Myanmar is a very interesting place and without doubt it will change dramatically in the next few years. Although it has only recently opened up to tourists and lacks the infrastructure to cope with large numbers of tour groups, many areas of the country have already been inundated with foreigners. Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake already have those annoying touts that follow you around hawking every piece of garbage you can imagine and charging 500-1000 Kyat (800Kyat = US$1) to take a photo. On the flip side, this phenomenon seems to have skipped Yangon where the locals are happy to sit and chat. In some cases in Yangon I have had people approach me and ask me to take their pictures without a single thought about monetary exchange.

So Myanmar is definitely a country on the brink of major change. In a weeks time they have a by-election which will be contested by Aung San Suu Kyi who by all accounts is an incredible woman. I’ve chatted with old men on the streets, tour guides, monks and just your average person and it seems that the whole country is behind the woman that they call “The Lady.”

It would be wrong to think that change is going to be immediate for April 1st is only a by-election but it seems that Aung San Suu Kyi will indeed take her place in parliament for the first time. I, for one, would be extremely surprised if she doesnt. Everyone I have spoken to says that she has made no election promises, all she has said is that she will do what she can and that bearing in mind her background they believe she will do the best that she can for Myanmar.

My concern about this very brave woman is that she will share the same fate as her father. Yesterday we drove past her home near the Lake in Yangon, just down the road from the US Embassy. Whilst the US Embassy had high walls, was secure and well guarded,  Aung San Suu Kyi’s home seemed to have no security. I was told that the only time her home was guarded was when she was under house arrest. In any case, I hope I am wrong and that she gets the chance to make the changes that the people here so desperately want.

Religious Social Services?

I’ll preface this by saying that I have always been skeptical about any organised religion…

As a Buddhist, boys and men are expected to join the monastery twice in their life time. As a monk or a novice you are provided with meals, a roof over your head, clothing, education etc. It seems to me that many people here join the monastery because they are too poor to care for themselves. Of course there is no social services to provide anything for free but if you are willing to don an orange or red robe, you can have the basics provided. You are free to leave the monastery whenever you like so you arent exactly committed to anything.

Maybe I have simplified it all a little too much… but just saying…

Temple Fatigue

Over the last few weeks I have seen more temples and stupas than most people will see in a lifetime. I have to admit to being totally templed out. I have seem sitting buddhas, reclining buddhas, standing buddhas. I’m now officially taking a week off from seeing anything of any religious significance.

Too many temples!

Too many temples!


I leave Myanmar on Monday to head to Koh Samui in Thailand for a bit of a break from travelling. I’m planning 4 days of doing nothing before heading back to Bangkok and subsequently into Bhutan for the Paro Festival. Bhutan will be country number 99 in my efforts to hit the hundred…