Flipping through the first few pages of any guidebook, you’ll usually find some sort of list which explains all the reasons to visit a particular country: art, national parks, museums/monuments,
people, nightlife, traditions, food, etc. I found an exception. The top of page 28 of the Lonely Planet – Myanmar (Burma) reads something like this:
Don’t Visit Myanmar If…
If you don’t like to compromise on such things as food and hotel quality, and/or have a low tolerance for last-minute changes of plan or being denied conveniences such as guaranteed round-the-clock power, use of ATMs and credit cards, your mobile phone and the internet, then perhaps Myanmar isn’t for you.
Call me crazy, but I was intrigued rather than discouraged. A third world country whose government was determined to isolate its people from the outside world (more on this later)…what would it be like? What types of customs do the Burmese practice, what traditions do they honor? What do they think of their government, considered to be second only to Somalia as the most corrupt in the world? What do they eat & drink, and how? What do they wear? What is their day-to-day like? How would they react to me and how could we communicate? My list of questions and curiosities was endless, and I knew that the answers couldn’t be found without firsthand experience. I needed to see it for myself, so at that point I got my favorite travel buddies on board and booked our flights, unsure of what to expect…
…we returned last Sunday (Feb. 3rd) battered, bruised, exhausted, dehydrated (massive loss of bodily fluids, won’t go into details), and overwhelmed. But I truly believe that the most difficult travel is also the most rewarding; Myanmar was no exception. We took ourselves off the well-trodden, wide, smooth, paved SE Asia Tourist Trail and chose Myanmar’s rocky, narrow, dusty path with blind corners and obstacles around every turn. A very trying adventure, but we were greeted by a people and a way of life that in absolutely no way resembles anything from home (in Italy or the USA). And those experiences, those moments with a beautiful people, made it all worthwhile.
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