Burma (Myanmar)

Submitted by derms on Wed, 19/01/2005 - 8:48am.

In the immortal words of Mr. Peterman (from Sienfeld) - "It may be Myanmar to you, but it'll always be Burma to me.". That's exactly how some countries, including the United States, feel about Burma (or is that Myanmar?). According to wikipedia, in 1989 the ruling millitary government renamed the state from the ""Union of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar". Opponents of the regime decided not to recognise the name change, which is what leads to the confusion over the name.

Anyway, a day pass can be granted into Myanmar at the Three Pagodas Pass for $10 US, an opportunity Lotte and I decided to take. We spent our day in Burma travelling around the local boarder town and the Temples/Pagodas around there. It was extremely interesting. Although right next to the Thai border, it is completely different. There are no real roads to speak of - the housing is extremly run down, boardering on a "shanty town" at times, and some of thier technolgy seems to date back to the 1950's (such as the gambling machines). Many buildings display pictures of the military leader, no doubt to appease the regime. The people in the town all seemed to wear what looked like brown mud on their face - apparently it protects them from evil spirits. Also, it is illegal to bring any video camera's into Burma, but I decided to chance it and bring mine in.

Some of the temples we saw were amazing. We saw a massive row of stone monks - a few hundred in total. Our most interesting experience was with a group of monks that our guide brought us to. We spent quite a while conversing with them. None of them had seen a digital camera before. It was quite amusing to see this old monk using the digital camera - he couldn't believe it. He was like a little kid playing with a new toy. When I showed him a movie of stampeding pigs (taken at the Tiger Temple), he absolutely lost it. We spent the rest of the time making small talk, covering topics such as the size of currencies denominations. The local currency only contains notes and when we showed one of the monks the Australian 50c piece, he thought it was a pendant. When we left the monks, they gave us sooo much food (which we tried to refuse) that my backpack was almost overflowing.

While walking around the local markets, a group of children followed us around trying to sell us these plants for 50 baht ($1.70 AUD) for which we had no use. It didn't matter how many times we said no, they just kept following us around. We gave them all the food the monks gave us. This kept them quiet for a while, but once they finished the food, they came back. It was pretty funny.

Our guide then took us to the local bar (I think there is only one in the town) were we sampled the local larger - Dagon - which was actually really nice (and potent to boot!). Our guide later told us that he was a bit uncomfortable in there (because his mother wouldn't approve of him being there). Anyway, we left Burma and headed back to our hotel in Sangkhlauri.

( categories: Myanmar )