When folks back home, i.e., family and friends who don’t live abroad or who aren’t into traveling the way I am, which isn’t an insult by any means, heard that I was planning on traveling to Myanmar/Burma in 2009, they reacted with surprise, shock, and uncertainty, and a few even queried, “Where is that?” I must have been off my rocker, some felt. “Aren’t you worried about the country’s stability… or lack there of?” others wondered. “Isn’t it dangerous? What if you get hurt?”
My response, as always, was something akin to, “Well, what if I get hurt crossing the street at home? Should that stop me from crossing the street in the first place?” I felt that I could have gotten in just as much trouble if I were to have travelled into certain neighborhood’s in America’s major urban areas. No, that doesn’t mean I should decide to saunter solo down West Lake Street in Chicago at night any time soon, but I just don’t think I need to worry so much when traveling abroad–especially because so much of what we hear is based on the often-inaccurate news we receive from the media. What we hear on CNN or BBC shouldn’t guide our travel decisions nor create our impressions of a place, and I often use an example of what some Germans said about America a decade or so ago as an example of how this works.
Years ago, some German tourists were, unfortunately, killed in Florida during a carjacking. The response by many in Germany, as I was told when I lived there for two years, was to shun America as a travel destination. I simply didn’t believe the response. There is so much to the USA, and it is such an immense, varied land, that one shouldn’t categorize the entire nation as unsafe. Naturally, some of the blame should be placed on the media, for I am certain that after the killings, the front page of every newspaper in Deutschland was plastered with news of how dangerous America was. With that said, much of what we have seen and heard in the media has long made Myanmar one of those destinations that should be taken off any sensible traveler’s itinerary. Nowadays, though the political, economic, and social landscape of the nation has changed much over the last few years, it still conjures up many negative images in the minds of many.
Having traveled far and wide in Asia already, having relished experiences in Sri Lanka, Laos, Indonesia and India, theretofore, I was ready for a another off-the-battered-and-overly-worn traveler’s path. In 2009, getting to Myanmar was the best choice for me. Though I could fill pages with details about traveling in the country for ten days, I leave my impressions below simply in my photographs. Moreover, there are additional images from my second visit there early in 2012, when I went to Yangon for a week to scope out the scene because we had been offered contracts to work at an international school in the city. Even after a mere three years since my first journey there, much had changed by 2012, with many restorations of buildings, roadways, and tourist sites taking place. Unfortunately (in many ways), we did not relocate to Myanmar, yet I am willing to one day, indeed.
As far as traveling to Burma goes, go. Before too many changes take place, go. Just go. You won’t regret it–unless, however, you get broadsided by a car while crossing the street there, for you could simply have gotten hit by a car in your home city instead!