Port Number 5. Myanmar. Myanmar, or Burma as it was called, was absolutely amazing! I arrived at Yangon Port and took a 45 minute bus ride into the city. Rangoon city was unlike any of the previous ports and to my surprise, Hong Kong now had competition for my favorite city on the itinerary.
The first night I stayed at the Traders Hotel and ate dinner. I hit the sack early as my intention was to be awake before sunrise. At 6 o’clock in the morning I got in the back of a pick-up truck covered by a tarp, and sat in the rain for nearly two hours to get to Inle Lake. Inle Lake, a village of floating gardens, floating temples, floating monestaries, floating houses and floating stores, is situated two hours inland from any major city. On the drive to Inle Lake our group was followed by the Military Junta on motorcycles with rifles slung behind their backs. Never before had I felt that I was a threat to anyone, however, I was starting to see that the Burmese government was skeptical of our intentions. My intentions were only to experience the Burmese culture.
Before each port we were briefed on the culture, language and political situations of each country and during the Myanmar Pre-port we were told that their government was a strict dictatorship in which the Burmese were extreme suppressed and stripped of what John Locke would argue to be Natural Rights. We were also told that we should not try to converse with the Burmese about their government because we would not only be risk. The citizens of Burma are not allowed to travel outside of the borders, not allowed to make phone calls to the United States and definitely not allowed to discuss politics. This was a hard concept for me to grasp. As an American I am given rights that are often taken for granted. I can speak my mind, assemble in protest, choose my religion, protect myself with a firearm and travel wherever my “insatiable case of wanderlust” may lead me.
To get back to my entry, I hopped out of the truck-bed and wiped a cakey layer of orange dirt from my face and grabbed a just-as-dirty taxi. The Taxi driver drove to the floating village and so conveniently told us that he also owned a boat we could tour in. As we got to the main town, the man informed me that they had just had a monsoon and had a downpour of the most rain on record in the last fifty years. As I hopped out of the taxi and found the drowning hotel, I looked down and murky orange water came up to my knees. Well, we checked in to the hotel and being as there were no banks nor ATMs in all of Burma, I had only what cash was left in my wallet from the last port. So, for five days I had $127 .00 Minus the $40 it cost per person for the long bus ride to Inle Lake and Minus the $50 each person pitched in for the 5 Night stay at the Hotel. So, I had 30-something Dollars to my name and somehow made do with what I had! One thing’s for sure, no one can say I’m high maintenance!
Trekking through rushing, murky water, we met the taxi driver at his boat and explored the floating villages. Mothers were bathing their naked young, men rowed boats carrying produce and rope, fishermen sat in the middle of the lake waiting to bring back the day’s catch and monks sat meditating in floating temples. The people seemed so serene and content, I admired them. It is amazing how much we take for granted. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like, how our values would change if we were less reliant on the material and technological aspects of life.
The people in Burma are so cut off from the rest of the world…I met a man whose sister recently moved to America and got married. He told me, in very broken burm-english, that he had not spoken to her in seven years because they are not allowed to call the United States and their letters were shredded. I can’t even begin to imagine the idea of not being able to speak to my family.
Burma has been great.
On another note, these Malarone pills for Malaria are giving me the weirdest dreams. I had a dream that Bob Marley was playing on the ship but the ship was on land. Zach Ransom didn’t have dreads and I was just very confused. Every morning when we go to breakfast, you can hear everyone talking about their vivid dreams and how weird they are.
I can’t wait to sleep in a real bed and relax, but for now, I’ll enjoy Burma.
Next stop, India.