Burma: a welcome change of pace

5 days without internet is the longest we’ve gone in a quite a while, and although we’re certainly remiss not being able to post more often for you all, being forced to unplug has been one of the many pleasant surprises of Burma.

We spent our first 2 days in Burma in Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon. Yangon is truly like no city I have ever seen before. Many of the British colonial era buildings in the city are still standing, most of which have undergone virtually no restoration and often seem to
stand moldy and crumbling as modern ruins. However, it’s clear that within the next year or two, this won’t be the case. We’ve heard that investment, trade, and development has skyrocketed tremendously in just the last few months, with trade restrictions from the US and elsewhere being lifted. I’m sure we arrived here just in the nick of time to see one of the last (if not the last) large, relatively stable, and resource rich country not completely tied into modern western trade, technology and culture.

The highlight of our two quick days in Yangoon was sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda, a giant gold clad Buddhist Stupa capped with a golden Hti (crown) encrusted with thousands of precious stones and topped with a 76 carat diamond (or so we’re told, it was far too high to actually see). We also walked past countless colonial era buildings, sampled highlights of the local fare, and even visited the Yangon synagogue which served a Jewish community of several hundred at the turn of the 20th century, but now is only just a tourist attraction taken care of by one of the dozen or so Jews who have chosen to stay in Burma.

In addition to the multitude of regional ethnic Burmese groups, Burma is home to a large Indian population, most of whom came over as workers or traders during the British colonial period, and Burmese food is greatly influenced by southern Indian cuisine. After 5 weeks of soupy spicy food in China, we’ve been ecstatically chowing down on Burma’s rich and mild curries and chewy chapati breads since we arrived. Indian-style sweet and milky tea is also the centerpiece of Burmese social culture, and the streets are lined with small tea shops full of men sitting at knee-high tables drinking and chatting.

We’re currently at Inle Lake, a magnificently scenic landscape of fishermen in dug-out canoes, water villages of houses on bamboo stilts, and endless acres of tomato farms grown floating on beds of marsh. We took a boat tour of the lake today, and tomorrow will be biking around the edge of the lake to see some local temple ruins.

We’re eager to post all of the beautiful photos we’ve taken of this truly unique country, but don’t have our fingers crossed for fast enough internet any time too soon unfortunately, so stay tuned!