants in on the action.
Not just golden because of a plethora of Bhuddas, covered in Gold leaf or Golden temples, but a land rich in Golden resources, Oil, Gas, Gems, Minerals, Teak, Agriculture and of course drugs. So rich yet so poor, as it’s residents are left, eating dust that covers the sides of the roads typical of the poor infrastructure, maintained by kids breaking rocks at the roadside for a pittance and drums of pitch heated over fires as the mainstay of maintenance.
They eat too, lead poisoning at the roadside, as antiquated 40 yr old cars that weren’t designed for a lead free existence plunder the very air these gentle honest and warm hearted people breathe daily. The poverty and infrastructure truly reflects the misappropriation of the country’s resources in corruption and fat bellied egos of its top leaders Generals TanShwe, Maung A and Thein Sein.
If the Generals propaganda is to be believed, all the people are united with Tatmadaw (the military government) in the best interests of the economy that has allegedly been ruined by the UN and Americas blockade. On the back page of every copy of ‘New Light Burma’, it quotes “Wipe out those inciting unrest and violence” as the peoples desire.
Maybe one day they will, as Generals Tan shwe, Maung A and Thein Sein, being the chief protagonists in the said violence finally receive their comeuppance, following in the heels of their mentors ie Ne Wynn, when in 1988 tens of thousands were indiscriminately killed for wanting a more just system of government. This followed by the razing of the Karen homes and lands East of Inle in 2001, or the students massacre orchestrated by Brigadier Myint Maung at Tan Shwe’s behest in 2003, where thousands were massacred and women raped by Tamadaw, when the assassination attempt of Aung San Suu Kye and NLD leader V Tin oo went awry. Soon after, they disposed of Kyn Nhunt, as the 3rd General, now replaced by General Thein Sein.
Still today they treat the countries wealth as their own personal pocket money and stash their fraudulent (sorry) ‘Ill gotten’ gains abroad in Singapore and Dubai as the countries reward to them for their contribution to the Nations stability and success. Now, in 2009/2010, America has finally declared, that the UN declaration isolating Burma (Myanmar,) has not worked. The fact that America’s recession desperately needs new markets has nothing to do with the decision Ha! Ha!
The isolation has not affected the generals one iota, but has indeed played into their hands as an excuse for the Generals, in that far from being caused by their selfish indolence and greed, by using the countries assets as if their own. The responsibility for the countries problems rests firmly on the shoulders of the USA and the UN in their inappropriate (according to the Generals,) support of Daw (Madam) Aung San Suu Kyi.
Recently General Tan Shwe’s Govt financially bailed out Bagan Air and is now in the process of extending Ngapalis Thandwe airport, to enable it to arrange charter flights and tours for rich tourists, direct from outside Myanmar.
Although banned from International routes Bagan Air already do scheduled flights to Singapore and Laos as shopping trips for Tan Shwe’s wife and daughter. General Tan Shwe on a recent official visit to Sri Lanka gave Two white elephants (appropriate name) as a gift to a Sri lankan temple at the same time as allowing the Sri Lankans to purchase direct from Myanmar it’s beloved Dahlbat (Lentils,) which it formerly had to buy through a second country to avoid sanctions.
In Monwya the generals have built a 43 story high concrete tower block Bhudda and in Moulmein the largest reclining Bhudda in the World is being constructed in order to earn Brownie points for the Generals, lest their next reincarnation be that of Pigs due to their excesses in this life, as the blood of those massacred by these despots cries out from the grave. Excuse me please from being cynical and ill informed but when one dies as a Bhuddist on the road to Nirvahna who decides your reincarnate status, apart from oneself? Siddartha Guatama must be turning in Nirvhana as we speak.
As one travels around Myanmar, Tatmadaw or the military Government is not a name mentioned with respect, as it is more synonymous with oppression and persecution, with butchery and slaughter than actually caring about the people it rules over. Before, many would privately voice their opinions against the regime. I say privately because as with the former East German Stasi. (see film “lives of others about the Stasi) but Myanmar is far crueller.
