Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Amazing Myanmar

Pool - Governor's Residence
Along the river to Mrauk U
Sunset on the river

Temple with 80,000+ Buddhas
Princess Resort
She makes 80+fans a day

Sunrise breakfast
Carrying everything down the hill

Chef Nu
John and Thin Thin
Chef John cooking prawns

Chin village house
Elderly Chin lady
Chin students singing for us

Amazing Resort Ngapali
Our beach with all our friends
International School in Yangon

Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, is just a short $50 flight from Bangkok and a fascinating tourist destination. Yangon lost many trees during the cyclone in September but it is still a city of trees. A gong announced our arrival at the Governor’s Residence, a beautiful hotel with traditional teak verandas, a pool and gardens. It is one of our favorite hotels. From Yangon we flew one hour to Sitwee on the Bay of Bengal in the Rakhine State where we boarded a classic teak boat for the 6-hour ride up the river to the new Princess Mrauk Oo Resort. The scenes along the river were mesmerizing and the sun set beautiful. Other than three boatmen, a cook and two waitstaff we were the only people on the boat so service was outstanding. The Mrauk Oo Princess Resort is new but built in typical Rakhine style. We toured the ruins of Mrauk Oo, an important Buddhist site, which had its golden days in the 16th and 17th centuries. One morning we got up before dawn, climbed a temple hill, where the hotel staff had breakfast waiting. Watching the sun come up and the mist rise up out of the hills was mystical.
Another day we hopped into a 1940s Willys Jeep, the most common motor vehicle, other than the motor bike, and bounced along to a jetty where we took a 3-hour boat ride to a Chin Village. The older village women have heavily tattooed faces. They say it was to prevent them from being kidnapped. Needless to say the practice has been discontinued. It was a neat village of thatch and bamboo houses on stilts and quiet as the men were off harvesting bamboo and the children were in school. We stopped by the one-room school where one of the subjects is English.
While much has been written about the government of Myanmar and very little of a positive nature, it is a wonderful tourist destination. The government has little to do with tourism and we organize our travel locally so the money goes directly to the people. As Western tourists who are free to travel I feel we show the positive side of an open society. Because Myanmar has remained isolated the people have retained much of their culture. Both men and women still commonly wear the longyi, the traditional wraparound skirt. A light yellow powder called thanaka is still used on their face to protect it from the sun and even as a form of makeup. Myanmar has no fast food chains. In fact they joke that they do have fast food because all Myanmar cooking is fast. There are many fascinating places to visit. Last year we visited Bagan, Mandalay, Lake Inle, Kalaw, and Ngapali Beach. The country is extremely safe and the people are very welcoming. The only problem we encountered was with the Internet. The government has blocked Yahoo, Hot Mail, and many other sites.
Last year we loved Amazing Resort Ngapali Beach located on the Bay of Bengal so we included it on this year’s trip, too. The sea is warm, the sand is soft, and the long sweeping is beach virtually deserted. Our room had a large balcony with a sea view and came with inner tubes for playing in the waves. John and I decided five days is not enough so Ngapali Beach is on next year’s schedule – for a week or more.