My Myanmar; Military, Monks, and Money

 My meandering thoughts of Myanmar the land of sunrises and sunsets, after 4 weeks in the country….

Yangon, 6th 7th (flew out @5.30 pm on the 7th)

UPDATE: I began writing this when I was in Yangon about to leave Myanmar, after getting distracted, by doing nothing in Chaing mai, then having a whirlwind journey through Laos, I’m returning to the post, to finish it as I cross the border into Cambodia, so please excuse both the delay in completing this, and the confusing past and present tenses.

 Feeling a little sad I think as I approach the end of my time in Myanmar, so much I have missed, such a huge and diverse country, one could spend months here, I feel like I will hopefully come back and check out what I’ve missed, I haven’t felt like this before, honestly I feel like I could spend more time in Vietnam, and Thailand but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much there.  Myanmar is different, although having said that though, the way the government runs tourism here is saddening, and It’s gonna get worse, as travel gets easier and more of the country opens further it, will get more expensive, and as more people arrive the taxes will rise.

I don’t know a great deal about the politics of Myanmar (the locals wont, or don’t want to talk about it), I did find out that the military is funding many of the head monks, and monastery’s.  The constitution in Myanmar currently stipulates that 25% of the parliament must be represented by military officials, therefore although the country is no longer run by the military, the military still hold onto a huge amount of power.  Furthermore, Buddhism is the country’s main, and some would try to argue only religion, I was told that men for an example, are not permitted to marry in Myanmar unless they have spent at least a small portion of time as a monk.  I felt like Buddhism in Myanmar was being used much like the majority of religions we are familiar with in the western world, as a tool to control the masses.  Hence why the military fund those with influence in the monastery’s, I can’t explain how strange it is to see a monk drive by in a brand-new car, with nice leathers seats, the aircon blasting, whilst texting on his smartphone…

Also, when trekking in Hsipaw in the north, we saw a lot of military activity, and asked our guide who informed us that there were villages that are supposedly at war with the government, or the more likely scenario, the government is at war with them, because of they are afraid they cannot make the hill tribes conform.  Our guide was from one of these villages, and said that neither they nor the Burmese people wanted to be involved in these conflicts and there were no disagreements or issues between themselves and Burmese, obviously and as usual no-one saw the point in the whole thing presumably except for the military/government (it’s a blurry line).

 Nevertheless, despite all of this, I certainly enjoyed my trip through Myanmar, it was both fantastic, and challenging, and I met some wonderful people, both other travellers and locals.  An excellent experience, as a human and a traveller, after Myanmar, travel in other parts south east Asia, seems comparatively easy.  The travellers I meet elsewhere are different though, there is no night life to speak of in most of Myanmar, maybe a little in Yangon, so the travellers who go to Myanmar are there for the culture and history, and therefore dare I say, tend to be the more educated type. 

On a final note, Myanmar did not by any means have the most amazing scenery, and when you did see good scenery, it was usually from the scariest bus ride you’ve ever been on, you know sheer drops, mountain ranges, roads barely wide enough for the bus, the odd dirt bit (so glad I wasn’t there in the wet season).  What did make Myanmar was the people, despite the recent history, despite everything frankly, they are a warm friendly beautiful people.

My daily spend in Myanmar came $37.60 AUD per day, Keep in mind that I used only Wi Fi, and pretty much didn’t drink for a month.



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