Neighbours are encouraged and indeed paid, to report on neighbours and friends. This time all who spoke to me said they have had enough, and fear for the country if the Generals do not make positive steps towards change and not the innuendos and empty words they have come to expect from a Government that if it was to be truly democratic would arrest the present leaders and their minions to answer to charges of murder and genocide.
One woman, who’s husband was interrogated and imprisoned in the infamous Insein (INSANE) prison by the regime, is said to have remarked to a western journalist “Do you want to know what he was arrested for?” Yes I would, responded the journalist” “So would he” she said The only comfort it brings to the people is that “Those who rule by fear also live in fear”
History is filled with the outcome of such despots remember Ceausescu of Romania and his subsequent trial. This year 2010 brings with it elections proposed by the Burmese govt as its road map to Democracy, but if it’s present roads are anything to go by, it will be a very long and even dustier road.
That was back in 2009
I again Revisited 2010 during the farcical election time, so here we are again, back in my favourite Myanmar. Prices are up and the $ is low with new govt banks of exchange ready to cash in on your $’s at a better rate than the street. Hotel prices are also up $4 last year royal B&B to $8 and in Inle most wanted kyat not $’s.
After last years dodgy elections I was cynical, however things are moving forward, gas /petrol stations are appearing all over the place and some restrictions are being lifted ie no longer does everyone have to get off the buses to register their id cards at checkpoints.
The newspapers are full of Daw Aung San Suu kyi with pictures of her meeting various officials to give the inference that she is being groomed for head of state in the near foreseeable future. Her talks with prime minister Thein Sein is indicative of compromise, especially as the old despots want to retire in peace, safe with their corruptly obtained loot and booty, (countries assets) without being shipped to their graves by some interfering UN judicial crimes against humanity tribunal.
How much she has compromised her position we shall not know till after the event. Many nations including America want to do business before China & India takes it all, see my picture of the new Chinese bridge over the Irrawaddy at Pokkokok, however one still sees young kids and women building and repairing the roads, but will be too late in coming for the small 9 yr old girl who smiles all day long with big eyes at rich tourists who push her aside and her offer of polished stone necklaces at $ one a time after watching her ever positive smile and perfect English, I discovered she makes around $0.30 cents for each one she sells, but that money goes straight to her teacher for books paper and pencils. NO FREE SCHOOLING for this bright eyed and intelligent student, who should really have a sparkling university place to match her demeanour. Her aspirations yet, see her reaching the dizzy heights of a tour guide, yet her intellect and quickness reveals maybe she should be an Engineer.
Such is the true wasted resources of this rich country who’s natural resources could make the difference in Health care and education had they not been pilfered by the corrupt generals and their cohorts. Or will the changes to “Democracy” improve the lives of the Mandalay rickshaw driver and his expectations of $2-4 a day pushing his antiquated bike around piled high with heavy loads. Or the mobo driver in Kalow I am friends with who earns between $4 &$6 a day a vast improvement on the $30 a month he used to earn working long hours in the hotel as receptionists and general dogs body. With a wife and small baby to support he needs every $ he can muster.
I had intended to skip the balloon festival this year 2012 for a new destination up the chindwit to Kalewa but first the bridge near pokkokok was down with loss of 250 lives, then when I went to get the bus to Kalewa as permit restrictions had now been lifted, but MTT had not informed the bus station that sanctions had been lifted. I was told to go to Monwya THEN I was told to take the ferry fast boat, which was way beyond my financial expectations so I carried onto Bagan and back to Mandalay for the overnight bus to Inle which was now packed with backpackers /flash packers and organises tour groups.
Madam Teakwood where I like to stay in the Cellar HA Ha! Was allegedly full so I was disconcerted when an AMERICAN LATER BOOKED MY ROOM FOR $14 INSTEAD OF THE $7 THAT WOULD BE EXPECTED OF ME
Never mind Gypsy Hotel was accommodating and friendly at $5 B&B and the balloon festival once again caught me videoing close at hand a couple of disasters and I was hit by about 4 rockets AND ALSO ONE SET MY TROUSERS AFIRE BUT WAS EXTINGUISHED BY A BURMESE GUY NEXT TO ME SO I CARRIED ON FILMING HA!HA! Mrs Tun next to Smiling moon should also be complemented on helping us budget travellers to get there by pickup, although a loud selfish brazillian guy abused her verbally and castigated her when she ordered on his behalf another pick up that did not appear the minute that he demanded it so that he transferred to a smiling moons pick up taking everyone else with him, the despicable excuse for A HUMAN BEING MADE no apologies for his despicable behaviour, even when pointed out and I have now posted his photo on my flickr photos.
I miss my fried egg and toast breakfasts in Myanmar also the badaba (pancakes) and ley peye (black strong tea with sweetened condensed milk) found at the tea shoppes the green tea on the tables is complementary
This year has also seen a change in the type of tourist entering Myanmar. Before it was politically informed backpackers and travellers, most open and good company, sadly this year they have been outnumbered by Flash packers (monied young tourist travellers) on an extension of their usual haunts in SEA as Burma opens up with UN and US approval; also government organised groups that do not tend to mix with the likes of those who made Myanmar popular over the last decade despite demands by Burma campaign not to visit, for their own political agenda.
I have always said that travel is not political but one can instil, even better, maintain an awareness of the plight of Burma and its people by travelling there independently, sadly many of the so called flash packers are not interested in this aspect of travel as noted by our Brazillian friend. Another reason for increased prices is the new wave of tour operators from the West and Oz etc. whereas before they were obligated to stop at Govt owned Hotels they now prebook their groups in the cheaper backpacker Hotels/guest houses.
My friends in Taungyyi who always invite me into their humble 2 roomed shacks for lunch and ruby winner in Kalow who treated me to dinner twice, she saw how starved I looked Ha! Ha! Also for her positive approach, I have never heard her speak negative of anyone, she now runs a small but very helpful tourist agency in her sisters shop opposite the Pineland restaurant. Even those rogues Harry Singh and his family in Kalow, who abuse the privilege they have of being in lonely planet to cheat and lie she would not say a negative word about.
Finally met up with annelliese and my new Russian friend who shared the 6,000kyat taxi to the airport I had to go once again into the gents toilet (Overstay section) where he was prepared to overlook the $3 Paperwork For just the $3 overstay when I only had $2 singles on me outside sitting on floor was my Russian friend who had been given $3 by Annaliese for the taxi ride and now gave me $1 for my overstay (what a coincidence she was just outside when she was supposed to be in arrivals waiting for her friend, before heading off to Bagan on an overnight bus, (Coincidence or WOT!) psalm 32:8
I have cried many tears for my My o mar yet my faith in human nature is always restored by those who try and do good and improve the lot of those dust ridden lives, the generals have disregarded for far too long. The road to democracy is full of good intentions, I also thank fellow travellers, for their company and good humour. I always thought travel more about those you meet on life’s highway than the places we visit, “Life is the Journey not the destination” also the kindness of strangers we meet on the way is what makes us human, sadly lacking in many even those travelling IN TODAYS MEISTIC WORLD.
I hope my Cheapskates guide to Myanmar / Burma will be useful and updated to show new areas the government has opened up to tourists by local transport without expensive permits guide and drivers And now its 2014 what changes . As always I will just mark out the cheap and clean Gh’s that are my favourite with maybe some alternatives as many new guest houses are springing up that may bring a balanced realistic prices to rooms which now are often more than $20 when before one could get B&B ensuite for $3-$7 I hope you will enjoy Myanmar and its people as much as I do and hope the information following is useful to you.